EU Commissioner for Innovation visits LifeWatch Bulgaria’s Agricultural University – Plovdiv

EU Innovation Commissioner Bulgaria

Last week, the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium representative, the Agricultural University – Plovdiv, was thrilled to welcome the European Commissioner for Innovation, Scientific Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, to its premises. The Commissioner held a meeting with students, teachers, innovators, young scientists, representatives of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology in Food (EIT Food) and citizens of Plovdiv on the theme of “Innovation and education – building synergy for better opportunities”.

In the European University Strategy, the leading initiative is the European University Alliances and their acquisition of status; there are currently 44 alliances, and the goal is for them to grow to 60 by 2024. Behind the 44 alliances are 340 universities from 31 countries and 1,300 partners: non-governmental organisations, local authorities, enterprises, noted Gabriel.

The Innovation Commissioner went on to underline that there is a difference between regions and member states in terms of science and innovation. Europe’s goal is to form 100 regional innovation consortia/hubs to connect and work towards a pan-European innovation system. For 70% of all companies in Europe, the first hurdle to growing businesses and investing in each location is finding people with knowledge, Gabriel said. According to her, the role of universities is to become a driving force. Plovdiv, she said, is a shining example for Europe because of the many innovative local ecosystems. It has set a goal of having 1,000,000 tech talents by 2025. “Europe needs investment in people with skills and talents in technology, for which I want to congratulate this wonderful university, which educates and develops the talents of future leaders in these fields every day” she commented.

The rector of the Agricultural University-Plovdiv, Professor Hristina Yancheva, drew attention to the fact that the university is a partner in the UNIgreen European University Alliance, and explained that the alliance is the first project in Europe for a “green” European university in agronomy, biotechnology, and natural sciences. As an excellent model for cooperation in the field of science, the rector highlighted the university’s membership and collaborative work of the LifeWatch Bulgaria consortium, which has been part of LifeWatch ERIC since the beginning of 2022.

LifeWatch ERIC at Transfiere 2023: session on green and blue growth

Transfiere 2023

As with all years, LifeWatch ERIC can be found at the 2023 edition of Transfiere, the European Forum for Science, Technology and Innovation. The Forum is held from Wednesday 15 February until Friday 17 February at the Malaga Trade Fair and Conference Centre (FYCMA).

Not only will the infrastructure be present with a booth, but the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core management team, together with coordinators of projects already underway at a global, European and regional levels, are developing an extensive programme of meetings to establish synergies for cooperation in the use of advanced digital tools for those interested in improving knowledge and eco-sustainable actions on biodiversity, and on the valuation of ecosystem services. LifeWatch ERIC promotes open access to data and resources in order to facilitate analysis efficiency and improve decision-making from public administrations, companies and citizens on climate change and for the preservation of biodiversity across the planet.

On the first day, Wednesday 15, within the Transfiere programme, LifeWatch ERIC will hold a session from 5pm–7pm, open to all participants, on ‘Green and Blue Growth through Technology Transfer, Digitisation and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. Moderated by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, it entails the participation of five speakers on five interconnected themes:

Teófila Martínez, President of the Port of Cádiz and President of RETE, International Association of Port Cities and Ports. Her presentation will focus on the strategic vision of the blue economy.

Esperanza Caro, General Director of the Corporation of Municipal Companies of Seville (CEMS), and, from the Seville City Council, is the Spanish representative in the Ariane Cities Network for cooperation in the aerospace industry. In her presentation, she will present the SDGs in local economic development projects.

Rocío Moreno, Deputy Mayor of La Palma del Condado (Huelva) and Treasurer of the Andalusian Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity Association (FAMSI). In her presentation, she will speak about Agroecology as a motor of development and cooperation.

María Ángeles Real, Deputy Vice-Rector for Scientific Infrastructure at the University of Malaga, where she is Professor of Cellular Biology. She will focus her presentation on publicising sustainable international projects in teaching.

Rohaifa Khaldi, Coordinator of the LifeWatch ERIC Artificial Intelligence Team and Researcher at the Andalusian Interuniversity Institute of Data Science and Computational Intelligence (DaSCI). She will dedicate her presentation to explaining the application of Artificial Intelligence in ecosystem services.

After the round of presentations, the second hour of the session will be dedicated to the debate on this entire thematic area, including participation and questions from the attendees.

The Transfiere 2023 programme includes more than 80 thematic panels, in which more than 400 experts will speak. More than 190 entities, companies and public administrations will be represented in the exhibition area. In the Research Centre space, more than 40 prototypes from research groups, technology centers and public companies will be displayed. In addition, in this event, more than 70 startups and spin-offs have been selected for relationships with international investment funds. The three days of Transfiere will see professionals representing more than 500 companies and entities from 39 countries.

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.

EU marine governance gets a boost as new European research project “PERMAGOV” sets sail

Permagov project

The EU Green Deal aims to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing Europe and the world, among them environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, climate change, and pollution. The promise of this ambitious legislative package is to transform the EU into the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, with a competitive and data-agile economy decoupled from fossil fuels, zero net greenhouse gas emissions, and a society where no one is left behind (green, digital and just transition).

Achieving the Green Deal requires a concerted effort across multiple areas that are closely related (e.g. environment, climate, energy, transportation), with success also dependent on transformative action in marine governance. Oceans are vital to life above and below ground, so their sustainable exploitation will be necessary to ensuring their effective functioning – as a climate regulator, as source of clean air, energy, jobs, and food, as one of the main trading routes – for generations to come.

However, the current setup of marine governance is not conducive to reaching Green Deal objectives, because it is hampered by institutional barriers, lack of coherent policy mechanisms, and ineffective governance systems. Marine governance must evolve to become more agile and flexible, cross-sectoral and multi-actor, in tune with changing dynamics in policy, science, technology, industry and society.  

This is exactly what PERMAGOV, the new Horizon Europe project, sets out to achieve. Over the next four years, PERMAGOV will set out to support the improvement of EU marine governance performance in four selected seas (Adriatic, Baltic, Celtic, and Mediterranean) and three national waters bordering Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia, Denmark, and Norway. 

“Achieving the ‘blue’ dimension of the EU Green Deal will require innovative, multi-level and cross-sectoral governance approaches which break down long-standing institutional barriers and dependency on established paths, and which span multiple fronts and challenges that must be addressed to ensure the health of EU marine ecosystems, for example water pollution, overfishing, biodiversity loss, carbon emissions, energy production, shipping,” said Dr. Judith van Leeuwen, the PERMAGOV project’s coordinator and Associate Professor at Wageningen University.  

“The ocean and seas are the main ‘lungs of the planet’ and essential to all life on it. Through the PERMAGOV project we hope to contribute to their conservation and sustainable use so they can continue to support humankind and all other life on the planet long into the future.”

You can read the full press release here.

To find out more about the projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is involved, visit our Related Projects page.

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).


Addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and habitat degradation towards a sustainable management of European wetlands

RESTORE4CS

RESTORE4Cs, a freshly started project led by the University of Aveiro, will address management and restoration actions to maintain and promote the mitigation and adaptation capacity of European wetlands to climate change, while focusing on coastal wetlands and providing innovative tools and methodologies for decision making and restoration planning and actions.

What is the potential of wetlands? How can multiple challenges such as climate mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, disaster risk reduction and other threats to ecosystem services be tackled to foster mutually reinforcing actions and enhance co-benefits from wetland restoration?

All major European Union (EU) policies recognise the key role of wetlands to achieve the EU objectives regarding climate neutrality, biodiversity protection, zero-pollution, flood protection, and circular economy. Therefore, assessing the current extent and state of European wetlands, their current and potential greenhouse gases (GHG) profile and their medium to long-term mitigation capacity through restoration, or other measures, are key priorities of the European Union to tackle climate change. Led by the University of Aveiro, the recently awarded Horizon project RESTORE4Cs (Modelling RESTORation of wEtlands for Carbon pathways, Climate Change mitigation and adaptation, ecosystem services, and biodiversity, Co-benefits) will assess the role of restoration action on wetlands capacity in terms of climate change mitigation and a wide range of ecosystem services using an integrative socio-ecological systems approach. 

The kick-off meeting, held in Aveiro from 16 to 19 January, has officially marked the start of the project consortium’s activities, gathering representatives of 15 partners from 9 European countries, including universities, research institutes and infrastructures, small and medium enterprises, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs, bringing together a well-structured and multi-disciplinary team, holding all the essential expertise to be at the forefront of the research/policy interface. The meeting agenda covers all aspects of the project implementation, spanning from administrative issues, overview of the state of the art, coordination, communication and organisation of the work. Case pilot sites have been presented by the related local teams and a first visit in the field has been organised in the area pertaining to Ria de Aveiro.

Focusing on coastal wetlands across Europe, RESTORE4Cs will deliver standardised methodologies and approaches for the prioritisation of restoration, promoting carbon-storage and GHG emissions abatement, while improving the ecological status and the provision of additional ecosystem services, such as flood regulation and coastal erosion protection. More in detail, the project will provide online, user-friendly and integrated tools as unique entry points for wetland practitioners and decision makers regarding the prioritisation of conservation and restoration actions, in relation with their GHG performance as well as impacts on biodiversity and a wide range of ecosystem services while addressing in parallel three spatial scales (local, national, regional/pan-European) combined with the three targeted habitats (wetlands, floodplans and peatlands).

See the full press release, with more information on the project breakdown and consortium members, here.

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 Call for EOSC FAIR Champions is Open!

EOSC FAIR Champions

FAIR-IMPACT, a Horizon Europe project in which LifeWatch ERIC partners, has announced the opening of its call for EOSC FAIR Champions, a group of 12 experts that will be actively engaged in analysing and shaping FAIR data policies and practices in their field who will be on board to act as ambassadors for FAIR, engage their community, and advocate for adoption of the project results.

The candidate Champions will be engaged in identifying research data gaps and needs within their communities, to create broader engagement with FAIR, and to shape and disseminate the outcomes of the FAIR-IMPACT project, for instance by facilitating national roadshows in their country, and contributing to the development of FAIR implementation stories.

FAIR-IMPACT is looking for Champions who have broad expertise in FAIR policy and/or practice, bring strong research data advocacy experience and excellent communications skills, are driven to help mobilise others to generate more FAIR data on policy and/or practice level, and are keen to share best practices. Gender diversity, a balanced geographical and stakeholder representation, and broad interdisciplinary expertise across FAIR policy and practice will be ensured in the evaluation of the profiles.

Click here for more details on how to apply. The deadline to apply is Friday 10 March at 17:00 CET.

Punta Tech Meetup 2023

Punta Tech

Punta Tech Meetup is among the foremost technology networking events in the Latin America and Caribbean. Held this year on Monday 9 January at the Punta del Este Convention and Exhibition Centre in Uruguay, it was attended by entrepreneurs from the region and around the world, who gathered to promote business opportunities. Meetup 2023 also focused on promoting gender equality, creating a space for dialogue between women. 

LifeWatch ERIC was represented by Maite Irazábal Plá, EU-LAC Fundraising, Networking & Projects Manager, who networked with key stakeholders in the technology and business world, exchanging ideas and strengthening connections. The event, which started 15 years ago when three friends decided to get together and have a BBQ “asado”, has grown into an international ecosystem that meets once a year to discuss trends in the industry.

The ‘W Meetup’ stimulus network was designed to recognise, celebrate and promote the development of women in a sector in which gender gaps still persist. Stimulating talent and multiplying opportunities will not only increase the number of women employed in technology companies, but open up career paths that lead to decision-making roles.

Another feature of Punta Tech 2023 was the ‘Prompt Battle’, which pitted competitors against each other using text-to-image software. Seven live ‘battles’ allowed participants to vote for the most creative, surprising and innovative exponents of this Artificial Intelligence software, in which images and art are generated from written descriptions called prompts. The event and the synergies created within the region are an opportunity to continue promoting Uruguay as a center for business and export services, especially in the technology sector.