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Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - iSCAPE (Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

iSCAPE is a three-year (2016-2019) research and innovation project funded under the European Union’s H2020 programme (“Improving the Air Quality and Reducing the Carbon Footprint of European Cities”, SC5-04-2015), involving 15 partner organisations across Europe. To advance knowledge in the field of air quality, iSCAPE has brought together an interdisciplinary team of experienced researchers, public authorities, business professionals, committed NGOs, members of regulatory authorities, communities in Living Lab cities and their citizens.

The overall objective of iSCAPE is to develop an integrated strategy for air pollution control in European cities that is grounded on evidence-based analysis. The project aims to reduce urban air pollution and the negative impacts of climate change by leveraging sustainable passive control systems, behavioural change initiatives and the Living Lab approach. The passive control systems (trees, hedges, green walls, roofs, low boundary walls, photocatalytic coating, urban design) aim to affect air pollution dispersion and its exposure to the general public. The behavioural change initiatives aim to promote more sustainable behaviours and thus reduce emissions. Centred around these interventions, iSCAPE is progressing towards providing scientifically validated results and evidence-based data for urban planners and decision-makers. It has already started developing the foundation for guidelines and policy recommendations to improve the control of the air pollution and mitigation of the negative impacts of climate change. As part of the project, low-cost sensors are developed to provide alternative solutions to measure air pollution and engage citizens in tackling environmental problems. New ideas and promising concepts to tackle air pollution using the passive control systems and the behavioral change initiatives are co-created with local citizens. By advancing and integrating passive control remediation strategies, iSCAPE aims to significantly contribute to tackling air pollution, an increasing problem that cities around the world face.

To achieve iSCAPE’s objectives, Living Labs in six European cities are established (Bologna, Bottrop, Dublin, Hasselt, Guildford, Vantaa) with the aim to connect a great variety of stakeholders, facilitate collaboration and sharing of multidisciplinary knowledge and experience to advance air pollution remediation strategies and solutions. This includes the engagement of citizens that is fundamental in Living Lab activities to create value and increase the public awareness of air pollution control.
In the first eighteen months, iSCAPE delivered a variety of impactful results. First, a rigorous assessment of existing passive control systems, behavioural interventions and sensing technologies was carried out to develop guidelines for sustainable passive air pollution control in the six iSCAPE cities. In addition, interlinks between air quality and climatic variables were studied to design emission abatement strategies which also account for current and future climate scenarios in the iSCAPE cities.

Next, to ensure an inclusive development and co-creation of new ideas and concepts, a Living Lab in each iSCAPE pilot city was established. iSCAPE Living Labs have already performed a number of citizen engagement activities and have made a great progress in increasing the awareness and knowledge of air pollution and its impact for healthier cities. An interactive tool to engage citizens in the air pollution debate was also developed with the aim to communicate complex science in a simplest manner to public and facilitate citizen behaviour change. Further, the methodology to assess the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the interventions in the iSCAPE cities was developed. The proposed quali-quantitative approaches enable iSCAPE to describe and quantify the impact generated by the project in addition to assessing existing policies and suggested recommendations for major air pollution sources.

This was followed by the extensive field campaigns aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of green infrastructure to reduce air pollution in Guildford (focused on hedges) and Bologna (focused on trees) in addition to the behavioural intervention study conducted in Hasselt. This study used a smartphone application developed to research citizen travel behaviour and provide suggestions on how to make their travel behaviour more environmentally friendly. A similar study will be also conducted in other iSCAPE cities. Significant efforts were also devoted to designing the field campaigns in iSCAPE test sites and their implementation is in progress.

iSCAPE has made significant progress in developing low cost sensor kits. These kits and more advanced monitoring stations were designed by following recent developments in the field of sensing technologies. Currently, these sensors are being tested and validated by the project partners in a real-life setting. In addition, an easy to use web platform “Virtual Living Lab” was developed to encourage citizen science and share the tools developed by the iSCAPE project with Living Lab communities.

iSCAPE partners have also made great efforts to increase the project visibility. This has been achieved by participating in a great number of events, sharing findings through a wide variety of dissemination channels, writing scientific publications, collaborating with local stakeholders and exploring synergies with other projects and initiatives. The overarching objective of this dissemination and exploitation strategy is to foster further uptake and proliferation of the outcomes and knowledge developed as part of the project, towards more impactful future results.
iSCAPE is pioneering the assessment of PCS in real-life conditions of six fully operating EU cities. The project goals and expected impacts are ambitious and beyond the state of the art. iSCAPE’s integrated approach towards improving smart control of air pollution in European cities is essential to achieve these ambitions. Project dissemination and exploitation activities in addition to extensive research will be further targeted to enhance the wider social implications.

During the rigorously- designed field campaigns, project researchers have already collected evidence-based data that goes beyond the state of the art and will be further validated by the scientific community. In addition, the review of air pollution sensing technologies was incorporated into the best practice for low cost sensing of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA UK) earlier than expected, significantly increasing visibility of the project outputs. Notably, a great number of local stakeholders (schools, science centers, local agencies) have keen interest in using the low cost sensors to facilitate citizen science and increase collective awareness and knowledge of air pollution and its impact. iSCAPE’s continuous strive for innovation and impact, and in specific the activities in the Dublin pilot, was rewarded with the second place in the Green Digital Charter competition organised by Eurocities. In addition, iSCAPE was listed as one of the 10 breakthroughs to shape Europe for the next 60 years by The EU Research & Innovation Magazine in May 2017. These achievements demonstrate the dedication of iSCAPE partners and their willingness to go the extra mile to achieve results beyond the planned.
Living Lab activities in Dublin, Ireland (June, 2017)
Assessing green barriers in Guildford, UK (June 27, 2017)
Sensor testing during the field campaign in Bologna, Italy (January, 2018)
iSCAPE Concept
Project meeting in Hasselt, Belgium (October 3-5, 2017)
Sensor testing in Vantaa, Finland (June, 2017)
Stakeholder workshop in Bottrop (January, 2018), © U. Grützner, TU Dortmund