H2020 RI-URBANS: Developing a roadmap for sustainable and interoperable service tools addressing challenges related to  evaluation, prediction and mitigation of air pollution impact on human health 

New Horizon-2020 project “Research Infrastructures Services Reinforcing Air Quality Monitoring Capacities in European Urban & Industrial AreaS  (RI-URBANS; 2021-2025)” has started this Autumn (online/hybrid kick-off-meeting is planned for 5-6 October 2021). This project as a Research and Innovation Action is coordinated by Prof. Xavier Querol (Spanish National Research Council Spain, CSIC) and Prof. Tuukka Petäjä (University of Helsinki, UHEL, Finland).

RI-URBANS project is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating Research Infrastructures (RIs) experts on sophisticated measurements and data management, Air Quality Monitoring Networks (AQMNs) experts, modellers and atmospheric, aerosols and health effects scientists. The consortium consists of 28 Partners/Teams, including 25 leading European air quality expert organizations from European countries (Spain, Finland, France Italy, The Netherlands, UK, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Romania, Poland) with complementary expertise in the European urban environment and 3 – from Russia, the organizations collaborating with the PEEX Programme (led by UHEL) – to complement RI-URBANS expertise and expand scale from Europe to a larger context. The total project budget for EU Partners amounted 8 MEuros. To contribute to RI-URBANS, the Russian Partners (Moscow State University, Saint Petersburg State University, and  Scientific Research Centre for Ecological Safety of the Russian Academy of Sciences) applied and obtained national funding of about 60 MRubles. Two Russian projects became the sister projects to RI-URBANS: “Infrastructure development for assessing air quality in the Moscow megalopolis” and “Scientific infrastructure usage for monitoring and modelling of gas-aerosol atmospheric composition for improving possibilities for air quality control and evaluation of impact on public health in Saint-Petersburg”.

RI-URBANS objective is to demonstrate on how Service Tools (STs) from atmospheric RIs can be adapted and enhanced to better address the challenges and societal needs in European cities and industrial, harbour, airport and road traffic hotspots concerning air quality (AQ), as areas with significant levels of air pollution and associated health effects.

RI-URBANS will respond to urgent needs to substantially reduce air pollution across  EU and reduce associated health impacts. The project will develop and enhance synergies between AQMNs and RIs in the atmospheric domain to enhance AQ observations in support of advanced AQ policy assessment. It will combine advanced scientific knowledge and innovative technical work to develop pilot STs that will enhance the capacity of AQMNs to provide necessary observations to evaluate, predict and abate urban air pollution. It will also deploy tools and information systems in the hands of citizens and communities to support decision-making by AQ managers and regulators.

RI-URBANS will focus on human exposure to outdoor ambient nanoparticles and atmospheric particulate matter in terms of their sizes and constituents, as well as their source contributions and gaseous precursors. The project will build on existing initiatives for advanced research-driven observations of aerosol properties currently carried out in European cities to identify, develop and test the innovative STs that will serve a more effective AQ monitoring supporting AQ management in a 2030 horizon timeline. It will also evaluate novel AQ parameters, source contributions, associated health effects as well as address all aspects of sustainability, including efficient curation, preservation and provision of access to data, training and capacity building, usage of tools in the future.

RI-URBANS will implement 5 pilots – involving 9 EU (Athens, Barcelona, Birmingham, Bucharest, Milan, Paris, Rotterdam-Amsterdam, Helsinki, Zurich) and 2 Russian (Moscow, St. Petersburg) cities, representing a wide variety of environments – to demonstrate ability to integrate complementary RIs and AQMNs measurement systems and methods, data quality control, managing and communication using FAIR principles as well as transfer of these to stakeholders.

Finally, RI-URBANS will provide upscaling and sustainability to offered AQMNs-RIs interoperable STs, using advanced instrumentation, modelling and source apportionment, and integrating citizen’s observatories and mobile measurements. The project will apply existing methodologies to the urban areas, developing new suited STs, enhancing synergies with AQMNs through knowledge transfer and offering a sustainable framework for providing dedicated and focused urban STs. 

Text by Xavier Querol, CSIC; Tuukka Petäjä, UHEL; Alexander Mahura, UHEL

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