The latest round of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks funding has been announced with more than 1,650 doctoral candidates to benefit across 149 doctoral programmes in Europe.
The European Commission has announced funding of €429.4m as a result of the 2022 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) call for Doctoral Networks.
Ireland’s research landscape has benefited greatly from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions awards in recent years. In this Doctoral Networks round, Italy was the most successful country with 20 projects awarded funding, while Ireland matches Denmark in having eight projects funded.
A total of 149 doctoral programmes were awarded funding to train more than 1,650 doctoral candidates across academia and industry.
The projects awarded come from a range of disciplines. Engineering and ICT was the most popular field with nearly 34pc of projects, while the life sciences (26.2pc) and chemistry (12.8pc) followed. Projects in the area of environment and geosciences were awarded just over 9pc of the funding, and the social sciences and humanities received just under 9pc. Physics (7.4pc), maths (1.3pc) and economics (0.7pc) projects received the remainder of the awards.
The aim of the MSCA Doctoral Networks action is to foster “strategic international partnerships for the training and exchange of researchers”. To be awarded funding, applicants must demonstrate the capacity to “train highly skilled doctoral candidates, stimulate their creativity, enhance their innovation capacities and boost their employability in the long-term”.
The Doctoral Networks particularly aims to promote industrial doctorates “to train PhD candidates who wish to develop their skills and step outside academia, in particular in industry and business”, and joint doctorates to “provide a highly integrated type of international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration in doctoral training leading to a joint doctoral degree or multiple doctoral degrees awarded by the participating institutions”.
In the 2022 round, €47.5m was awarded to 14 industrial programmes. The candidates on these programmes will benefit from joint industry-academia supervision. The round also included €43.6m for 12 joint doctoral programmes.
The selected projects give an insight into the variety and depth of research being carried out throughout Europe. Awarded projects include research into new therapies against stem cell-driven cancer relapse and metastasis, sustainable wine production, the use of AI in road safety research, and the development of advanced materials for novel energy storage systems.
The funding is highly competitive with a 15.8pc success rate for applicants. The next funding round will open on 30 May 2023.
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India’s rules requiring local organizations to report infosec incidents within six hours of detection have been observed by a mere 15 entities/
India’s Computer Emergency Response team (CERT-In) revealed that low, low, level of compliance in response to a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by Indian tech news outlet MediaNama, which reported the news on Tuesday.
The rules requiring six-hour disclosure were announced without warning in April 2022, and justified by CERT-In as necessary to fill gaps in its understanding of the threats facing local organizations.
Analysts quickly pointed out that requiring organizations to report an incident just six hours after detecting it would likely lead to poor-quality reports being filed. The rules also used unhelpfully vague wording – such as “Unauthorized access of IT systems/data” – to describe reportable incidents, leaving Indian organizations unsure of what they were required to report.
CERT-In also dodged questions – The Register has received no response to multiple inquiries – regarding how it would ingest and analyze the flood of reports its rules would generate, and therefore how they would represent useful intelligence. The revelation that the CERT would accept faxed reports further complicated its ingestion and analysis task, as well as magnifying its absurdity.
International criticism of the scheme followed, as multinational entities complained the rules required them to store more data in India. Many also pointed out that six-hour reporting was vastly shorter than the global norm of 72 hours.
Cloud providers also pushed back, as the rules required them to submit logs generated by their customers’ servers.
Indian companies, meanwhile, objected to the 60-day deadline for compliance with the law.
Some of the criticism hit home: India delayed the deadline for compliance, at least for small and medium businesses.
MediaNama also found an answer to a parliamentary question about the number of cyberattacks detected in India during 2021 and 2022: around 1.4 million attacks were recorded in each year. It’s likely that in 2022, at least half occurred after CERT-In’s reporting requirements came into effect for some organizations.
While the parliamentary answer doesn’t reveal how many entities suffered the reported attacks, 15 entities reporting within the six-hour deadline surely represents a tiny proportion of those required to observe the reporting rules.
Clearly, the rules aren’t working.
India’s government has declared the nation is now in a “techade” – during which information technology will supercharge the economy, improve government services, and make India a tech export superpower.
Maybe it will achieve those goals. But CERT-In clearly has as much work to do as anyone in pursuit of them. ®
The Digital4Business consortium, which has several Irish members, aims to launch its first MSc programmes in January 2024.
The National College of Ireland (NCI) helped to launch a new pan-European digital and entrepreneurial skills project that aims to provide a steady pipeline of talent to SMEs in the region.
NCI is one of 15 partners from seven European countries that are taking part in the consortium leading the project, which is called Digital4Business.
Digital4Business is a four-year initiative that will see various EU institutions and businesses work together to devise and deliver a market-led postgraduate programme to help SMEs access a pipeline of digital talent.
Other programmes launching in the coming few months and years will concentrate on key topics such as cloud, data analytics, AI, cybersecurity, blockchain, IoT and quantum computing.
Overall, the project will cost €19.92m. The programmes that will result from it will offer both industry and academic accreditation. The consortium will be focused on the practical application of advanced digital skills within European companies.
The initiative is being funded by the European Commission’s Digital Europe programme, which focuses on the digital transformation of Europe’s society and economy. The funding award to Digital4Business is one of the largest awards the programme has made to date.
Digital4Business was officially launched at an event in the IFSC in Dublin today (21 March).
The project began in December 2022. The consortium aims to launch the first part-time and full-time MSc programmes in January 2024.
Speaking by video link at the event, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, highlighted the project’s relevance as part of the European Year of Skills.
“2023 is European Year of Skills – the focus is on helping people get the right education to be prepared for quality jobs, and to address specific skills shortages that businesses are experiencing – particularly SMEs. Digital4Business directly serves this mission.”
Dara Calleary TD, Minister of State for Trade Promotion and Digital Transformation attended the event in person.
“Digital4Business’ focus on the practical application of advanced digital skills within companies, and especially, within our small and medium businesses, is of great importance. This type of talent development is essential to ensure that the skills and the expertise are in place for businesses to maximise their digital potential – to take advantage of the opportunities digital presents and to assist them in maintaining their competitive edge,” he said.
As well as NCI, the other Irish partners involved in Digital4Business are IT company Terawe, Skillnet Ireland and Digital Technology Skills Limited. Digital agency Matrix Internet co-headquartered between Ireland and Belgium is also involved.
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With a click of the right-mouse button, my musclebound barbarian sinks his axe into the ground behind him, sweeps it forward and creates a shock wave that obliterates everything in its path. Ahead, a horde of undead creatures is repulsed by the blast, zombies flayed by the force of the air, skeletons scattered across the ground, wraiths dissipating into spectral dust. The room’s furnishing fly with them, chairs, candlesticks and barrels smashing into the far wall. The ground itself is scarred by the attack, a conical depression left in the floor as if struck by a meteorite airburst.
I’ve performed this attack countless times over the last weekend, and it never fails to light up my brain like Blackpool in September. The Diablo series represents video gaming in its purest and perhaps most reductive form and has exploited these feedback loops to enormous success in the last 25 years, reworking the complex rulesets of role-playing games into something less cerebral and more sensory. While there’s an argument to be had about how intellectually nourishing these games may be, Diablo 4 has a lot of seductive power. Clicking monsters to death in this game feels dangerously good.
Yet having spent 48 hours with the game during its beta phase, it’s clear there’s more to this than mindless monster-bashing. Diablo 4 sees the series return from a long hiatus after a third game that proved controversial in more ways than one. Partly because of this, it looks both backward and forward, addressing some criticisms of Diablo 3 while striving to compete in a world that has changed dramatically since 2012.
After a mixed reception to the colourful visuals of Diablo 3, Diablo 4 returns to being the moody goth kid of its RPG social group: pale-faced, clad in black and obsessed with death. The opening area, named Fractured Peaks, is an oppressive place where muddy, monster-ravaged villages cling to the edges of a snowy mountain range, with warrens of caves and dungeons concealed beneath the frozen surface. Said dungeons revel in their own dinginess. Painted in abundant dark shades, much like FromSoftware’s Bloodborne, the blackened walls and floors are slick with decaying viscera and often writhe with strange tendrils that grasp at you from the stonework.
Diablo 4’s appeal to the past isn’t purely stylistic. As your character accrues power across the game’s dark fantasy adventure, you must choose how to channel that power, picking skills and abilities that complement one another to make your chosen warrior an unstoppable destructive force. Diablo 4 ditches the previous game’s overly streamlined approach, returning to a more traditional skill tree that shows your character’s entire power trip at a glance.
I tested two of the five available character classes in the open beta – the barbarian and the sorcerer. What became obvious during my time with them is how intuitive character progression is. My sorceress, for example, offered an array of elemental powers to choose from. I could have made her an incandescent pyromancer, or a weaponised Elsa who froze her enemies to death. Instead, I focused on electrical abilities, Emperor Palpatine-ing my way through dungeons by zapping demons with bouncing bolts of lightning. This wasn’t the limit of my options, either. Diablo 4 let me further tailor these attacks to produce a collectible item known as “Crackling Energy”. As I plucked these orbs of static electricity from fallen foes, they’d discharge automatically when approaching new enemies. Hence, my sorceress could fry whole groups of demons before casting her first spell – a delightful sensation.
Structurally, Diablo 4 is different, as players now carve their way through a huge open world. For the beta, only the Fractured Peaks area was available to explore, but this nonetheless represents a sizeable and impressively freeform area. Although there is a central story to follow, it’s easy to get side-tracked into some offshoot adventure, helping a villager find her missing husband in some shadowy forest or delving into optional dungeons with foreboding names such as the Black Asylum. These secondary activities are tied together by “Renown”, a currency that, when accrued, periodically rewards players with extra gold, skill points, and other bonuses.
The looser structure creates a more coherent world, but it doesn’t radically change how Diablo plays. Instead, the open world exists mainly to facilitate Diablo 4’s new status as a persistent online game. Diablo 4 has extensive multiplayer features, with other players wandering freely around the game world able to periodically fight together as they explore individually, or actively join clans and embark on quests together. This ever-present multiplayer element could prove controversial, but interaction with other players isn’t mandatory, and you can happily plunder dungeons and pursue the central storyline solo.
While the story has always been a part of Diablo, its role is small compared with other RPGs – largely an excuse for players to mash monsters by the million. But Diablo 4 makes a more concerted effort to grab the player’s attention, breaking up the action with more elaborate cutscenes and dialogue that dwell on individual characters, and takes more time to explore the game’s pseudo-Christian lore. These sequences bring with them all the flair you’d expect from Blizzard, and an impressive cast that includes veteran voice actors such as Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale, alongside Hollywood names like Ralph Ineson.
Broadly, it’s a typical fantasy adventure, a grand battle between good and evil. There are cults. There are prophecies. There are more helpless villagers than you can shake a pitchfork at. But there is also an attempt at more nuanced characterisation. The main antagonist – the demonic goddess Lilith – is not wholly villainous, while the fallen angel Inarius, a central figure in the religion of the game’s longsuffering humans, is not wholly good. There’s enough of interest to be audible above the sound of battle, and it helps that the game takes itself seriously, avoiding the temptation to lace the narrative with knowing side-glances and ironic gags.
Some questions remain. While Diablo’s character progression is slick and intuitive, will it offer the same level of flexibility as other ARPGs, most notably Path of Exile, which stepped in during Diablo’s long absence? Moreover, what does this new multiplayer structure mean for Blizzard’s long-term monetisation plans – will we eventually be asked to pay for a subscription? It appears inevitable it will continue to evolve after launch, and the question is what form will that evolution take. This is a game that could change shape substantially in the coming years. In its current form at least, Diablo 4 seems like a worthy ascendant to the throne of destruction.