Fires are a paradox. While on the one hand, the control of fire is one of humanity’s greatest and most positive discoveries, on the other hand - when it is uncontrolled in time and in space - fire can be devastating, threatening lives, goods and nature. Wildfires - an example of the latter instance - have been increasing in number and intensity in recent years. Although in the past southern Europe has been most commonly affected by wildfires, in more recent times all parts of Europe are starting to face this threat, with various studies highlighting the high vulnerability to wildfires of northern European countries. BRIGAID (Bridging the Gap in Innovations in Disaster Resilience) is a four-year (2016-2020) Horizon 2020 project that aims at effectively bridging the gap between innovators and end-users in resilience to three groups of climate-driven disasters that affect Europe - namely floods, droughts and extreme weather (including wildfires). As part of the BRIGAID project, so-called “Communities of Innovation” (CoIs) have been developed, which are defined as a form of Communities of Practice aimed at supporting innovation, by facilitating outreach marketing and the uptake of innovative and operational products and solutions.
Specifically, BRIGAID’s CoIs are designed as social networks composed of several geographically connected actors in one or more disciplines, but with a common goal: the development and uptake of innovative solutions to specific impacts from climate change. Recognising that climate change adaptation is a place- and context-specific process, each CoI is aimed at bringing together the actors - specifically innovators, end-users, leading sectoral users, investors and societal interest groups - in areas with common problems, such as risk reduction to a specific hazard or cluster of hazards, and environmental conditions.
The key role of BRIGAID’s Wildfires CoI - which is coordinated in Portugal - is dissemination, by facilitating the sharing of knowledge between teams and bringing together innovators, researchers, end-users, policy makers and stakeholders. For this purpose, a powerful and useful tool for dissemination and engaging the interest of different innovators, is BRIGAID’s “Climate Innovation Window” (https://climateinnovationwindow.eu/), which is a web-based platform that provides a virtual window and market-place for end-users and innovators to meet, and share and discover innovations for climate change adaptation.
In relation to wildfires, there are seven innovations (three in Portugal, one in Spain, one in Italy, two in Albania), ranging in Technology Readiness Level (TRL, indicating the maturity level of the technologies) from TRL 3 to TRL 7, and addressing different phases of the Integrated Fire Management (IFM) approach that is used for effective forest fire management and risk-informed policy-making. As can be seen in the Figure below, four of the Wildfires CoI innovations address the IFM Preparedness phase, which includes surveillance and fire detection, mostly using drones and Artificial Intelligence. Three innovations address the IFM Prevention phase, focussing directly on reduction of fuel load, or implementation of low flammable fibres in the soil. These latter three innovations also address the IFM Response phase, aimed at increasing the effectiveness of firefighting and safety, using drones helps to extinguish fires, as well as providing real-time information to the firefighting crews. The IFM Restoration and Adaptation phase is the only one that has not been addressed so far by innovators.
BRIGAID’s Wildfires CoI has proved to be an effective forum for bringing together innovators and end-users, and providing rich discussions and opportunities for mutual learning. It has opened new pathways, for example by tweaking practices with redesigned approaches, such the use of nature-based solutions (e.g. grazing) to create “FireSmart” landscapes, with the focus of prevention, restoration and adaptation.
Conceição Colaço and Susana Dias, Centro de Ecologia Aplicada Prof. Baeta Neves (CEABN), Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Portugal, and Elena López Gunn, ICATALIST S.L., Spain.
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CAPTION FOR FIGURE: [ Integrated Fire Management (IFM) phases addressed by the seven innovations of the BRIGAID project’s Wildfires Community of Innovation (CoI), and corresponding Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). ]