Written by Philip Boucher.
Three members of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) – Ivars Ijabs (Renew, Latvia) Lina Gálvez Muñoz (S&D, Spain) and Rosa D’Amato (Greens, Italy) – visited the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Seville on 18‑20 July 2022, to discuss their work on digital, green and innovation policy.
As the Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) provides advice and support to EU policy. It has 2 000 scientists working at six sites in five countries. The Seville site hosts 400 staff and focuses upon socio-economic and techno-economic research.
The members were welcomed to Seville by JRC’s Director for Growth and Innovation Mikel Landabaso. He gave an overview of their activities in digital, environmental and innovation policy, as well as analyses supporting responses to the pandemic and the situation in Ukraine. Beyond its role in EU policy, JRC Seville also works closely with national administrations, regional partners, universities, industry and civil society organisations. Members participated in a discussion about how JRC activities are selected and financed, the modalities of their relationship with other Commission Directorates-General, and how they balance scientific excellence and policy needs.
The first day was dedicated to JRCs projects in the context of the digital transition. Carlos Torrecilla explained that digital transformation is not about digitising the things that we do now, but dramatically changing the way things are done. Their analyses provide support across EU digital policies and programmes and are poised to play a major role in future, for example in hosting part of the forthcoming European Centre on Algorithmic Transparency. Giuditta De Prato presented the JRC’s contribution to Europe’s digital decade, which sets targets for skills, infrastructure, public services and business looking to 2030. Yves Punie and Riina Vuorikari then outlined the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens and Emilia Gómez highlighted JRC initiatives in education and healthcare. The session concluded with demonstrations of a robot and a facial recognition tool, which are used in JRC research projects. The discussion sessions focused upon the importance of wide-ranging metrics of inequality and the JRC approach to working with industry and academia.
During the second day, the delegation learnt about JRC projects related to the green transition. Serge Roudier explained the Sevilla Process, which brings together industry, Member States and environmental groups to co-create environmental norms, resulting in consensus around sets of actions that lead to major reductions in emissions of air pollutants. Antonio Amores and Ana Agúndez then shared their insights on fairness aspects of the green deal, including EUROMOD, a tool that analyses the effect of reforms in a range of taxation and social assistance measures in terms of poverty and inequality. The session continued with Antonio Soria, who demonstrated the need to focus upon efficiency, clean energy and electrification in order to meet the Paris targets. Abdel Bitat then presented his work on sustainability competences in education, and René van Bavel concluded the session with an explanation of the role of behavioural insights in EU policy. Wide-ranging discussions with Members covered from the suitability of various metrics and measures to the impacts of sanctions on Russia.
The third and final day focused upon innovation. Guia Bianchi and Ignacio González Vázquez presented the JRC project on Partnerships for Regional Innovation, a strategic approach to innovation-driven territorial transformation. They have developed a ‘playbook‘ of non-prescriptive PRI tools, and are now running a pilot process in collaboration with the Committee of the Regions. Emanuele Pugliese explained JRC assessments of region’s capacities for competitiveness and innovation and, crucially, their potential for growth in specific sectors. Manuel Palazuelos and Filipe Batista gave an overview of JRC activities related to sustainable and resilient tourism, including the EU Tourism Dashboard, which will be launched later this year. Finally, Fernando Mérida Martín and Fabrizio Guzzo presented JRC work on start-up villages including the forthcoming Forum, and the Commission’s long-term vision for more connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas. The discussion with Members examined the key challenges facing regions, in particular the distribution of benefits from innovation and tourism.
During the delegation, Members also took the opportunity to visit the Cartuja Science and Technology Park (PCT), where they were welcomed by representatives of the Junta de Andalucía – General Secretary for External Affairs, Enrique Millo, and General Secretary for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise, Pablo Cortés. The Cartuja area of Seville was developed for the 1992 World Expo and now hosts the park as well as several other facilities, including the JRC. PCT Director General Luis Pérez explained that the park is designed to foster a prospering innovation ecosystem through cooperative projects. Rafael Sánchez, ENDESA’s Director General for Andalucía, Extremadura, Ceuta and Melilla also joined the delegation to present the eCitySevilla project, a comprehensive sustainability plan for Cartuja. Finally, the Mayor of Seville, Antonio Muñoz met with Members and expressed the city’s enthusiasm for the New Bauhaus philosophy, as well as Seville’s ambition to become a climate neutral city. He highlighted key challenges for the city in climate change, the digital transition, and social inclusiveness.
The JRC currently rents its office in Seville, and there are some limitations in terms of operational needs, cost-effectiveness, security and environmental performance. A decision has been taken to build a new facility on adjacent land, which has been provided without cost by Seville’s City Council. Vincenzo Cardarelli, Advisor to the JRC’s Director for Growth and Innovation, presented the winner of a recent design contest. The building will be the first EU building under the banner of the New European Bauhaus and is envisaged as an instrumental connection between the JRC and the community. It is also designed as a ‘post-covid’ building that recognises the new work modalities, notably teleworking, and maximises the benefits of exchanges that take place when colleagues are physically present. The discussion focused upon how design choices for the site and the wider area can foster greater integration with Seville’s public spaces and community. Work has commenced on a final design.
STOA is grateful for the JRC and the Cartuja PCT for hosting the visit, to all of the researchers for sharing their interesting and important work, and looks forward to further opportunities for exchange and engagement in future.