Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for the Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation

Europe's eyes on Earth

Europe's eyes on Earth
30.01.2017 | Guillermo Velasco

During the last decade Europe has undertaken substantial research efforts towards the development of Earth observation systems.The most important one has been the Global Monitoring for Environmental Security (GMES), which later on turned into the ongoing Copernicus programme. Copernicus makes use of systems like satellites and sensors to gather and provide data about lands, oceans, atmosphere, and climate behaviour, among others. An open and free access to Copernicus information is behind the emergence of new initiatives whose main objective is to use and transform Earth big data into actionable intelligence, thus facilitating more effective emergency responses, security related decisions, and mitigation/adaptation policies.

In this context, it is not surprising that the below listed most recent Horizon 2020 calls show a clear determination to stimulate and enhance a new market of climate services:

  • Exploiting the added value of climate services’,
  • From climate service concepts to piloting and proof-of-concept’,
  • Integrated European regional modelling and climate prediction system’,
  • Climate services market research’,
  • Towards a robust and comprehensive greenhouse gas verification system’,
  • A 1.5 million year look into the past for improving climate predictions’,
  • ERA-NET on Climate Services Roadmap: Cross-sector impact assessments (evaluation, comparison and integration)’,
  • Widening international cooperation activities on climate adaptation and mitigation

A strong market of this sort would contribute to better develop solutions that avoid global temperature to rise beyond 2°C, a level over which the planet would suffer significant effects on food production, water supply or infrastructures.

The climate services market is broad and embraces “customised products such as projections, forecasts, information, trends, economic analysis, assessments (including technology assessment), counselling on best practices, development and evaluation of solutions and any other service in relation to climate that may be of use for the society at large”. In other words, the market is conceived to encourage and support the development of systemic and challenge-driven solutions. Becoming a source of intelligence that supports and guides in the transition to a climate-resilient society is the market’s main ambition and rationale.

Nowadays the climate services market only exists at a very incipient stage. Current providers encounter difficulties to understand what users actually demand, while potential users (public administrators, businesses, civil society, NGOs, etc.) are very frequently not aware of the offer already available. Other identified obstacle in this emerging market refers to the long span required to detect impacts on climate change; in fact, private investors’ orientation to short-term results diverge from the far horizons that climate services usually look at, which may somehow disincentive the utilisation of this sort of services by firms.

What the European Commission (EC) is actually envisaging is an environment or eco-system that stimulates the creation of multidisciplinary communities where scientists, providers and users co-create customised and user-friendly solutions for the analysis and study of climate. In this sense, the services need to be intimately linked to research endeavours and aligned to the notion of systemic innovation. Reliability, evidence-based, accessibility, openness and relevance are probably the best adjectives that describe what sort of data and information is expected to flow throughout the communities taking part in this market.

In a roadmap released in March 2015 (“A European research and innovation Roadmap for Climate Services”), the European Commission identified universities, meteorological centres, public climate agencies, private businesses and consulting agencies as potential providers within this market. The roadmap recognises that their services will have to address the following five types of issues or users’ decisions: (1) complex and long-term decisions related to agriculture, wind and solar energies that require highly focused and technical means; (2) complex and long-term decisions related to infrastructures, railways, energy networks, forestry, etc. demanding only a moderate precision but a high customization; (c) complex and multifaceted decisions, including those tackling urban planning aspects, which call for integrated and multidisciplinary solutions; (4) decisions that normally have a significant impact on properties, e.g. flood forecasting, problems impacting on insurance firms, etc., which request a particular focus on risk assessment and cost analysis; and (5) policies formulated by governments, businesses, trade unions, or civil society organizations, that demand the combination of mitigation and adaptation solutions as well as the analysis of their economic implications.

Given the great attention and focus currently directed at the climate services market by the EC, we may wonder how and to what extent this issue has been addressed up to now in the CASI project. The CASI database, CASIPEDIA, is well prepared to gather evidences of climate services innovations. In fact, two sustainable innovation priorities that closely match the climate services concept, namely ‘ICT to assess and predict climate actions’ and ‘Climate change projections and scenarios’, were included so as to identify and map sustainable innovation cases related to this market throughout Europe. However, this process (carried out at the first stages of the CASI project in 2014) did not result in the identification of relevant and representative cases of these specific priorities (with the exception of ‘Global Forest Watch’ which is not a European case), so no examples of climate services extracted from the CASI database can yet be brought to illustrate this blog.

This circumstance, however, invites to make two further reflections. Given the comprehensive and exhaustive exploration of climate related innovation cases (including those of systemic nature) carried out by the CASI project, the limited representation of climate service related initiatives in CASIPEDIA calls for a better response to this market, which still shows a very incipient character. A second reflection may serve to corroborate one of the messages of the upcoming second policy report of the CASI project (‘Sustainable Innovation Policy Advice’), which claims for an intensive and in-depth exploration and assessment, by researchers and policy makers, of European innovations at their very early stages, and invites actors to make use of the CASI framework in this sense. This would contribute to better understanding of the practical obstacles that European firms or institutions do find when trying to evolve from ‘conceptual’ to ‘development’ phases of innovation. With the ‘From climate service concepts to piloting and proof-of-concept’ call the EC seems to share the same concern.

(image source:

Relevant themes: Climate action
Relevant tags: Climate services, Climate change, Intelligence, Sustainability


  • Guillermo Velasco - The University of Manchester (UNIMAN), Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR)

    Guillermo Velasco

    Guillermo Velasco holds a MPhil in Economics and Innovation Management (EU-SPRI) and BEng in Industrial Organization from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM). He is completing his PhD at the University of Manchester (MIoIR) in the area of Strategic Intelligence for R&I policies, by analysing how future-based participatory projects can be designed to provide consistent R&I policy recommendations. He explores new schemes for systematic policy advice generation and evaluation. He has developed action-research on VERA, and now contributes to design sustainable innovation advice on the CASI EC project. He is also interested in exploring how experts and citizens boards deal with plausible images of future to generate intelligence. He has also been involved in Horizon scanning for the UK NHS on new technologies and models of care. He has experience in the creative industries, as Director of Innovation, and has been actively involved in product innovation, IPR management, and ‘design thinking’ assessment. He was Industrial Organization Director in technological corporations in US, Spain and Sweden. He combines this activity with Master Executive lecturing.