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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2018 / Understanding the Earth for the people that inhabit it: Belgian and Flemish institutes joining hands in the framework of GeoERA

Kris Piessens, Timothy N. Debacker, Griet Heuvelmans, Ben Laenen, Koen Beerten, Christian Burlet, Marleen De Ceukelaire, Pierre-Yves Declercq, Cis Slenter, Jan Corluy, Mieke De Craen, Sophie Decrée, Katrien De Nil, Xavier Devleeschouwer, Helga Ferket, Matej Gedeon, Eric Goemaere, Thomas Goovaerts, Vanessa Heyvaert, Thierry Leduc, Estelle Petitclerc, Bart Rogiers, Yves Vanbrabant, Marleen Vandamme, Koen Van Noten, Jan Walstra and Kris Welkenhuysen (2018)

Understanding the Earth for the people that inhabit it: Belgian and Flemish institutes joining hands in the framework of GeoERA

In: 6th Geologica Belgica Meeting 2018, Geologica Belgica, Geologica Belgica.

Societies rely on a secure, responsible and affordable supply of resources to meet their basic needs, in order to live life in a safe and healthy environment. The natural resources from the subsurface, i.e. groundwater, geo-energy and raw materials, represent essential elements in this provision. Safety from catastrophic events, such as those linked to earthquakes, or continuous ones, such as subsidence, can be improved by understanding the causes, frequency or rates of processes, and their impacts. These applied goals require a correct and intimate understanding of the regional geology. While geological surveys and other organisations working on the subsurface were initially very much focussed on national supply of resources, issues such as environmental consequences have increasingly come to the forefront. Europe has now become the relevant scale when considering import or export of raw materials. This results in an increasing pressure to place regional knowledge in a cross-border or pan-European context. To support cross-border, thematic research, the European Commission issued a call for an ERA-NET to which a consortium of 33 national and 15 regional organisations responded. An ERA-NET is a project that internally organises a competitive call for projects. In 2017, GeoERA officially started. After an internal call for project proposals, 15 projects were approved that receive about 30% top-up funding under H2020. The remainder of the resources comes from different sources of funding, totalling the budget to 30.3 M€. Projects are funded under the themes Geo-Energy, Raw Materials, and Ground Water. A fourth theme, Data Infrastructure, will realise the shared ambition of all projects to jointly store and publish their data on-line as an extension of country specific databases (e.g. DOV, Gisel). The starting date of the GeoERA research projects granted funding is 1 July 2018, and the projects will run for three years. Belgian and Flemish institutes involved are: the Geological Survey of Belgium (GSB), the Bureau for Environment and Spatial Development – Flanders (VPO), the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Flanders Environment Agency (VMM) and the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN). Although not involved as official partner, the Geological Survey of Wallonia supports the initiative by means of data provision. The GSB is involved in seven projects, VITO, as linked third partyof VPO in two projects, VPO itself in one project, and VMM in three projects of which two will be elaborated in close cooperation with SCK-CEN, the linked third party of VMM. Together with VPO-VITO, the GSB is coordinator of GeoConnect³d, a strongly crossthematic Geo-Energy project that aims to disclose geological information for policy support and subsurface management. Other funded Geo-Energy projects in which the GSB is involved are MUSE, a project on shallow geothermal energy in European urban areas, and HIKE, on induced hazards and impacts related to the exploitation of subsurface resources throughout Europe. Under the theme Raw Materials the GSB participates in Mintell4EU, which aims to improve the European knowledge base on raw materials, as well as in FRAME, that is designed to research the critical and strategic raw materials in Europe. For groundwater the GSBeis directly involved in the HOVER project, mainly on data collection related to natural springs. VMM is also involved in HOVER, but in a work package on the distinction between anthropogenic and geogenic causes of groundwater contamination (especially how to deal with it in groundwater policy and management) with substances like arsenic. Moreover, VMM is, together with SCK-CEN, participating and leading a work package in two other Ground Water projects, namely VoGERA on investigating the vulnerability of shallow groundwater resources to deep subsurface energy-related activities, and RESOURces about harmonization of information about Europe’s groundwater resources through cross-border demonstration projects. Finally, the GIP-P project, where the GSB is work package leader, will establish a common platform for organising, disseminating and sustaining the digital results of the GeoERA projects. GeoERA is more than the occasional H2020 project. The combined efforts by the Belgian and Flemish institutes to engage in 10 different projects is a cooperative approach, with clear ambitions to demonstrate how cross-thematic research links can be set-up by different institutes, and how these can provide fruitful results for policy makers and other stakeholders. This is a notable effort in a project that is about establishing and demonstrating the added value of a European geological surveys research area, and finding how to optimally link regional, national and European efforts and interests. Acknowledgements This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 731166
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