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Establishing the European Geological Surveys Research Area to deliver a Geological Service for Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GeoERA (Establishing the European Geological Surveys Research Area to deliver a Geological Service for Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2022-02-28

◾ Context: the European Union is facing a number of grand challenges related to the need to stimulate economic growth and recovery of resources while ensuring common welfare and a healthy and safe living environment to all its citizens. This increasingly puts pressure on the availability and exploitation of natural resources, including geo-energy, raw materials and groundwater. To address these challenges and support policy- and decision making for the sustainable use and integrated management of subsurface resources, there is an urgent need for harmonised and integrated subsurface information and knowledge.
◾ Overall objectives: Geological Survey Organizations (GSO’s) are the custodians of geological information, and have built up large historical legacies of data, in many cases over periods of more than 100 years. However, because of different legal frameworks, national policies and mandates, and conventions, this body of knowledge is fragmented and difficult to access at a European level.
GeoERA is essentially a collaboration of 47 partner organisations, both national and regional GSO’s, from 32 countries. The overall objective of GeoERA was to organise and co-fund together with the EU a joint call for 15 transnational research projects.
◾ Conclusions of the action: with a slight delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GeoERA has been carried out in accordance with the original scope. A two-stage call resulted in 15 research projects in the domains of Geo-Energy, Groundwater, Raw Materials and Information Management. These projects have produced a wealth of information that has been widely disseminated. GeoERA has proven that the GSOs can successfully cooperate on a European scale.
Work performed
◾ The GeoERA Stage One Call for Ideas opened then on April 4th until June 7th 2017. 61 Project Ideas were submitted. The Call was promoted though newsletters and other channels.
◾Based on this input, the scientific scope of Stage Two Call for Proposals was developed as 16 Specific Research Topic (SRT) covering a specified issue within each Theme. The GeoERA Stage Two Call for Proposals opened on 17 October 2017. This call closed on the 12th of January 2018. 17 proposals were submitted.
◾Review and evaluation: The proposals have been checked on eligibility and experts where selected for the technical review and the Expert Panel meeting. The Expert Panel met on the 21th of March 2018 to evaluate the 17 proposals. They delivered a ranking list of highest quality proposals. All projects have been evaluated above the threshold.
◾End of March 2018, 14 projects where selected for funding by the Executive Board, and a 15th project was proposed with a lower EC funding rate. The General Assembly approved the 15 projects for funding on the 9th of April 2018. The project partners kicked-off in July 2018.
◾In the period from July 2018 to October 2021, all 15 projects were implemented.
◾Important events were: midterm project reviews in February 2020, midterm conference November 2020 (online instead of live in Ljubljana due to COVID-19 pandemic), final project review sessions end of 2021, final conference in January 2022.
◾On 31 October 2021, 14 out of the 15 projects were concluded. One project ended 30 June 2021.

Main results
The implementation of the selected projects has delivered the following results:
◾47 national and regional GSO’s from 32 countries joined forces and pooled € 21 million from their own resources with € 10 million from the EC;
◾The programme organized a call for proposals, in which 15 research projects in the domains of Geo-Energy (6), Groundwater (4), Raw Materials (4) and Information management (1) were selected and carried out;
◾Common assessment frameworks and methodologies supporting better understanding and management of the water-energy-raw materials nexus and potential impacts and risks of subsurface use;
◾A geological knowledge base consisting of objective and seamless data, information and expertise to service European, national and regional policy makers, industry and other stakeholders and facilitate them in policy and decision-making processes;
◾The projects delivered a vast number of reports, datasets, maps and models, best practices and guidelines and other results, that to a large extent are published through a common European Geological Data Infrastructure (EGDI) and available for anyone to use.
◾The projects were subject to four levels of evaluation. The average assessment score was 4,4 (from 5) and all four evaluation levels agree that achievements surpassed initial expectations. As a result the GeoERA Programme as a whole is overachieved.

Dissemination and exploitation
◾The overarching goal of dissemination was to actively engage with specific stakeholder groups: policy makers, geoscientific communities, industry, and other interested parties or the general public, in order to integrate different views and assess the different needs. Each of the projects engaged with specific targeted stakeholder groups, in order to ensure appropriate scope and uptake of the project results. Communication actions consisted of the development of a visual identity, website, newsletters, info-materials and engagement in social media. Dissemination was facilitated by the easy-to-use Information Platform EGDI.
◾All outreach targets set at the start of the programme (e.g. nr. of web visits, publications, leaflets, social media posts and reads) where far exceeded, in some cases by an order of magnitude;
The wider long-term impact of this joint effort at the national and European level will be the consolidation and reinforcement of European capabilities in domains such as energy, water and raw materials. The sum of efforts will generate a significant amplification of the research outputs and the innovation and entrepreneurial capacity of the EU and its Member States. The results of GeoERA are communicated and disseminated in such a way that they support efficient and sustainable management of the subsurface by regional, national and EU policy makers, and responsible exploration, exploitation and use of subsurface resources by Europe’s Industry. This improved foundation in turn will contribute to improved supply security of subsurface resources for the wider industry and public.

The projects delivered impact through:
◾Harmonized data and information and knowledge, including methodologies to develop such information, on the distribution, accessibility, feasibility (not in the financial sense), vulnerability and potential impacts and risks related to exploration and exploitation of geo-energy, groundwater and raw materials resources.
◾Better and more integrated understanding of the water-energy-raw materials nexus, improving predictions and reducing risk and uncertainty.
◾Better support to efficient and sustainable management of the subsurface by regional, national and EU policy makers, and responsible and publicly acceptable exploration, exploitation and use of subsurface resources by Europe’s Industry.
◾Support networking, sharing, integration and interoperability of information.
◾Disseminate GeoERA results to policy makers, industry, scientists and the general public in a sustainable way through the Information Platform based on EGDI.
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