LifeWatch ERIC CEO and CTO Inspire at ‘Inspirational Event 2021’

Inspirational Event

Inspirational Event 2021, powered by Advance Services, took place at Heraklion (Crete) on 15 and 16 November. Its purpose was to bring together successful and distinguished professionals to give half-hour talks, passing on their knowledge, experiences and advice to an audience consisting of executives and entrepreneurs of the local community.

Alongside LifeWatch ERIC Executive Board members, Dr Juan Miguel Gonzalez-Aranda (LifeWatch ERIC CTO & Head of its ICT-Core) and Dr Christos Arvanitidis (LifeWatch ERIC CEO), spoke Dr George Bruseker (Takin Solutions CEO), Dr George Caridakis (Professor at the Aegean University), Mr Yannis Lidakis (Harvard University Representative & SkyExpress Commercial Director) and Dr Armando Stellato (Professor at the University of Rome). The event was chaired by Nikos Minadakis, CEO of Advance Services, which provides Technical & Operations Consultancy to LifeWatch ERIC.

The audience was thrilled with the professional experiences, tips, suggestions and ideas of the speakers, and actively participated with comments and questions. A total of fifty people who had received invitations said they would gladly attend the event each year and were looking forward to returning. The executives of Advance Services expressed their enthusiasm in repeating the event, next time with even more speakers, listeners and a wider range of topics.

WoRMS endorsed as ‘Project Action’ for the Ocean Decade

Ocean Decade Project Action

The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) aims to provide an authoritative and comprehensive list of names of marine organisms, including information on synonymy. This register, which is hosted by VLIZ, a member of LifeWatch Belgium, has received endorsement by the Ocean Decade as a ‘Project Action’. In early October 2021, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (‘Ocean Decade’), endorsed 94 new Decade Actions across all ocean basins, all of them contributing in some way to the central vision of “the science we need for the ocean we want”.

Earlier in 2021, the WoRMS Steering Committee and the WoRMS Data Management Team submitted a proposal under the first Call for Actions, entitled “Above and Beyond – Completing the World Register of Marine Species (ABC WoRMS)”, which has been recently accepted, together with 93 other Actions. These actions all build on the global momentum for ocean knowledge-based solutions ahead of major upcoming global summits on climate and biodiversity. In total, there are now 335 endorsed Decade Actions.

As an Ocean Decade Project, WoRMS is being linked to the earlier endorsed Action Programme Marine Life 2030: A Global Integrated Marine Biodiversity Information Management and Forecasting System for Sustainable Development and Conservation. The Data Management Team has recently initiated conversation with the coordinators of the Marine Life 2030 Programme, to discuss the optimal ways to connect WoRMS to their goals.

During the full span of the Ocean Decade, WoRMS will continue its endeavors to provide a full taxonomic overview of all marine life, not only supporting scientists, but everyone who makes use of species names, including policymakers, industry and the public at large. Although already fairly complete, taxonomic gaps still need to be addressed, in terms of both space and time. New challenges in the field of taxonomy – such as temporary names – need to be explored, thereby looking for the best suitable solution for all WoRMS users. The documentation of species traits which are of critical importance for ecological marine research will be encouraged, as will there be increased efforts to link these with other global databases, infrastructures and initiatives such as the LifeWatch Species Information BackboneOBISGOOSCOLBoLD & GenBank.

The full article is available on the LifeWatch Belgium website.

COP26: A New Hope? – LifeWatch ERIC CTO in Lecture Series on Climate Change

cumbre del clima COP26
An expert-led Lecture Series on the topic of Climate Change (La cumbre del clima COP26: ¿Una nueva esperanza?) is taking place at the University of Navarra, in light of COP26, which came to a close last week.

The Conference brought together representatives from many countries with a common goal: to implement measures to reduce global temperature below 1.5 ºC compared to pre-industrial levels, in a bid to reduce the negative effects of climate change. The aim of the Lecture Series is to present a multidisciplinary exploration of this topic, touching on themes of biodiversity, circular economy, ecology, energy sources or sustainable building, hearing from a range of topic-specific experts.

One of these such experts was LifeWatch ERIC’s own Juan Miguel González-Aranda, Chief Technology Officer and ICT-Core Director, who was called on to present on Sustainable Development Goal 15 Life on Earth. The lecture took place on 12 November 2021 with an in-person audience at the University of Navarra, as well as being livestreamed on YouTube.

His lecture followed the following structure, and was followed by a Q&A session with the audience:

Part 1: Approaching ecosystem services in the context of climate change

Part 2: e-pan-European distributed research infrastructures to strengthen communities working in the realms of science, technology and innovation 

Part 3: Let’s be FAIR: Addressing the challenges of the heterogeneity and scale of biodiversity data, and providing ecosystem services in a sustainable manner through the use of disruptive ICT

Part 4: Tesseract and LifeBlock (tools developed by LifeWatch ERIC)

Part 5: Conclusions

The full PowerPoint presentation (in Spanish) can be downloaded here.

You can watch the full lecture here (in Spanish).

LifeWatch ERIC: A Resource for a More Sustainable Society


The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties will be taking place over the next two weeks, having launched on 31 October. Over the past few days, leaders of states from all around the world have reinforced their promises to reach Net Zero, pledging to slash methane emissions by 2030, and berating nations which have shown less commitment towards such targets. And yet, in the end, the effort of individual states will pale into insignificance. Perhaps David Attenborough, zoologist and documentary presenter, said it best:

As we work to build a better world, we must acknowledge no nation has completed its development because no advanced nation is yet sustainable. All have a journey still to complete so that all nations have a good standard of living and a modest footprint

As an organisation in constant dialogue with the biodiversity and ecosystem research community, LifeWatch ERIC is very aware of the fact that biodiversity does not recognise borders. Impacts generated in one corner of the planet trigger domino effects that are felt all around the world, sooner or later. The concept of a secluded green oasis of states which will emerge unscathed from the climate and biodiversity crisis is delusional –as acknowledged by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her speech, highlighting that the EU is the largest provider of climate finance for adaptation and mitigation, which is necessary to achieve global targets. She also spoke specifically of biodiversity funding in vulnerable countries.

Yes, it is crucial that funding is distributed in a way that facilitates biodiversity and ecosystem research worldwide –yet the way in which research is conducted is of equal importance. LifeWatch ERIC is an unwavering proponent and upholder of the FAIR principles – ensuring that the data and services it handles are Free, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, opening up science to all. Transnational scientific cooperation accelerates the identification of solutions to global problems, benefiting citizens all over. Considering the alarming rate of ecosystem transformation due to climate change, a global and coordinated scientific effort is required to keep up with its monitoring and control. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, gave a stark warning to world leaders to be vigilant in this respect, declaring the idea that we are on track to turn things around “an illusion.

And while the shock element of the UN Secretary-General’s speech made the desired impact, reverberating through the world press, the mission and purpose of LifeWatch ERIC is more aligned with the overriding message of Mr Attenborough: “Not fear, but hope.

LifeWatch ERIC works tirelessly to produce the ICT tools required by researchers to map and monitor biodiversity and ecosystems, enabling them to identify solutions to the issues exacerbated by climate change. Collaborating with other research infrastructures based in Europe and further afield, LifeWatch ERIC ensures the reliability and multiplicity of data used in scientific research projects, as well as providing the means to best interpret this data. The infrastructure acts as a mediator between the research community and policymakers, helping researchers piece together scientific findings to identify patterns at local, continental and global scales, extracting the meaning from this data and translating it into comprehensible information for policymakers, who can be assured that the actions they take are rooted in scientific excellence.

LifeWatch ERIC is an available resource for those wishing to invest in biodiversity and ecosystem research to reach the goals reinforced by the critical discourse taking place at COP26. The increased coordination, collaboration and cooperation of scientists, citizens and civil servants alike is the best way to rapidly identify and pursue the adaptation, mitigation and restorative measures necessary for the survival of our planet.

You can learn more about LifeWatch ERIC and the European research infrastructure community at the following links:

2020 Activities Report Published

LifeWatch ERIC Activities Report

The LifeWatch ERIC 2020 Activities Report, reflecting on LifeWatch ERIC’s operations and accomplishments over the year of reference, has been published. The document, which can be viewed and downloaded below, contextualises LifeWatch ERIC’s position in the European and global landscape of Research Infrastructures and is an invaluable reference on the organisation’s vision, staff, projects, financial performance and governance. Furthermore, it explores how the infrastructure adapted to the challenges posed by the pandemic, going into detail on the progress the ERIC made in the face of unusual circumstances.

In the foreword, Gert Verreet, Chair of the LifeWatch ERIC General Assembly for the period of reference, congratulates the infrastructure on its successful year, noting however that, on a larger scale, 2020 marked a symbolic failure as humanity missed several self-declared biodiversity targets. He argues that this urgent situation only increases scientists’ need for tools “such as those provided by LifeWatch ERIC, to understand how life adapts (or struggles to adapt) to changes.”

LifeWatch ERIC CEO Christos Arvanitidis also acknowledges the progress made by the ERIC over 2020 and expresses his gratitude to the infrastructure’s human component: “I feel very much indebted to the most valuable ingredient of LifeWatch ERIC: its fantastic personnel, who achieved so much, with intelligence, talent and faith, in such a difficult year. This gives me great hope that the Infrastructure will be entirely developed, tested and delivered as fully operational in the year to come.”

High Definition LifeWatch ERIC 2020 Activities Report: download.

Light Version LifeWatch ERIC 2020 Activities Report: download.

The hard-copy report will be printed on 100% recycled paper, with a limited number of copies.

Life below Water and Life on Land

LifeWatch ERIC Session UNGA76

On 1 October 2021, LifeWatch ERIC had the privilege of convening a session of the 76th UN General Assembly Science Summit*, dedicated to SDG 14, Life below Water, and SDG 15, Life on Land. LifeWatch ERIC CEO, Christos Arvanitidis, and CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, convened the event, which featured experts from all over the world, speaking in keynotes and sessions. An interdisciplinary and cross-domain approach is crucial to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and this was reflected in the choice of speakers: policymakers, researchers, doctors and social scientists, whose range of perspectives and expertise was well-received by the audience.

After the introduction, the first topic of discussion was on SDG 14, Life below Water, then on SDG 15, Life on Land, before moving on to examine approaches key to the achievement of the 2030 SDGs, such as strengthening international collaboration, pursuing transdisciplinary approaches and modes of capacity building. Recurrent hot topics included the increased use of e-Biodiversity tools, in particular remote observation, in fighting the biodiversity crisis, along with indigenous knowledge. Finally, speakers pondered issues to tackle at UNGA77 in September 2022 and opened up the floor to participants, who brought yet more unique perspectives to the table.

CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda summarised his main takeaways from the event:

“Integrating e-Biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management makes us stronger. Goals 14 and 15, along with all the SDGs, can be accomplished when we base our efforts on scientific evidence, FAIR data and FAIR services. We must work hand-in-hand across sectors, without leaving anyone behind, integrating indigenous knowledge into our approach and following the motto thinking globally, acting locally. Finally, we must be conscious that data by itself is not enough; it must be transformed into information, evidence, knowledge and innovation, combining the outcomes of both Green and Digital Agendas in order to create tangible Green Products together.”

Click here to watch the full session on YouTube.

*Coordinated and moderated by ISC, the UNGA76 Science Summit is taking place from 14 September – 14 October, its central aim being to raise awareness of the role and contribution of science to the attainment of the SDGs. Please see our previous news item for more information.

Speakers in order of first appearance:

Mr Declan Kirrane SSUNGA76 Organiser

Dr Christos Arvanitidis LifeWatch ERIC CEO

Ms Jyoti Mathur-Filipp Director of the Implementation and Support Division at the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada

Dr Ciara Leonard University College Dublin, Public Affairs Manager, UCD Research and Innovation; Moderator, Ireland

Dr Alberto Basset Interim Director of Service Centre, LifeWatch ERIC, Lecce, Italy

Dr Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo University Pablo de Olavide, Seville, LifeWatch Spain

Mr Michel Massart DEFIS, European Commission, Belgium

Dr Peter Heffernan UN Oceans Ambassador; Member, EU Mission Board: ‘Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal & Inland Waters’ Ireland

Prof. Mike Elliott University of Hull, UK

Dr Stephanie Splett Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Germany

Prof. Eric Ruuth Scientific CoordinatorIMIBIO, Argentina

Ms Inmaculada Figueroa EU-LAC ResInfra: Towards a new EU-LAC partnership in Research Infrastructures. LifEuLAC pilot

Prof. Javier Castroviejo-Bolívar Amigos de Doñana, Spain

Prof. Antonio Micha Director-General of the National Institute for Environmental Conservation INCOMAMalabo, Equatorial Guinea 

Dr Shirish Ravan Head, Beijing Office, The United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) Programme of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Vienna, Austria

Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda LifeWatch ERIC CTO, ICT Core Director and ERIC Forum Executive Board Member

Mr Stephen Peedell Knowledge for Sustainable Development and Food Security, Joint Research Centre European Commission, Belgium

Prof. Vladislav Popov Agriculture University of Plovdiv, LifeWatch Bulgaria

Dr José Manuel Ávila-Castuera LifeWatch ERIC AgroEcology Officer

Patrick Wormsthe Centre for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry CIFOR-ICRAF

Ms Africa Zanella, Director Centre for Sustainability and Gender Economics (CSGE), Australia-Spain

Dr Milind Pimprika Founder and Chairman CANEUS International, Centre for Large Space Structures and Systems

Dr Murray Hitzman iCRAG, Ireland

Dr Akhilesh Gupta Senior Adviser, Policy Coordination and Programme Management Division Dept of Science and Technology, India

Dr Lino Barañao Argentina

Kurt Zatloukal Medical University of Graz

LifeWatch ERIC at Greencities Forum & Smart Agrifood Summit, Málaga

FYCMA Malaga

At the turn of last month, several LifeWatch ERIC members made their way to Málaga for two important events at the Trade Fairs & Congress Centre of Málaga (FYCMA): the Greencities Forum and the Smart Agrifood Summit.

Greencities Forum

The twelfth edition of the Greencities Forum took place from 29 – 30 September and attracted more than 2,600 visitors: professionals, institutions and public administrations with a focus on sustainability and smart city planning. The organisations represented at the event brought together a comprehensive proposal of solutions, services and tools aimed at improving the habitability of urban environments, to make them more sustainable, innovative and connected places to live in.

LifeWatch ERIC was one of the brokers of the event, and executive board members, Christos Arvanitidis, CEO, and Juan Miguel González-Aranda, CTO, were honoured to welcome the mayor of Málaga, Francisco de la Torre, deputy mayor of Málaga, Susana Carillo, and Secretary-General for Innovation from Junta de Andalusia, Pablo Cortés-Achedad, to the LifeWatch ERIC exposition stand. In fact, Málaga is the perfect host city for the event, having recently submitted its candidacy for the European Capital of Innovation Award.

You can read the official closing press release of the event here (in Spanish).

Smart Agrifood Summit

The fourth edition of the Smart Agrifood Summit took place from 30 September – 1 October, featuring over 1,600 professionals from 32 countries. It is described as an international reference event in the agrifood sector and is a face-to-face and virtual meeting point to find partners, increase financing and internationalisation channels as well as publicise new products, services and innovative projects.

Representing LifeWatch ERIC were Christos Arvanitidis (CEO), Juan Miguel González-Aranda (CTO) and Lucas de Moncuit (CFO); LifeWatch ERIC had its own exposition stand in the conference hall, where staff members were happy to welcome the General Manager of Agency of Management for Agriculture and Fisheries of Andalucia (AGAPA), Jose Carlos Alvarez, and Vanessa Bernad from Junta de Andalucía. During the Summit, LifeWatch ERIC promoted the Smartfood project (an ERDF Andalusia Project) through speeches at a dedicated round table and the AgriTalks Forum, and held productive meetings with the project’s partners.

You can read the official closing press release of the event here (in Spanish).

Completion of RI-SI-LifeWatch Project


In December 2019, the “Development of research infrastructure for the international competitiveness of the Slovenian RRI space – RI-SI-LifeWatch” project was granted by the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the European Regional Development Fund. The aim of the project was for the LifeWatch Slovenia consortium to build a network for monitoring and collecting biodiversity and environmental data obtained and processed through the acquisition of high-performance research equipment. 

With the help of the new research equipment from the RI-SI-LifeWatch project, the Slovenian consortium is now collecting a large amount of research data in digital form, which will be included in the national Karst database, harmonised with FAIR principles and designed to provide a temporal and spatial link between specific sites.

The LifeWatch Slovenia Data Centre has also been established and consists of very powerful server and computer units. Although it is still in an early stage of development, the current functionality of LifeWatch Slovenia Data Centre is beginning to collect the various large datasets obtained with the new instruments and catalogue their metadata within a GeoNetwork portal to build a standardised database with system management and user interface for data mining and access to data products. The architecture of the new data centre proposes to replicate the functionality and standards of LifeWatch ERIC to be compliant with FAIR data principles and data lifecycle. Data collected by RI-SI-LifeWatch’s equipment will support the development of data and services planned and/or already developed and operating within the LifeWatch Slovenia consortium.

In addition, LifeWatch Slovenia is now providing new ecological research measurements and observations leading to scientific publications, as well as new datasets for the Bird Ringing database (BRDbase), for the FOR-PLAT forest database and for the Buoy VIDA marine database

With the new equipment we will develop two virtual labs in the near future: ProteusWatch vLabKarst Groundwater Habitats vLab to assess and monitor the inaccessible and unique karst groundwater biodiversity hotspots (e.g. Proteus anguinus and various cave invertebrates).

The RI-SI-LifeWatch project has also enriched the international research infrastructure LifeWatch ERIC with new research opportunities and incentives. The project has helped to:

  1. conduct modern biodiversity research for marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems
  2. establish open access to Big Data related to various databases and observatories
  3. conduct data visualisation from virtual labs with modelling tools and enhance the LifeWatch RI by developing new analytical capacity for open research data
  4. support targeted user training and collaboration to monitor and predict the impacts of global change on biodiversity

A national hub of distributed biodiversity and ecosystem research data centres will be implemented at individual national partners. The RI-SI-LifeWatch project was successfully completed on 31 August 2021.

New BiCIKL project to build a freeway between pieces of biodiversity knowledge


In a recently started Horizon 2020-funded project, 15 European institutions, from 10 countries, representing both the continent’s and global key players in biodiversity research and natural history, deploy and improve their own and partnering infrastructures to bridge gaps between each other’s biodiversity data types and classes. LifeWatch ERIC is one of these institutions. By linking their technologies, these project partners are set to provide flawless access to data across all stages of the research cycle.

Three years in, BiCIKL (abbreviation for Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library) will have created the first-of-its-kind Biodiversity Knowledge Hub, where a researcher will be able to retrieve a full set of linked and open biodiversity data, thereby accessing the complete story behind an organism of interest: its name, genetics, occurrences, natural history, as well as authors and publications mentioning any of those.

Ultimately, the project’s products will solidify Open Science and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data practices by empowering and streamlining biodiversity research.

Together, the project partners will redesign the way biodiversity data is found, linked, integrated and re-used across the research cycle. By the end of the project, BiCIKL will provide the community with a more transparent, trustworthy and efficient highly automated research ecosystem, allowing for scientists to access, explore and put into further use a wide range of data with only a few clicks.

“In recent years, we’ve made huge progress on how biodiversity data is located, accessed, shared, extracted and preserved, thanks to a vast array of digital platforms, tools and projects looking after the different types of data, such as natural history specimens, species descriptions, images, occurrence records and genomics data, to name a few. However, we’re still missing an interconnected and user-friendly environment to pull all those pieces of knowledge together. Within BiCIKL, we all agree that it’s only after we puzzle out how to best bridge our existing infrastructures and the information they are continuously sourcing that future researchers will be able to realise their full potential,” explains BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft, a scholarly publisher and technology provider company. 

Continuously fed with data sourced by the partnering institutions and their infrastructures, BiCIKL’s key final output: the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub, is set to persist with time long after the project has concluded. On the contrary, by accelerating biodiversity research that builds on – rather than duplicates – existing knowledge, it will in fact be providing access to exponentially growing contextualised biodiversity data.

Follow BiCIKL Project on Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at #BiCIKL_H2020.

LifeWatch ERIC in IKRI Launch

Click here to watch a short explanatory video on IKRI.

The UNGA76 Science Summit is in full swing, and LifeWatch ERIC has already played an active part in several sessions, looking forward to the LifeWatch ERIC-convened session on SDGs 14 and 15 on 1 October 2021. On 23 September, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Dr Juan Miguel González-Aranda, alongside Prof Vladislav Popov and Ms Karina Angelieva from LifeWatch Bulgaria, took part in an important session on the launch of the Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI), which approximately 140 people attended.

The UNFSS (UN Food Systems Summit) recommended five ongoing Action Areas where the UN will place a particular focus and take increased responsibility to link the local to the global and support implementation at country level to maximise impact on the 2030 Agenda.* These Action Areas will help to organise, guide, and direct the wealth of initiatives emerging from the Summit process to achieve the SDGs. Action area 5: “Support the Means of Implementation” covers the following: Finance; Governance; Science and Knowledge (Indigenous Food Systems); Innovation, Technology, & Data, Capacity; and Human Rights, and beyond).

The “Global Research Initiative and Knowledge Repository to integrate Indigenous Knowledge into Food Systems” was developed as part of the UN Food Systems Summit process, with the collective efforts of CANEUS, together with The Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC), United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), The Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Platform (AERAP) and LifeWatch ERIC. It will contribute to action area 5: “Support Means of Implementation”, and was launched at the UN FSS Summit.

This Global research initiative aims to develop digital infrastructure to support more comprehensive R&D collaboration between the UN and the EU, AU, and other regions, creating partnerships and sustained access to data and information sources globally and lessening the regulatory burden associated with access to and use of public data. The initiative will function as a digital infrastructure known as IKRI, based on the EU Strategy Forum for Research infrastructures ESFRI. It will have a component of “Technology-based Repository” that utilises frontier Technologies (Earth observation and geospatial intelligence with 4th Industrial Revolution Technologies) for the development of a portal that captures, processes, analyses and presents Indigenous knowledge through multiple sources.

The IKRI is hoped to increase the level and range of partners who can bring Indigenous knowledge to collaborative research supported by the EU Horizon Europe Programme and other research programmes implemented at state level and committed to supporting the SDGs. It would further leverage the EU Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Programme, known as the Global Europe Programme, to support Indigenous knowledge, ensuring that developing nations are considered within the context of enabling global policies and related regulations to ensure that the global regulatory environment does not become a barrier to knowledge exchange, but rather supports access to and use of patent data, knowledge and know-how.

*(1) Nourish All People, (2) Boost Nature-based Solutions, (3) Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work & Empowered Communities, (4) Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses, and (5) Support Means of Implementation.