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The fight against environmental crime goes strong with Emeritus

environmental crime
Margherita Volpe

Margherita Volpe

Security, Space & Defence Knowledge Area Leader

The fight against environmental crime has a place in Horizon Europe. In the framework of this programme, Cluster 3 of Pillar 2 is dedicated to the challenges of Civil Security for Society, with over 1,5 Bln/EUR allocated to support Research and Innovation projects over the 2021-2027 period. This Cluster pursues the implementation of EU policy priorities related to security, ranging from fight against crime and terrorism and physical security of public spaces and infrastructure to disaster risks resilience and cybersecurity. Its ultimate aim is to contribute to enhancing the EU’s capability to be prepared for and resilient to emerging threats and crimes.

In this regard, the first destination of Cluster 3 is specifically dedicated to the Fight against crime and terrorism, contributing to the implementation of the Security Union Strategy and improving the investigation capabilities against both traditional and emerging crimes. This is the framework in which, in 2021, a specific call was launched to select projects aimed at Fight against organised environmental crime, to which Zabala Innovation replied together with a consortium of 23 partners and affiliated entities presenting the project Emeritus – Environmental crimes’ intelligence and investigation protocol based on multiple data sources, recently awarded and launched in September 2022.

Fighting environmental crime

Environmental crimes (e.g. discharge of substances into air, water and soil, shipping and trafficking in waste and hazardous materials) have enormous impacts on the climate, human health and the environment. Nevertheless, they are still considered highly profitable for criminals since most feature relatively low risks of detection and penalties for the perpetrators, given the complexity in preventing criminal wrongdoings and delivering distinct proof to law courts to punish the authors.

To counter this trend, Emeritus will create a single-entry point platform for Law Enforcement Authorities and Border Guards, orchestrating several advanced technologies to improve detection and proof collection capabilities against waste-related environmental crimes. For this purpose, the Emeritus platform will integrate satellite images (leveraging on Copernicus systems), drone remote control, open data, AI algorithms and secure data storage in order to enable the collection of lawful court-proof of crime evidence while minimising the exposure and risk for human operators on site.

The creation of the platform, i.e., the project’s core technological outcome, will be coupled with the development of a dedicated investigation protocol and an extensive training programme aimed at actively empowering Law Enforcement Authorities and Border Guards to use such technological tools in their everyday operations at both national and cross-border level, including facilitating joint operations.

To achieve these goals, the consortium will implement four coordinated workstreams, encompassing co-creation activities with law enforcement authorities, platform technical development, networking and validation in realistic conditions. In particular, the validation activities to be integrated within the training programme will engage Law Enforcement Authorities (LEAs) and Border Guards (BGs) and technological partners in the implementation of four selected highly relevant use cases concerning water contaminant source detection, water storage centres monitoring, cross-border illegal waste trafficking monitoring and identification of illegal waste discharge sites in broad areas.

These activities will generate relevant data and evidence to identify of the most promising replicability and scalability opportunities to further develop the project results beyond the project implementation and deliver relevant capacity-building and policy-related recommendations to European and national decision-makers.

Emeritus consortium configuration

EMERITUS will be executed by a consortium that brings together 20 partners (top-level research institutions, industrial players, security-specialized SMEs, NGOs, LEAs and BGs) from 9 countries (Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK, Romania, Moldova) plus 3 affiliated entities, to create an active and innovative ecosystem clustering expertise in technology applications for criminal investigation, environmental crimes, satellite data and image elaboration, drones and systems integrations, AI, training and co-creation activities as well as competent LEAs and BGs. The consortium partners are forming a mutually complementary and interdisciplinary group while individually bringing strong expertise in their respective domains.

Zabala Innovation has been among the initiators of this project initiative, and its role during the implementation phase will encompass social innovation, with the coordination of a set of co-creation activities with stakeholders, coordination of dissemination, communication and exploitation activities and core support to project management.

Emeritus’ unique selling proposition and outreaching aims

Although there may already be some monitoring platforms and technology-specific solutions at the disposal of LEAs and BGs, Emeritus intends to overcome the state of the art by generating a unique selling proposition whose core will be its orchestration platform. Such a platform will be capable of progressively integrating further technologies and data sources (scalable by-design integration layer). A waste-crime-specific investigation protocol will be defined to guide the use of the platform and actively enable the collection of lawful court-proofs by combining secure storage technologies and dedicated training programmes for operators.

Emeritus was launched in September 2022, and its implementation will have a total duration of 3 years, over which it expects to foster cooperation not only among project partners but also with external organisations via the creation of an active community of practice and the organisation of several outreaching events.

If you have projects, products or expertise related to environmental crimes, advanced technologies for investigation or capacity building in the security domain, do not hesitate to contact us to explore possible collaboration opportunities.

Expert person

Margherita Volpe
Margherita Volpe

Brussels Office

Security, Space & Defence Knowledge Area Leader

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