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Water

VV.AA. [ENRIQUE PLAYáN (1), JOSé MARíA SáNCHEZ-PUELLES (2), JOSé LUIS GARCíA LóPEZ (2), ALMUDENA AGüERO (3), LOURDES ARMESTO (3), ROSA RODRíGUEZ BERNABé (3)]

(1) Estación Experimental de Aula Dei (CSIC). Working with the Ministry of Science and Innovation, (2) Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (CSIC). Working with the Ministry of Science and Innovation, (3) Ministry of Science and Innovation

The Joint Programming Initiative: “The challenges of water in a changing world”

The Joint Programming Initiative on water has identified two paramount issues which warrant dedicated research efforts: water quantity and quality, and extreme events related to water. A whole panoply of economic, ecological, social and technological challenges revolve around these two issues, to which solutions need to be found.

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The Joint Programming Initiative is (JPI) is a new process which combines a strategic framework, a bottom-up approach, and a high-level commitment from the European Union Member States and associated countries. In July 2008 the European Commission published a communication which urged Member States to step up R&D cooperation in order to address the major Europe-wide and global social challenges in which public research can play a key role more effectively. It needs to be borne in mind that the European Commission only finances around 10-30% Although they constitute a fundamental building block of the ERA, JPIs have to carve out a place for themselves in the complicated map of European research. It is likely that JPIs will tend to focus their efforts on research and development and only take on innovation activities in limited casesof public research performed in Europe; the rest is funded from national sources, which the countries concerned manage according to the own priorities.

The prospects for scaling up the Framework Programme are limited in the current climate. Therefore, coordinating national and regional research, development and innovation programmes represents a complementary parallel route by which to accelerate the integration of European research and strengthen the European Research Area (ERA). However, the European Commission can neither lead nor shape this process, as countries are sovereign when it comes to planning and managing their research programmes. What the European Commission can do is provide coordination mech-anisms to avoid duplication of R&D and innovation investments in ERA countries, and this is what the JPI is intended to do.

As a result, the process is governed by the principle of variable geometry along all its possible dimensions: countries decide whether
to participate in a JPI; what activities they want to partici-pate in; and, what research resources they intend to mobilise for use at the European level. JPIs start with an initiative by the Member States or associated countries, and are tied to a first order societal challenge facing European citizens. To date 10 JPIs have been defined, of which four have now been formally approved, and a further six, including “the challenges of water in a changing world”, are under development.

Spain is currently an observer in Clik’EU (the connection between climate knowledge for Europe) and “Urban Europe,” and is a member of a further eight initiatives. It coordinates the JPI on water and is joint-coordinator of the JPI on the seas and oceans.

 



Integration of the water JPI in European research

Although they constitute a fundamental building block of the ERA, JPIs have to carve out a place for themselves in the complicated map of European research. It is likely that JPIs’ efforts will tend to emphasise research and development and only take on innovation activities in a fairly limited number of cases. For ex-ample, in the case of water, The Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation identified water issues as among the biggest challenges facing society in both Spain and Europe, and put forward the country’s leadership role as a coordinator of this initiativethis downward pattern from research through to innovation is complementary with the strategy being taken by the Water supply and sanitation technology platform (WssTP), the pattern of which goes in the opposite direction. This platform is also an outcome of the European Commission’s challenge to the European water industry to organise itself and reach out to stakeholders and public- and private-sector researchers. The Spanish water technology platform (Plataforma Tecnológica Española del Agua), various Spanish R&D and innovation institutions and firms are also playing an active role in WssTP. Both the water JPI and the WssTP are expected to play an important role in the “Water Efficient Europe” Innovation Partnership, which is part of the new European Commission innovation strategy. Along the same lines, the recently approved initiative for a Resource-Efficient Europe, considers one of its fundamental components to be “a water policy that makes water saving measures and increasing water efficiency a priority, in order to ensure that water is available in sufficient quantities, is of appropriate quality, is used sustainably with min-imum resource input, and is ultimately returned to the environment with acceptable quality.”


The Water JPI Consortium
Shortly after the launch of the joint programming concept, the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN) identified water issues as among the foremost problems facing soci-eties in both Spain and Europe, and proposed that the country take on a leadership role as a coordinator of this initiative.

The JPI’s governance includes the research programmes’ owners or managers. These are the parties joining forces to realign and coordinate their work. In the case of the water JPI, 13 countries have so far made a commitment to it, while a further seven are following the initiative as observers. The Netherlands is playing a leading role as joint-coordinator of the proposal. An analysis of the annual funding of research on water in Europe reveals that the countries currently involved in the JPI (members and observers) invest €236 million a year in funding for water-related research. This figure represents 91% of the investment in research under this heading which is carried out in the framework programme member and associated countries. In the case of Spain, the annual investment is around €16 million.


An overview of European water research
The water JPI has identified two paramount issues which warrant dedicated research efforts: water quantity and quality, and extreme events related to water. A whole variety of economic, ecological, social and technological challenges revolve around these two problems. The JPI has set itself four main objectives.

The first is to prevent the bio-economy having negative impacts on the water cycle. As biomass becomes a key raw material, the water cycle will have to accommodate this new water use. This might be difficult to achieve in countries such as Spain, where in many river basins almost all the water resources are already committed.

Secondly, to look for a sustainable water balance. In view of the pressure on ecosystems caused by water extraction and global change, it is necessary to develop tools, indicators and models to monitor/prevent threats, evaluate risks and give timely alerts. Moreover, it is necessary to increase the ability of ecosystems to withstand stress and identify systemic solutions for their restoration.

The third challenge is that of achieving healthier water systems for a healthier society. Here the aim is to control the impact of new pollutants on water, and evaluate scientific/technological systems for their direct elimination through the water or soil.

And finally, to close the gap in the water balance. Methods and measures will be integrated to achieve sustainable water use, including scientific, technological, political and economic aspects. New mater-ials and designs, such as aquifer recharge or soil/aquifer treatment will be assessed.


The possible impact of the JPI on the Spanish R&D and innovation system
The main consequences for researchers will relate to the alignment of certain national and regional research objectives with the specific objectives set by the JPI’s strategic agenda. This alignment will encourage the international-isation of certain groups through the participation in calls for proposals for Europe-level projects within the framework of the JPI and determine the form that internationalisation takes.

Within the JPI discussions have begun on the research priorities of the various countries concerned, and these need to converge with European-level priorities. This discussion will lead to the publication Within the JPI discussions have begun on the research priorities of the various countries concerned, and these need to converge with European-level prioritiesof the first Strategic Agenda for European research into water in late 2012. This Agenda will be a milestone in the structuring of research as it will allow value to be added by harmonising priorities, avoiding duplication and optimising investments.

In parallel, the Agenda will be implemented through joint calls for proposals for research projects which will be evaluated and managed jointly, although funding will probably be at the level of each individu-al country. The projects will be similar to those under the Framework Programme in terms of the international structure, but they will have other characteristics that will make them more akin in their execution to projects under the National RTD Plan. Encouraging researcher mobility is also envisaged, facilitating access to unique special research facilities and the creation of networks of experimental facilities, in short, contributing to making the ERA a reality.

Spain could play an important role and make a significant contribution to defining the strategic Agenda for Water Research in Europe, and also to meeting the challenge of implementing future research programmes in coordination with the JPI’s initiatives.


The next steps
The water JPI is currently working on setting up its governing structure, which comprises the following bodies:

  • Governing Council. Chaired by Spain, this includes representatives of the programme owners in the partner countries and sets out the JPI’s strategic lines.
  • Executive board. Chaired by Spain, this brings together the managers of the JPI in the partner countries and implements the line defined by the Governing Council.
  • Scientific committee. Made up of a group of leading European and international researchers, this is the Governing Council’s advisory body and organises the scientific aspects of calls for proposals and project monitoring.
  • Interest groups committee. Made up of a group of people with an interest in water from the public and private sector from Europe and elsewhere in the world, this advises the governing Council on matters such as the ongoing updating of the strategic research agenda.
  • Secretariat. Currently held by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation in Madrid and Brussels.
  • Once the Competitiveness Council of the European Union approves this initiative, the mechanisms to run the first calls for proposals will be set in motion, which may take place in 2013.

Published in No. 04


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  • Lychnos. ISSN: 2171-6463 (Spanish print edition),
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