Written by Andrés García Higuera,
Scientific and technological advances lie at the heart of economic growth, and will be key to the economic recovery post-coronavirus. In line with their mission to support technological innovation, the legislators on the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) recently took part in a virtual visit to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) site at Ispra, Italy – Europe’s leading research campus with a wide range of laboratories and unique research infrastructures. The JRC’s operations at Ispra are geared to providing science-based responses to policy challenges with scientific, technological and socio-economic dimensions, with a number of their key research areas being of particular relevance and interest to STOA, including their research on the economics of climate change, on energy efficiency and transport, and on knowledge for growth.
Initially scheduled for May 2020, this STOA Panel virtual visit took place on Tuesday 16 March 2021, following an introductory presentation of the JRC mission and activities and a formal invitation issued to Members by the Director-General of the JRC, Stephen Quest, at the STOA Panel meeting of 29 January 2021. Although it would have been preferable to visit the site physically to interact with the impressive team of JRC scientists, this virtual alternative allowed eleven Members of the European Parliament to attend the visit organised by Eva Kaili, (S&D, Greece and STOA Chair) – highlighting the relevance of the JRC’s work to policy-makers.
Stephen Quest welcomed the delegation, underlining the need for high-quality science and for information to be shared with policy-makers to provide a service, through them, to wider society. This JRC-STOA cooperation goes beyond research, to knowledge management and better communication between science and policy, in line with the mandate of both STOA and the JRC to assess science and technology and inform policy-making.
The visit began with a presentation of the JRC-Ispra work on Artificial Intelligence with a European perspective and its focus on the health sector. The JRC operates ‘AI Watch‘, the artificial intelligence (AI) observatory for Europe, in partnership with the European Commission’s Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT), and supports the development of AI policy through its research activities. This was followed by a session dedicated to ‘The Green Deal’, another of STOA’s priorities, where the Knowledge Centre on Bioeconomy was presented. The next session was dedicated to ‘Quality of Life’, in which the upcoming Knowledge Centre on Cancer (KCC) was presented as part of the European Commission’s activities to tackle cancer, supporting the European Union’s Beating Cancer Plan, the Mission on Cancer, and connecting with some 12 European Commission Directorates-General. The visit continued with a remote tour of some of the JRC laboratories at Ispra, which began by presenting the Vehicle Emissions Laboratory (VELA) and its work in relation to car emission measurements. The delegation continued with a visit to the European Laboratory for Structural Assessment (ELSA) and an overview of its work in relation to energy efficiency and the seismic safety of buildings.
This visit served to provide STOA Panel members with much information and insight into JRC activities, as well as making useful links with experts, in view of future STOA work. The Ispra facility is the biggest centre of the JRC and half the JRC’s staff are based there, with 1 500 people working at its diverse laboratories and research facilities – connected by 35 kilometres of internal roads, at this unique site situated beside Lago Maggiore in northern Italy.
STOA looks forward to further collaborations with the JRC to exploit the synergies that became apparent through this visit, as well as to facilitating follow-up exchanges between experts and STOA Panel members on the topics addressed in these virtual sessions.
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