Sustainable Integrated Management FOR the NEXUS of water-land-food-energy-climate for a resource-efficient Europe

Land, food, energy, water and climate are interconnected, comprising a coherent system (the ‘Nexus’), dominated by complexity and feedback.

The integrated management of the Nexus is critical to secure the efficient and sustainable use of resources. Barriers to a resource efficient Europe are policy inconsistencies and incoherence, knowledge gaps, especially regarding integration methodologies and tools for the Nexus, and knowledge and technology lock-ins.

SIM4NEXUS will develop innovative methodologies to address these barriers, by building on well-known and scientifically established existing “thematic” models, simulating different components/“themes” of the Nexus and by developing: (a) novel complexity science methodologies and approaches for integrating the outputs of the thematic models; (b) a Geoplatform for seamless integration of public domain data and metadata for decision and policy making; (c) a Knowledge Elicitation Engine for integrating strategies at different spatial and temporal scales with top down and bottom up learning process, discovering new and emergent knowledge, in the form of unknown relations between the Nexus components and policies/strategies; (d) a web-based Serious Game for multiple users, as an enhanced interactive visualisation tool, providing an immersive experience to decision- and policy-makers. The Serious Game will assist the users (as players) in better understanding and visualising policies at various geo-/spatial scales and from a holistic point of view, towards a better scientific understanding of the Nexus. The Serious Game will be validated (applied, tested, verified and used) via ten Case Studies ranging from regional to national level. Two further Strategic Serious Games at European and Global levels will also be developed for demonstration, education and further exploitation purposes, accompanied by a robust business plan and IPR framework, for taking advantage of the post-project situation and business potential.

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Sonic Drilling coupled with Automated Mineralogy and chemistry On-Line-On-Mine-Real-Time

SOLSA is the first automated expert system for on-site cores analysis. With access to data on-line, great savings are expected on the number of drill holes, the accuracy of geo-models and economic evaluation of ore reserves.

SOLSA responds perfectly to the need for ‘New sustainable exploration technologies and geo-models’ of SC5-11d-2015. The objective is to “develop new or improved highly efficient and cost-effective, sustainable exploration technologies”. It includes (1) integrated drilling optimized to operate in the difficult lateritic environment with the challenge of a mixture of hard and soft rocks, extensible also to other ore types, (2) fully automated scanner and phase identification software, usable as well in other sectors.

SOLSA combines for the first time the non-destructive sensors X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, vibrational spectroscopies and 3D imaging along the drill core. For that purpose, SOLSA will develop innovative, user-friendly and intelligent software, at the TRL 4-6 levels. To minimize the risk and capitalize on the newest technologies, the subsystems for the hardware, will be selected on the market of miniaturized sensors. To align SOLSA to the industrial needs and to guarantee market uptake at the end of the project, the SOLSA multidisciplinary consortium includes an end-user (ERAMET) with mining and commercial activities in laterite ores, the case study selected for the project. Industrially driven, the consortium is composed of LE, SMEs and academic experts (ERAMET (PI), F; SSD, NL; BRGM, F; INEL, F; Univ. Vilnius, Lt; CNRS-CRISMAT, F; Univ. Trento, I; Univ. Verona, I; TU Delft, NL) covering exploration, database management, instrumentation and software development, drilling rigs, analytical prototypes and marketing strategies. SOLSA is expected to revolutionize exploration and push Europe in front, by reducing the exploration time at ≈ 50%, the analysis time from 3 – 6 months to real-time and thus the environmental footprint.

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Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management

Starting from previous research experiences and tangible outcomes, STORM proposes a set of novel predictive models and improved non-invasive and non-destructive methods of survey and diagnosis, for effective prediction of environmental changes and for revealing threats and conditions that could damage cultural heritage sites.

. Moreover, STORM will determine how different vulnerable materials, structures and buildings are affected by different extreme weather events together with risks associated to climatic conditions or natural hazards, offering improved, effective adaptation and mitigation strategies, systems and technologies. An integrated system featuring novel sensors (intra fluorescent and wireless acoustic sensors), legacy systems, state of the art platforms (including LiDAR and UAVs), as well as crowdsourcing techniques will be implemented, offering applications and services over an open cloud infrastructure.

An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included.

The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites.

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Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service

The objective of the project SWOS is to develop a monitoring and information service focusing on wetland ecosystems.

Globally wetlands are the ecosystems with the highest rate of loss. This is alarming, considering their significance as biodiversity hotspots and ecosystems with a central role in the water cycle, including improving water quality and reducing water scarcity, in climate regulation and the economic benefit gained from using their services.

A key limitation to their more effective conservation, sustainable management and restoration is the missing knowledge underpinning the application of European policy by Member States. Under the Biodiversity Strategy, Member States have recently committed to the mapping and assessment of ecosystem services (MAES); this provides a key instrument for an improved integration of wetlands in policy.

SWOS will take full advantage of the Sentinel satellites and integrate results from the ESA Globwetland projects. Status maps and indicators, as well as near real-time observations will allow the assessment of biodiversity and the monitoring of dynamic changes in an unmatched temporal and spatial resolution.

The Service Portal will allow the integration and web-based analysis of new maps and in-situ measurements and provide a unique entry point to locate, access and connect existing information and databases. It follows a GEOSS compatible data-broker approach and adopts international standards.

SWOS contributes to establishing a Global Wetland Observing System, as requested by Ramsar, it will facilitate local and EU monitoring tasks and input into international reporting obligations. SWOS will position Europe in a leading role for wetland activities within the GEO ecosystem, biodiversity, water, land cover tasks. The direct involvement of users working at different scales and support of key user organizations ensures the usability and acceptance of the service, the harmonization with related activities and a long-term impact.

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Autonomous Underwater Explorer for Flooded Mines

This project will develop a novel robotic system for the autonomous exploration and mapping of Europe’s flooded mines.

The Robotic Explorer (UX-1) will use non-invasive methods for autonomous 3D mine mapping for gathering valuable geological and mineralogical information. This will open new exploration scenarios so that strategic decisions on the re-opening of Europe’s abandoned mines could be supported by actualised data that can not be obtained by any other ways. The Multi-robot Platform will represent a new technology line that is made possible by recent developments in autonomy research that allows the development of a completely new class of mine explorer service robots, capable of operating without remote control. Such robots do not exist nowadays; UX-1 will be the first of its kind. Research challenges are related to miniaturisation and adaptation of deep sea robotic technology to this new application environment and to the interpretation of geoscientific data.

Work will start with component validation and simulations to understand the behavior of technology components and instruments to the application environment. This will then be followed by the construction of the first Prototype. Post processing and data analysis tools will be developed in parallel, and pre-operational trials are launched in real life conditions. In the final stage of the project extensive pilots will take place during which UX-1 will be iteratively improved after each trial session, which will be increasingly demanding. The final, most ambitious demonstration will take place in the UK with the resurveying of the entire Ecton mine (UK) that nobody has seen for over 150 years. This final pilot will demonstrate the Platform’s scalability from small missions to the largest ones by increasing the number of deployed autonomous drones, and supporting multi-robot cooperation in confined 3D spaces with real time sensor and data fusion for reliable navigation and communications.

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Scale-up of low-carbon footprint material recovery techniques in existing wastewater treatment plants

SMART-Plant will scale-up in real environment eco-innovative and energy-efficient solutions to renovate existing wastewater treatment plants and close the circular value chain by applying low-carbon techniques to recover materials that are otherwise lost.

7\2 pilot systems will be optimized for > 2 years in real environment in 5 municipal water treatment plants, inclunding also 2 post-processing facilities. The systems will be authomatisedwith the aim of optimizing wastewater treatment, resource recovery, energy-efficiency and reduction of greenhouse emissions. A comprehensive SMART portfolio comprising biopolymers, cellulose,  fertilizersand intermediates will be recoveredand processed up to the final commercializable end-products.

Short Description: The integration of resource recovery assets to system-wide asset management programs will be evaluated in each site following the resource recovery paradigm for the wastewater treatment plant of the future, enabled through SMART-Plant solutions. The project will prove the feasibility of circular management of urban wastewater and environmental sustainability of the systems, to be demonstrated through Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Costing approaches to prove the global benefit of the scaled-up water solutions. Dynamic modeling and superstructure framework for decision support will be developed and validated to identify the optimum SMART-Plant system integration options for recovered resources and technologies. Global market deployment will be achieved as right fit solution for water utilities and relevant industrial stakeholders, considering the strategic implications of the resource recovery paradigm in case of both public and private water management. New public-private partnership models will be explored connecting the water sector to the chemical industry and its downstream segments such as the construction and agricultural sector, thus generating new opportunities for funding, as well as potential public-private competition.

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Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic: an integrated approach towards their preservation and sustainable exploitation

The objective of SponGES is to develop an integrated ecosystem-based approach to preserve and sustainably use vulnerable sponge ecosystems of the North Atlantic.

The SponGES consortium, an international and interdisciplinary collaboration of research institutions, environmental non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, will focus on one of the most diverse, ecologically and biologically important and vulnerable marine ecosystems of the deep-sea – sponge grounds – that to date have received very little research and conservation attention.

Our approach will address the scope and challenges of EC’s Blue Growth Call by strengthening the knowledge base, improving innovation, predicting changes, and providing decision support tools for management and sustainable use of marine resources. SponGES will fill knowledge gaps on vulnerable sponge ecosystems and provide guidelines for their preservation and sustainable exploitation. North Atlantic deep-sea sponge grounds will be mapped and characterized, and a geographical information system on sponge grounds will be developed to determine drivers of past and present distribution.

Diversity, biogeographic and connectivity patterns will be investigated through a genomic approach. Function of sponge ecosystems and the goods and services they provide, e.g. in habitat provision, bentho-pelagic coupling and biogeochemical cycling will be identified and quantified. This project will further unlock the potential of sponge grounds for innovative blue biotechnology namely towards drug discovery and tissue engineering. It will improve predictive capacities by quantifying threats related to fishing, climate change, and local disturbances. SpongeGES outputs will form the basis for modeling and predicting future ecosystem dynamics under environmental changes. SponGES will develop an adaptive ecosystem-based management plan that enables conservation and good governance of these marine resources on regional and international levels.

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Bringing coastal SUBsurface water SOLutions to the market

Coastal areas are the most productive and economically dominant regions of the world. The high water demand in these regions, however, puts tremendous pressure on their freshwater resources and ecosystems. This leads to problems like seasonal water shortage, saltwater intrusion, and disappearance of wetlands.

Building on national, regional and European research and innovation programs, in the past five years, a set of innovative, practical concepts have been developed for protection, enlargement and utilization of freshwater resources in coastal areas. These subsurface water solutions (SWS) combine innovations in water well design and configuration, allowing for advanced groundwater management, and maximum control over freshwater resources. SWS have been successfully piloted by public-private partnerships. These full-scale pilots have demonstrated SWS capacity to support sustainable freshwater supply in coastal areas, energy reduction, food production, and financial savings.

SUBSOL targets a market breakthrough of SWS as robust answers to freshwater resources challenges in coastal areas, by demonstration, market replication, standardization and commercialisation. The route to market includes business cases, market scans and capacity building in selected regions in Europe (Mediterranean, Northwestern Europe) and worldwide (USA, Brazil, China, Vietnam). SUBSOL will share experiences and outcomes with stakeholder groups through an online platform, that will be linked to existing networks, including EIP on Water.

The SUBSOL consortium combines knowledge providers, technology SMEs, consultants, and end-users from across Europe. Our ambition is to introduce a new way of thinking in terms of water resources management, promoting the sustainable development of coastal areas worldwide. This will stimulate economic growth and will create market opportunities and jobs for the European industry and SMEs.

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Transitions pathways and risk analysis for climate change mitigation and adaption strategies

Both the models concerning the future climate evolution and its impacts, as well as the models assessing the costs and benefits associated with different mitigation pathways face a high degree of uncertainty.

There is an urgent need to not only understand the costs and risks associated with climate change but also the risks, uncertainties and co-effects related to different mitigation pathways as well as public acceptance (or lack thereof) of low-carbon (technology) options. The main aims and objectives of TRANSrisk therefore are to create a novel assessment framework for analysing costs and benefits of transition pathways, that will integrate well-established approaches to modelling the costs of resilient, low-carbon pathways with a wider interdisciplinary approach including risk assessments. In addition, TRANSrisk aims to design a decision support tool that should help policy makers to better understand uncertainties and risks and enable them to include risk assessments into more robust policy design.

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Urban metabolism accounts for building Waste management Innovative Networks and Strategies

The scope of the project is to develop and test methods for designing and implementing innovative and sustainable Strategic Plans for Waste Prevention and Management in various urban contexts that will enhance urban environmental resilience and  guarantee progress towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns together with improvements waste recovery and recovered materials use.

Urban_Wins will define a data set, based on material flow indicators, capable of supporting and orienting decision making processes for urban waste prevention and management.  Knowledge of the factors that influence the metabolism of cities will be improved together with the understanding of how those factors can be transformed in positive drivers of technological, non-technological and governance changes.

The information set produced by the consortium will also focus on how a more efficient use of resources and a better management of waste can improve urban quality and citizens’ welfare, key points for urban stakeholders involvement, both in the planning and implementation of actions.   The proposal reunites diverse actors such as cities, research institutes and universities, environmental NGOs, IT&C, technological innovation and waste management companies, professional associations that represent EU regions, sectors and levels of governance. The complex partnership guarantees that advancement in EU research in the field of urban metabolism and waste management strategies is directly linked to stakeholder engagement and mutual learning and contributes to the achievement of resource efficiency and waste management objectives.  Urban_Wins analytical tools will be built on the base of datasets and experiences of 24 EU cities from 6 European countries and the Strategic Plans will be tested by 8 EU cities and will encompass regulatory measures, educational initiatives and sector specific actions.

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