Strengthening Cooperation at the AERAP Africa-Europe Science & Innovation Forum

AERAP 2023

This week, LifeWatch ERIC participated in the AERAP Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Forum, an event to reinforce the contribution of research and science through digital technologies and advance collaboration between European and African institutions through strategic innovation programmes. The forum was held in the South African Embassy in Brussels, and focused on the EU Partnership Strategy with Africa, the African Union-European Union Innovation Agenda, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, compliance with the SDGs, and the Strategy on Research Infrastructures.

LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, presented in the session ‘Microbial sciences for a sustainable future’, which also featured the participation of Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology; Eugene Lottering, of the National Research Foundation in South Africa, and Zeinab Osman, director general of the National Centre for Research in Sudan.

He demonstrated how LifeWatch ERIC promotes synergies in science, technology and innovation between entities and researchers from Africa and Europe, through partnership agreements which foster the green transition and access to energy. Within the AERAP platform, he co-chairs the Green Deal subgroup together with Georgina Ryan, Deputy Director for Green Economy of the Government of South Africa. Furthermore, he explained how LifeWatch ERIC cooperates with the Arab Science Research and Education Network (ASREN) and is helping the coordination of the Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI) to support the implementation of the UN Food System Summit. He also made a special mention of African researchers working in the LifeWatch ERIC Artificial Intelligence team, Rohaifa Khaldi and Yassir Benhammou, who just recently were awarded a prize at the AI4Science Workshop by a jury that included representatives from DeepMind and Google.

LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Coordinator, José Manuel Ávila Castuera, spoke in the session ‘Science for Climate Resilient food systems in Africa’, which included speakers Petronella Chaminuka, Head of the Economic Analysis Unit, Agricultural Research Council of South Africa; and Intisar Soghayroun, who was Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Sudan.

He explained the relevance of LifeWatch ERIC as a distributed e-Infrastructure to support agricultural research and innovation in climate-resilient food systems and foster cooperation between Africa and the EU, as a facility that provides resources and services for biodiversity and ecosystems research communities in the long-term. Likewise, he detailed the involvement of LifeWatch ERIC in the structuring of the EU partnership on agroecology, through projects such as AE4EU and ALL-READY, among others. He explained the ten elements of agroecology to change the production paradigm and achieve new models for food provisioning in a globalised context. Adoption of agroecology principles can drive towards biodiversified agroecosystems, which are more sustainable from an environmental, economic and social perspective. This whole path of innovation could facilitate the implementation of an Africa-EU Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture.

Seville City Council supports LifeWatch ERIC expansion and 2023 events on the theme of biodiversity

Biodiversity event Seville 2023

On 14 February, the mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz, visited the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core offices in the Cartuja Science and Technological Park, showing the City Council’s support for the consortium, which he describes as a “powerful ecosystem of innovation, science and research in Seville” and whose activity contributes to placing it on the map in terms of the two great challenges facing cities: the fight against climate change and digital transformation.

During the visit hosted by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, the mayor promised that Seville City Council will back the infrastructure in its organisation of two major international events on biodiversity in 2023. The first will be The LifeWatch ERIC BEeS Biodiversity & Ecosystem eScience Conference “Threats and challenges to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation from an eScience perspective” from 22–24 May, coinciding with the celebration of World Biodiversity Day on May 22, and will include the participation of representatives and experts from numerous countries. More information soon to come! The second will be on 5–6 July, with great European, Spanish and Latin American institutional relevance, and will be included in the programme of activities of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second semester of 2023. LifeWatch ERIC last welcomed biodiversity information facilitity representatives from Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean to its Seville seat in November 2022 – click here to watch the highlights video.

Furthermore, the City Council is going to support LifeWatch ERIC in its expansion of spaces, activity and personnel, as the infrastructure is pinned as one of the organisations to participate in the new innovation and research ecosystem that the Seville City Council wants to deploy, taking advantage of the potential of the Spanish Space Agency with the configuration of the new hub and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

LifeWatch ERIC leads numerous European programmes from its Seville seat. A notable example, by election of the European Commission, is the scientific data information technology work package for the European global programme on agroecology and agrobiodiversity, to help contribute to a green and digital revolution throughout Europe. For this initiative, LifeWatch ERIC is developing an innovative virtual research environment based on its Tesseract and LifeBlock platforms, which will support the tokenisation of ecosystem services, contributing to monitoring for Common Agricultural Policy schemes based on agroecological practices and low-carbon agriculture.

LifeWatch ERIC presents its endeavours in remote sensing and support for indigenous knowledge at UNOOSA meeting

UNOOSA

This week has seen the participation of LifeWatch ERIC in the UNOOSA COPUOS STSC 60th Session 2023, which is taking place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from 6–17 February 2023.

COPUOS is the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, set up by UNOOSA, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity. It reviews international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programmes, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. STSC stands for the Scientific and Technical Subcomittees, which are holding plenary and technical sessions, in which LifeWatch ERIC is taking part:

On Wednesday 8 February, Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta, LifeWatch ERIC Satellite & HAPS Operations Manager, participated in the SCTC Plenary Session, presenting LifeWatch ERIC’s close collaboration with CANEUS International as well as the infrastructure’s efforts in the Remote Sensing field, using the example of the launch of AGAPA-1 nanosatellite for the SmartFood project in October 2023 and related mission operations.

In the STSC Technical Session the following day, Milind Pimprikar, Chairman of CANEUS, and Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta held a presentation entitled “Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI) and Remote Sensing for Sustainability Applications”, co-prepared with LifeWatch ERIC CTO and Director of the ICT-Core Common Facility, Dr. Juan Miguel González-Aranda. IKRI is a Global Research and Knowledge Repository initiativerun with the participation of LifeWatch ERIC, CANUS, FILAC, UNOOSA and AERAP Science, which aims to develop a global collaborative infrastructure using Public-Private-Partnership. It does this by seeking to leverage the power of Earth observation and AI to capture, process, analyse, and present indigenous knowledge from multiple sources, to achieve implementation of UN SDGs and 2030 Agenda targets and action items. Watch here from 1:22:00.

Andalusian Government Commends LifeWatch ERIC as an Invaluable Ally in the Green Revolution

Green Revolution

On Thursday 2 February, directors and representatives of the LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities in Seville were welcomed to the government office of the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla. LifeWatch ERIC members were invited for an afternoon at the beautiful Palacio de San Telmo in Seville with the President, who described the infrastructure as an “invaluable ally” in the Green Revolution, which is being widely promoted in the region.

The President praised the infrastructure for its open science model, through which it can provide advanced digital analysis tools to stakeholders for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services, highlighting the synergies between the infrastructure and the regional Ministries of Sustainability, Environment and Blue Economy and that of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, whose respective ministers, Carmen Crespo, and Ramón Fernández-Pacheco, were both present for the occasion. He underlined how the government can make use of LifeWatch ERIC’s expertise in cutting-edge technologies such as AI in a number of ERDF projects, which rely on digitisation and innovation processes to generate environmental knowledge, in order to foster a culture of sustainability.

Good examples include the SmartFood project, in which LifeWatch ERIC is collaborating with Ministry of Agriculture and a number of partners to launch its first nanosatellite this year, which will offer useful information to helpadvance the sustainability of agriculture and fisheries, contributing to the digitisation of the primary sector. Another fine example is the Índalo project, which proposes building a technological infrastructure from which to monitor environmental changes in Andalusia in order to define the most suitable measures for resource management.

LifeWatch ERIC is grateful to the president and the Andalusian government for the gesture of recognition, and is honoured to provide tools and services which can contribute to the betterment of the environment in the region.

You can watch the President’s speech here (in Spanish).


LifeWatch ERIC and Andalusian Government Announce Details on SmartFood Nanosatellite Launch

SmartFood nanosatellite launch

The Councillor for Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of the Junta de Andalucía, Carmen Crespo, was welcomed to LifeWatch ERIC’s ICT-Core office in Seville yesterday, accompanied by the director of the Andalusian Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency (AGAPA), José Carlos Álvarez, to discuss trailblazing agroecology initiatives which will have wide-ranging impacts. 2023 is an exciting year for LifeWatch ERIC, as it gains traction in the EU research and innovation sector.

LifeWatch ERIC has a strong historic collaboration with the Junta de Andalucía, one such synergy being with the AGAPA on the ERDF SmartFood project, for which a nanosatellite equipped with a very high resolution multispectral camera will be launched in October this year from a Space X base in the United States. The aim of the SmartFood project is to monitor the impact of agriculture, livestock and fishing on the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems ­– LifeWatch ERIC has the technological lead here, and is creating the nanosatellite mission control centre “eBRIC” (eBiodiversity Research & Innovation International Centre) in the Doñana National Park, in partnership with the University of Huelva. Among other things, the centre will focus on interconnected sensorisation at the terrestrial, atmospheric (observation stations, drones) and spatial level (satellites); the study of invasive species; aquifer conservation; native flora and fauna protection; and virtual laboratories for scientific research in the Cloud, using ICT such as Big Data, Artificial-Deep Intelligence “Deep Learning”, and especially Blockchain, through the LifeWatch ERIC LifeBlock tool. The infrastructure conceives the e-BRIC as an international reference centre for Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, aligned with the United Nations through the UNOOSA Office for Biodiversity and Climate Change.

Crespo also congratulated the infrastructure on being chosen to play a key technological role in the AELLRI EU Partnership initiative proposed by the European Commission, as part of the Horizon Europe topic provisionally entitled “Accelerating farming systems transition: agroecology living labs and research infrastructures”, to pioneer the EU’s agricultural transition towards sustainable agroecological models. She highlighted “the importance of the research work carried out by Lifewatch ERIC, offering important data that allows better decisions to be made in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture and preserving biodiversity”, citing how these technological innovations will support Andalusia in reaching and maintaining EU ecological agricultural objectives, both on land and at sea.

CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda underlined the importance of the agricultural, fishing and livestock sector within the green and blue development paradigms, in coordination with the Green Deal and Blue Growth policies of the EU, and expressed his gratitude for the institutional support, especially from the Ministry of Agriculture, pointing out that “biodiversity cannot turn its back on the primary sector, which is so important for the Autonomous Community of Andalusia”.

The ALL-Ready Project 3rd Pilot Network Meeting

ALL-Ready Pilot Network Meeting

Following the successful ALL-Ready regional workshop held in its ICT-Core premises in Seville at the start of the month, LifeWatch ERIC played an active part in the project’s 3rd Pilot Network Meeting. The meeting took place in Budapest (Hungary) from 21 – 23 November 2022,  organised by the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi). ALL-Ready is a European Commission-funded HORIZON2020 project addressing the multiple challenges that agricultural systems are facing today, including climate change, biodiversity loss, dwindling resources, and degradation of soil and water quality.

During the meeting, LifeWatch ERIC presented the Agroecology Virtual Lab for Living Labs and Research Infrastructure as a key e-tool to boost the acceleration of the Agroecology transition in the EU, by promoting networking and interaction among the Agroecology community. A training session was also given to the pilot members of the network to test the performance of the first version of the application.

LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Virtual Lab provides seamless access to all services that the Agroecology community might need (e.g., data collection, sharing and visualisation) to collaborate and co-create new knowledge. These different functionalities will not only allow the community to work with data in a more efficient way, but boost innovative collaboration pathways between Agroecology stakeholders (Living Labs, Research Infrastructures, end-users, policy-makers, citizens, etc.).

To learn more about different projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is involved, please visit the Related Projects page.