How the EIT and its EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities are working to address one of the biggest threats of the decade
Four of the EIT's Knowledge and Innovation Communities – EIT Climate-KIC, EIT Food, EIT Manufacturing and EIT RawMaterials – supported by the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme – have joined forces to build knowledge and overcome current barriers to tackle water scarcity in Southern Europe through innovation.
Flooding and water scarcity in Europe will increase in the coming decades if the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change are not met. Several studies, including a Joint Research Centre study released in 2018, have looked at the impact of the changing climate, land use and water usage on Europe’s water resources. It is known that Southern European countries – particularly Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey – are projected to face increased water shortages.
Significant reductions in groundwater recharge are estimated for Spain, Portugal and Greece, with negative impacts on the environment and water availability for irrigation. Increasing droughts will lead to water scarcity and reduced hydropower potential in the Mediterranean region. This is likely to have a knock-on effect in agriculture, energy, transport and food security. With global freshwater consumption on the increase, European economies are being asked to tackle water scarcity by boosting resilient infrastructure, moving towards more circular economics and by enabling multi-stakeholders governance, as these will determine the competitiveness of the European water industry.
Therefore, water plays a central role in how societies mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. A holistic approach considering water, the biosphere and the anthroposphere is required to provide sustainable agricultural and economic systems that will allow EIT Community to decelerate climate change, protect us from extreme weather events, and adapt to the unavoidable at the same time.
In 2020, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities will be establishing a group of experts on water scarcity in Southern Europe, delivering focused entrepreneur challenge labs for start-ups and organising the EIT Water Academy for water scarcity challenge education. The Knowledge and Innovation Communities will also be running the EIT workshops with public bodies and other stakeholders across different regions and communication activities to reach out to citizens and interested stakeholders, engaging in external events and with the media to raise awareness about water scarcity for citizens.
In the upcoming weeks, EIT Community will be looking for experts including not only researchers but also policy-makers, representatives of NGOs, wider civil society organisations and private industry in who can provide valuable contributions to the multi-stakeholders perspective that we need to tackle these societal challenges.
A call for experts will be launched soon – stay tuned!
EIT Regional Innovation Scheme
Although EIT Community shares one continent, European countries are divided because of disparities in innovation performance. This has resulted in the classification of European countries in two main groups—innovation leaders and strong innovators versus moderate and modest innovators. One reason for lower innovation performance is weak linkages among the key players—businesses and research institutions and academia, as well as between the private and public sectors, including a systematic approach towards innovation.
As a response to this challenge, the EIT RIS was introduced. The EIT RIS is designed for EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries in Europe who are modest and moderate innovators, and where Innovation Communities have few or no partners. Strategically, the Scheme is an additional offer to these countries to facilitate their engagement with the EIT Innovation Communities. The Scheme’s aim is to facilitate the access to services and programmes offered by the EIT Innovation Communities.
Each Innovation Community cooperates with local innovators – individuals such as students, researchers, entrepreneurs, and organisations such as SMEs, universities, research labs, regions, NGOs and cities. The EIT Innovation Communities involve the local players in education, business creation and acceleration activities, as well as innovation-driven research.