Multidisciplinary research into cutting-edge technologies with a strong positive societal impact lies at the heart of the European Green Deal, the EU’s policy agenda to make the Union a world leader in environmental protection by achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
EU funded projects are a core aspect of the Union’s research and innovation strategy and will be expected to contribute to the foreseen changes in the European way of living: reducing carbon emissions, effectively restoring biodiversity, and shifting to more sustainable forms of food production and agriculture.
New technologies can help but how?
A two-fold challenge arises as the EU research community starts to grapple with these important ambitions. On the one hand, we will have to develop innovative solutions that go beyond the technological state of the art to realise the Green Deal vision. The urgency of the climate crisis does not allow us to overlook the potential of data-driven and emerging technologies to make a real difference in this fight.
For example, it might be the case that combining computer vision, machine learning and 5G technologies can enable drone technology to underpin a very effective early warning system for the prevention of extreme wildfires in European forests and other natural habitats. We might need autonomous robots that can dive underwater and triangulate existing data sources with their own sensors network to better understand the biodiversity risks faced by our marine ecosystems in the open seas.
On the other hand, we need to ensure that the transition towards more sustainable solutions is just and that the new technologies do not violate human rights and freedoms or cause other types of harm. Environmental impact assessments are necessary but may not be enough, as they have often been criticised, both for narrow focus in terms of the natural-scientific assessment, and for lack of transparency and insufficient consideration of impact on stakeholders.
The need of societal trust and acceptability for delivering positive impact
As it is becoming clearer and clearer, no technological or scientific solution can deliver ground-breaking positive impacts without societal trust and acceptability. In other words, we need a holistic understanding of impacts and a responsible research and innovation (RRI) mindset in our European Green Deal efforts. The nexus between environmental issues and ethical, legal, and societal implications must be identified and the impact of technological solutions on human rights and the socio-economic predicament of European citizens must be scrutinised. To ensure the sustainability of these solutions from both a technical and societal perspective, their positive and negative impacts need to be weighted and accountability mechanisms must be established.
Our role in achieving the Green Deal ambitions
At Trilateral Research, we have a longstanding experience in contributing to the development of innovative technologies that seek to tackle global societal challenges, sustainable development goals (SDGs) and ambitious aims such as the ones in the Green Deal, without jeopardising the European values.
Our experienced researchers come from multiple disciplinary backgrounds including computer science, law, ethics, and the natural sciences, and our teams collaborate across the technology-social disciplinary divide to deliver sustainable innovation. We apply a design-thinking and responsibility-by-design approach in technology development translating ethical, legal, societal, and environmental principles and values into concrete requirements, actions, and regulatory and policy advice.
We support partners and clients in their path towards responsibility and sustainability by bringing our long-standing experience in leading new and emerging technology analysis, integrated impact assessment of technology (combining ethical, human rights, legal, privacy, environmental and socio-economic aspects), data management strategies and cutting-edge data intelligence services.
We specialise in co-designing and developing agile and inclusive methodologies and tools, striving to involve relevant stakeholders and facilitate the communication between research partners with different expertise to embed ethical acceptability, societal desirability, and a fair and socially equitable transition at the stage of technology design.
Our policy recommendations and integrated impact assessment toolkits have been applauded by large research funders in Europe and have shaped research agendas and understandings of the technology/society interplay.
To realise the European Green Deal ambition, we are determined to ensure that research and innovation will be walking hand in hand with just and equitable transitions to sustainable solutions.
For more information on our work in this research area, please contact our team.