Highlighted Sessions

The ESOF2020 programme encompasses 18 themes spread in 3 tracks to cover a wide spectrum of current issues at the interface between science, industry and society.

The concepts of sustainability and innovation permeate the three tracks of the programme, with the aim of fostering discussion on how innovation can be made sustainable as well as how innovation can help boost sustainability in a variety of fields and processes.

Alongside the main programme a rich offer of plenaries, keynote sessions, workshops and special events will place the spotlight on these issues, central to the 2020 edition of ESOF.

Below are some of the highlighted sessions and events from the preliminary programme. The full list of sessions for the Science, Science to Business and Career programme are also available. 

Science Programme

Sea Science Tea: young voices on the future of the Med Sea 

Organiser: Alba L'Astorina, CNR National Research Council - Institute for Remote Sensing of Environment (CNR - IREA) - Unit of Social Studies on Science, Education and Communication - BlueMed CSA Communication Staff (ITALY)

Sieglinde, European Commission, DG Research & Innovation
Alba L'Astorina, CNR National Research Council - Institute for Remote Sensing of Environment (CNR - IREA) - Unit of Social Studies on Science, Education and Communication - BlueMed CSA Communication Staff (ITALY)
Rita Giuffredi, CNR National Research Council - Institute for Remote Sensing of Environment (CNR - IREA) (ITALY)
Vassiliki Celia Vassilopoulou, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biological Resources & Inland Waters (GREECE)
Alessandra Sensi, Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean - Environment and Water Division (SPAIN)
Giuseppe Provenzano, Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) (SPAIN)
Fabio Trincardi, CNR National Research Council - Department of Earth systems science and environmental technologies (ITALY)
Deniz Yapılcan, Balıkgözü Underwater Film Production (TURKEY)

Abstract: The Mediterranean has been a crossroad for the history, economy and culture of Europe, Middle East and North Africa. However, human activities impacting the basin have been largely neglected, nor was a coordinated plan for a sustainable governance of the Sea developed. The Euro-Mediterranean initiative BlueMed is engaged in coordinating Research & Innovation agendas throughout the basin, to promote a sustainable marine and maritime development: the “Blue Growth” approach can be expressed as a knowledge-driven quantum jump in the management of marine resources towards a synergistic, non-conflicting and sustainable use of the sea, radically different from current practices and aimed to the improvement of social wellbeing. SEA SciencE teA will bring to ESOF the perspectives of the young BlueMed Ambassadors coming from the Northern and Southern Med shores about the most pressing issues R&I can tackle – among which is plastic litter, that the initiative is addressing with a devoted pilot action. The Ambassadors, in dialogue with high-profile officers from the European Commission and the Union for the Mediterranean at ESOF, will showcase the results of their year-long work on understanding their countries’ views on the challenges for a shared governance of the Sea. They will narrate their findings and experiences in creative ways: e.g. 3-minutes pitches, short videos, storytelling, graphics, performances. The location will be designed as an informal space, as in the tradition of Mediterranean cultures, with coffee and mint tea being served to all participants. The officers and the audience, listening to the Ambassadors' voices, will be encouraged to join the exchange in a free relaxed way. As final result of the meeting, the policy officers will engage in reporting the instances and perspectives expressed by the Ambassadors to relevant political levels, in order to be heard where the R&I and Sea management policies are designed, including awareness and ocean literacy.

In search of other worlds

Organiser: Paolo Molaro, INAF-OATs & IFPU (ITALY)


Paolo Molaro, INAF-OATs & IFPU (ITALY)
Didier Queloz, Cavedish Laboratory Cambridge (UNITED KINGDOM)
Giovanna Tinetti, UCL (UNITED KINGDOM)
Fabio Pagan, Freelance (ITALY)

Abstract: Giordano Bruno, burned alive in 1600 as a heretic, said that stars are like our sun, surrounded by planets and moons. For centuries, philosophers suspected the existence of extrasolar planets, but the first scientific evidence occurred in 1995 with the discovery of a giant planet orbiting around the nearby Sun-like star 51 Pegasi with a four-day orbit by the Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. This discovery marked the revolution from theoretical speculation to actual scientific investigation. Since then there has been an increasingly larger number of searches for other worlds by using the best ground-based and space facilities. A revolution underway with the rate of planetary discoveries growing day after day. Few exoplanets have been imaged while the majority have been detected through indirect methods while they transit in front of the stars or make the stars wobbling. However, these methods favor the detection of planets near the stars and lead to the discovery of unexpected planetary systems leaving the compelling question of the existence of other Earths unsolved. Multiple planets are commonly found and some 20% of stars have a planetary system. There are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, thus it is possible to hypothesize that there are 11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way. This impressive number pose naturally the question on the existence of other forms of life in our own Galaxy. The next generation of giant telescopes and satellites will be dedicated to the identification of biomarkers on the planetary atmospheres. This research will be told by two key people of this revolution Didier Queloz and Giovanna Tinetti, who first detected water and methan in an exoplanet atmosphere.

Beating cancer by 2030: mission impossible?

Organiser: Federica Ortelli, COST Association (BELGIUM)


Mafalda Quintas, COST Association (BELGIUM)
Toni Andreu, EATRIS ERIC (European Infrastructure for Translational Medicine) (NETHERLANDS)
Kjersti Flatmark, Oslo University Hospital (NORWAY)
Daniel Ortega, Imdea Nanociencia (SPAIN)
Chiara Riganti, UNITO - University of Torino (ITALY)
Chrissie Brierley, ZonMw (NETHERLANDS)
Matti Aapro, European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) (SWITZERLAND)
Harald Zur Hausen, DKFZ German Cancer Research Center (GERMANY)
Maria da Graça Carvalho, European Parliament
Raquel Yotti Alvarez, Instituto de Salud Carlos III (SPAIN)

Abstract: One of the main novelties of Horizon Europe will be the implementation of high-ambition missions aiming at promoting more impactful research results while engaging citizens in a common European goal. Their implementation is challenging as they must remain focused, time-bound, guaranteeing cross-sector fertilisation and cutting-edge innovation. In addition, robust governance and control mechanisms will have to be put in place. Cancer has been identified as one of the five key mission areas as it remains one of the major societal challenges. If current trends continue, 1.67 million people in the EU will die from cancer by 2030, representing a significant burden for patients and their families, healthcare systems and society. Beating cancer will require a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach, relying on both discoveries in basic research and faster translation into practice, besides efficient coordination of all relevant stakeholders (researchers, policymakers, industry, patient organisations). The granularity of the European research landscape and the current fragmentation of public research and health policies constitute a colossal trial for the Cancer Mission's success. This session will revisit the state of the art of the Cancer Mission and collect input from participants on what is missing before its launch in Horizon Europe. We focus on creating a common operational framework to address defragmentation of research and treatment ecosystems and building a problem-solving strategy. Discussion will be open and include prevention, new therapeutic approaches, faster translation and patient care. At COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) we have been for long funding interdisciplinary networks on cancer. At this ESOF session, we bring together lead academic scientists, research and health policy makers and patient representatives to share radical perspectives on how to beat cancer by 2030. Engagement and input from the audience is actively promoted.

Exobiology and solar system exploration: habitability on early mars and the search for biosignatures with the exomars rover

Organiser: Armando Maria Ciampolini, ALTEC S.p.A. (ITALY)


Jorge L. Vago, European Space Agency (NETHERLANDS)
Paolo Nespoli, ESA (retired) (ITALY)
Walter Cugno, Thales Alenia Space (ITALY)
Gabriele Beccaria, La Stampa (ITALY)
Armando Maria Ciampolini, ALTEC S.p.A. (ITALY)

Abstract:  The second ExoMars mission will be launched by the end of July 2020 to MARS Oxia Planum, selected location interpreted to have strong potential for past habitability and for preserving physical and chemical biosignatures (as well as abiotic/prebiotic organics). The mission will deliver a lander with instruments for atmospheric and geophysical investigations and a rover tasked with searching for signs of extinct life. The ExoMars rover will be equipped with a drill to collect material from outcrops and at depth down to 2 m. This subsurface sampling capability will provide the best chance yet to gain access to chemical biosignatures. Using the powerful Pasteur payload instruments, the ExoMars science team will conduct a holistic search for traces of life and seek corroborating geological context information.

Genome editing, disease resistance and animal welfare

Organiser: Ines Crespo, Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh (UNITED KINGDOM)


Bruce Whitelaw, Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh (UNITED KINGDOM)
Eric Pailhoux, INRA French National Institute of Agricultural Research (FRANCE)
Anna Wargelius, Institute of Marine Research (NORWAY)
Lluís Montoliu, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (CNBCSIC) (SPAIN)

Abstract: Genome editing involves altering some of the individual letters that make up an organism’s genetic code at precise points. The technology can be used to introduce characteristics into plants and animals, such as resistance to a specific disease or improved adaptation to different environments. The changes introduced are the same as those that could occur spontaneously in nature. Most natural changes either have no impact or are harmful to the animal. With genome editing, precise changes that are likely to be beneficial can be introduced. In this session, we will showcase how genome editing is being used in research institutions across Europe to either treat or prevent animal diseases. The goal of the research presented here is to improve the health and welfare of farmed animals around the world, and to improve the security of food supplies in low and middle-income countries. We will start by introducing the technology and how it works, and showcase how it is being used to either treat or prevent a range of diseases in salmon, pigs, and cattle in research centres around Europe. A representative from a company specialised in providing genetic solutions to the farm industry will speak about how industry is looking at the problem. Presentations will be followed by a World Café session where the audience will be given animal disease scenarios and asked to discuss them considering the perspective of different groups (e.g. farmers, consumers, policy makers, researchers, low and middle income countries). The discussion will be facilitated by the panel and members of the team and the facilitators will report back each group's findings.

Understanding public trust and distrust in science

Organiser: Brian Trench, PCST (IRELAND)

Brian Trench, PCST (IRELAND)
Birte Faehnrich, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (GERMANY)
Cissi Askwall, Vetenskap & Allmänhet (SWEDEN)
Massimiano Bucchi, University of Trento (ITALY)
Markus Weisskopf, Wissenschaft im Dialog (GERMANY)

Abstract: As demogogues and populists make more sound in public discourse, political and public trust in experts is widely thought to be under threat. Advocates for evidence-based policy say they find it increasingly difficult to get a hearing. And this perception is often expressed also in the scientific community: public trust in science is thought to be declining. All of this seems to add up to poor prospects for democracy, based on rational and trustworthy policymaking. Yet public opinion survey data from European countries, as well as from the US, indicate that public trust and confidence in scientists and in research have remained notably stable over many years. How has this disconnect between researched evidence and community perception of public opinion on science grown up and what can be done to overcome it? Science communicators are at the heart of this puzzle, working closely with scientific communities looking outwards to wider society, while also learning from and listening to various publics. Science communication plays a crucial role in the gaining and maintaining of public trust for scientists and scientific institutions. Eusea (European Science Engagement Association) and PCST (Public Communication of Science and Technology) Network gather together many kinds of practitioners of public engagement with science, as well as trainers, teachers, researchers and project leaders. Members of the two associations often deal with issues of trust and distrust in science, including, in some cases, commissioning the surveys that produce the data referred to here. This panel is made up of leading members of the two associations, with diverse backgrounds, but including both strong links to policy and to academic study of science in society.

Scientific infrastructures for peace: from CERN to the SESAME synchrotron in middle east to the new SEEIST initiative

Organiser: Maurizio Vretenar, CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research (SWITZERLAND)


Maurizio Vretenar, CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research (SWITZERLAND)
Herwig Schopper, CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research (GERMANY)
Sanja Damjanovic, Government of Montenegro (MONTENEGRO)
Peter Gluckman, Center for SPDS, University of Aukland (NEW ZEALAND)
Rolf-Dieter Heuer, SESAME (GERMANY)

Abstract: Science for peace is a captivating concept, but to make it really effective scientists need a place to meet and do research together, establishing a common ground for peaceful progress. A research infrastructure based in a region plagued by conflicts can develop cross-border relations, provide a common language to scientist from different regions, and offer challenging goals that can federate transnational support. The first and greatest example in this sense is CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research established in 1954 at Geneva. Promoting particle physics research it offered a ground for peaceful collaboration to scientists and engineers from countries that were at war less than a decade before, resulting in the establishment of the most successful particle physics laboratory in the world. CERN has become a model for what Europe can do when it unites, but can the CERN model be successfully exported? After reviewing the key elements for the success of CERN as an international research centre, this Round Table will present challenges and achievements of two recent examples of research infrastructures for peace: the SESAME synchrotron light source in the Middle East and the SEEIIST initiative for a centre for cancer therapy and research using particle beams in the South East Europe. SESAME, the ‘Synchrotron-Light for the Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East’, was launched under the auspices of UNESCO and officially opened in Allan, Jordan in 2017, with eight member states, including Iran and Israel. In a similar way, the new “South East Europe International Institute for Sustainable Technologies” (SEEIIST) federates eight partners in the South European area to promote science for peace and international cooperation in a region that has seen deadly conflicts in a still recent past. The chosen infrastructure is a cancer therapy and biomedical research centre with protons and heavy ions addressing a critical subject for our society.

Leveraging evidence for policy development and health intervention

Organiser: Marie Delnord, Sciensano (BELGIUM)


Marie Delnord, Sciensano, Belgian Federal Public health Institute (BELGIUM)
Brigid Unim, National Institute of Health (ISS), Rome, Italy (ITALY)
Romana Haneef, French Public Health Institute SPF (FRANCE)
Enrique Bernal-Delgado, Health Services and Policy Research Group, Aragon Institute for Health Sciences, IACS (SPAIN)
Damir Ivancovik, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Croatian Institute of Public Health (NETHERLANDS)
Claudia Habl, Austrian Public Health Institute GÖG (AUSTRIA)
Herman Van Oyen, Sciensano, Belgian Federal Public Health Institute (BELGIUM)

Abstract: The importance of leveraging high-quality evidence to inform best policies and practices has been widely recognized by the World Health Organisation and (inter)national health agencies. Growing societal challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance, the rise of non-communicable diseases, and changing demographics require international cooperation in data sharing, and analysis. Moreover, ensuring equitable access to evidence by key stakeholders, such as decision-makers, practitioners, and advocates, is primordial to drive health issues on the political agenda that are in line with the expectations of citizens. Yet, an uneven evolution of data collection practices across countries implies differences in the availability of data for policy development and intervention. Furthermore, in many European countries, there are numerous obstacles for the translation of evidence into action. This workshop aims to provide a clear understanding of strategies that can support the collection, dissemination and use of evidence at national level and in the European context. Lessons learned from 28 countries within InfAct, the European Joint Action on Health Information will inform the session. Panellists from national public health agencies will present solutions supporting the transfer of evidence into policies and practice. The objectives are: 1) to empower delegates with a working knowledge on how to access public health information for policy development and advocacy in EU-Member States; 2) to propose and co-create with delegates innovative pathways for better data sharing, knowledge translation and decision making. Building bridges between science and society is at the core of health promotion and prevention. The session will have an outcomes-oriented approach based on interactive exchange with the delegates and online voting. Dialogue on potential pathways to activate health information for action will inform concept maps drawn out during the session by the organizers.

Sharing is caring: Can local practice turn into transformative change in a collaborative economy?

Organiser: Ines Pio, European Research Council (ERC) 


Ines Pio, European Research Council (ERC) 
Annekathrin Jaeger, European Research Council (ERC) 
Anna Ray Davies, Trinity College Dublin 
Cristina Grasseni, Universiteit Leiden
Oksana Mont, Lund University 
Abstract: Collaborative approaches to using and reusing of products and services have a prominent place in the discussion about concepts of circular economy transition. A collaborate economy, where products and services are better shared and reused and where waste is avoided to the extent possible bears immense sustainability potential. Already, many cities function as the laboratories of change with respect to collaborative practices. However, what is needed to make such collaborative economy approaches really become a new paradigm of economic and societal life? What is the potential and what are the limitations? This panel will examine these questions by looking particularly at the area of food consumption, mobility practices, shared accommodation and sharing physical goods in urban contexts. A focus on food consumption, for example, offers a double benefit: food consumption and food security are important sustainability issues of global concern – innovative approaches to sustainable consumption that both support sustainable production and ensure waste prevention are needed. Similarly, we witness a growing shared economy comprising mobility, goods, and services, in response to wider environmental concerns. Is a focus on increased efficiency the solution to a transition to a sustainable future? What is the importance of the social and cultural contexts? A focus on these matters can help us shed fresh light on the innovation potentials of sharing, particularly in an urban context, and respective governance and institutional arrangements. The panel discussion will bring together three ERC funded projects that address this complex challenge from diverse perspectives and with the help of different theoretical and methodological approaches. A discussion of social, organisational, institutional and sustainability factors will help to elaborate the potential of sharing economies and whether local action can scale to towards real transformative change.

Science to Business

Can the EU become a hot-shot valley for tech startups?

Organiser: Maryline Fiaschi, Science|Business (BELGIUM)


Maryline Fiaschi, University of Trento (ITALY)
Jonathan O'Halloran, European Space Agency (NETHERLANDS)
Nina Kopola, Science Shop Bonn (GERMANY) Shiva Dutsdar, Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris) (FRANCE)
Mark Ferguson, Science Foundation Ireland (IRELAND)


Europe doesn’t produce fewer start-ups than other parts of the world. But, unlike in other parts of the world, European young companies struggle to grow due to the lack of private investment, a fragmented market, and underperformance in technology commercialisation. The European Innovation Council is arguably the biggest novelty under the mandate of Carlos Moedas, former Commissioner for Research and Innovation from 2014 to 2019. The idea: a one-stop shop for innovators to bring promising technologies from lab to market, and help the most innovative companies scale up. Since the launch of its pilot phase in October 2017, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has sparked heated debates about its mission, objectives and the well-known obstacles for companies to scale up in Europe. Looking ahead, several questions thus remain to be resolved= Where can European entrepreneurs get the best support with getting their business plans, commercialisation strategy, and possibly also team composition right? Can the European Innovation Council and other EU schemes manage to “derisk” businesses to make them more attractive to private investors? What does it take to make Europe a start-up Eldorado? After it missed the digital technology wave – led by the US and China, can Europe take the lead in the coming wave of sustainable technology-driven growth?This session is bringing together entrepreneurs, national innovation agencies, public and private investors to discuss what’s on the horizon for EU start-ups.

Challenges and opportunities of collaborative design: Case studies for electric and automated mobility

Organiser: Valentin Ivanov, Automotive Engineering Group, TU Ilmenau (GERMANY)


Valentin Ivanov, Automotive Engineering Group, TU Ilmenau (GERMANY)
Sebastian Gramstat, AUDI AG (GERMANY)
Andrea Bellotti, Toyota Motor Europe (BELGIUM)
Zlatan Ajanović, Virtual Vehicle Research Center (AUSTRIA)
Bert Pluymers, KU Leuven (BELGIUM)
Nick Van Kelecom, Siemens PLM (BELGIUM)

Abstract: The presented panel discussion will introduce recent outcomes of several Horizon 2020 projects, which are funded under different programmes but characterized by a common feature – fostering industry-academic partnership towards new design technologies for complex road mobility systems. The projects under discussion are ITEAM, CLOVER, PBNv2, ECODRIVE (Marie SkłodowskaCurie Actions ITN and RISE) and XILforEV (H2020-EU.3.4. - Smart, Green and Integrated Transport). The speakers from industrial companies (AUDI, Siemens, Virtual Vehicle, Toyota) and universities (TU Ilmenau, KU Leuven) will share experience from these projects to demonstrate their impact on development of new generations of electric and automated vehicles through the use of innovative collaborative design approaches. In this regard, the session will cover the following topics: Remote, distributed and shared experiments – Common approach for industrial design and Open Science; Digital Twins as enablers for the development of quiet ecoefficient powertrains of the future; Soundscaping for future powertrain vehicles; Need of virtual development process for an OEM: Challenges of connected testing; Intersectoral training through research: Preparing professionals for future mobility engineering. This session can be of interest for different target audiences to increase public perception of cross-sectoral partnership benefits for innovations in intelligent, user- and environment-friendly road mobility.


 Workshops dedicated to technology transfer will actively engage two different audiences: a JRC coordinated Technology Transfer Service will cater to aspiring young entrepreneurs looking for opportunities to bring their ideas to the real world, while the Business meets Science Event, jointly managed by Elettra Sincrotrone and Confindustria will provide bridges to connect companies to the services and opportunities which advanced researched infrastructure can offer SMEs.