CORDIScovery – unearthing the hottest topics in EU science, research and innovation
CORDIScovery is a monthly podcast featuring a panel discussion between guests at the forefront of their scientific fields. From threats to biodiversity to the future of space exploration, if you want to hear how the EU’s cutting-edge research is taking on the key issues challenging us today, then be sure to download and listen to what Europe’s leading scientists have to say. CORDIScovery is produced by CORDIS, whose mission is to share the results of the very best of EU-funded research.
Citizen science - engagement and empowerment
Enthusiasts, people with hobbies, with spare time or concerned about their environment – you and me: all of us are potential collectors of data and information that can add a dimension to research projects. How can participation empower volunteers? And what’s the benefit for scientists? Listen on to find out! Xavier Basagaña is associate research professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. Basagaña’s CitieS-Health project was interested in evaluating the health impacts of urban living. The project set out to encourage collaboration between researchers and volunteers, to generate solid, unbiased scientific evidence. Professor of Environmental History at the University of Stavanger in Norway, Finn Arne Jørgensen is the coordinator of the EnviroCitizen project. The team wanted to understand the ways in which citizen science projects can be used to cultivate new ways of thinking and acting in all aspects of life, to promote environmental, rather than national, citizenship. Kris Vanherle is a transport policy researcher, working at Transport & Mobility Leuven, a spin-off of the University of Leuven, Belgium. Vanherle was the coordinator of WeCount, which wanted to give people the tools they needed to monitor traffic, and to co-design solutions to tackle a variety of road transport challenges.
December 16, 2022
Magic tricks for crows: how animals experience the world
Perform a magic trick for a member of the crow family and it will show how startled it is by the unexpected. Crows are known for being the Einsteins of the avian world, but what about the animals that feed us, clothe us, entertain us – what is the nature of their intelligence? Will our growing realisation that animals may be experiencing the world around them in ways that would surprise us, reframe our understanding of animal welfare? Tune in for some ideas. Jonathan Birch is an associate professor at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science. In 2021, the review he led into the sentience of invertebrates resulted in the amendment of the British government’s Animal Welfare Bill to include octopuses, crabs and lobsters. Associate professor at the University of Leuven’s Animal and Human Health Engineering Unit, Tomas Norton leads research on sustainable precision livestock farming and is particularly interested in the interface between animal health, welfare and productivity. Nicola Clayton is a fellow of the Royal Society and professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. Nicola is particularly interested in the processes of thinking with and without words, comparing the cognitive capacities of corvids, cephalopods and children.
November 21, 2022
Smart textiles – engineering by design
Wearables have become ‘must have’ fashion – how can we make assistive technology as desirable? The most sophisticated device is useless if it is uncomfortable or unattractive. This episode, we are looking at the interface between design and engineering, and how the next generation of smart textiles could make assistive tech invisible. Today’s episode brings together guests from EU-supported projects working on user-focused design, the metallisation and conductivity of fabric and graphene antennas embedded in textiles which could help people with Alzheimer’s. Professor of Health Design and Human Factors at Coventry University, Louise Moody brought her background in psychology and user centric approach to design to the Maturolife project. Andrew Cobley is a Professor of Electrochemical Deposition and leads the Functional Materials and Chemistry Group at Coventry University. His expertise in the electrochemical metallisation of non-conductive materials was behind the production of Maturolife prototypes. Elif Ozden Yenigun is a Senior Lecturer in Textiles at the Royal College of Art. Her research concentrates on molecular materials design and innovative approaches to textile manufacturing, which she explored in her GFSMART project.
October 27, 2022
Recycling targets across the EU have been increased, the aim is now 55 % by weight from 2025, and 65 % for packaging waste. The target climbs every 5 years after that. Can we reach that goal? Repurposing, repairing, recycling – our three guests are doing their bit to get there. Tim Gent is the managing director of https://recresco.com/ (Recresco), the British glass recycling company behind the OMR project. The company is using X-ray fluorescence, shape recognition and machine learning to make recycling more efficient. Tim’s interest is in how to make the circular economy more of a reality. The commercial managing director of the Spanish company, Plastic Repair Systems, https://www.plasticrepair.eu/en/prs-appoints-alfredo-neila-co-chief-executive-officer/ (Alfredo Neila) worked on the PRS project, which repairs industrial plastic objects, such as crates and pallets, making repair more financially viable than throwing them away. Pablo Martínez is one of the brains behind http://www.smartmushroom.eu/project/ (Smartmushroom) which has come up with a new way of treating the waste produced by the mushroom growing sector, transforming it from environmentally challenging by-product to valuable resource.
September 27, 2022
100 000 starlings move in unison against an autumn sky – not one collides; fireflies light up a wood in Borneo flashing in perfect synchronicity; bacteria communicate around a plant’s roots once the population reaches a certain number while, up in the air, the wings of an eastern amberwing dragonfly have 3 000 sensory neurons, including flow sensors to prevent a stall. What can we learn from these marvels? Currently at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Nico Bruns leads the Sustainable Functional Polymers Research Group. The team is using bio-inspired approaches to design, engineer and develop materials, and nano-systems, with unprecedented new functions. Nico is particularly interested in the properties of the polymer composites making up plant cuticles, which he explored during the Horizon 2020 project, PlaMatSu. Massimo Trotta is based at the Italian National Research Council, in Bari. He is interested in the environmental applications of photosynthetic organisms. Massimo coordinated the EU’s HyPhOE project. Lucia Beccai is a senior researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, and head of the Soft Bio Robotics Perception Lab. She is interested in tactile sensing and versatile grasping for soft robotics and is particularly focused on what we can learn from elephant trunks, which was the basis of her EU-funded PROBOSCIS project.
July 11, 2022
Fighting the spread of Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis (TB) is preventable and curable, and yet 9 900 000 people fell ill with the disease in 2020 and 1.5 million died. This episode is looking at what the EU is doing to curb the spread and improve our understanding of the nature of the illness. This episode of CORDIScovery hears from three researchers who have all been at the forefront of controlling the spread of the disease. New, cheap and non-invasive tests; drilling down into the pathogen’s genome to get a clearer understanding of how it spreads; work done at a molecular level to establish how the bacteria switch from latent to active infection – all vital if we are to get a handle on controlling and preventing outbreaks. Hossam Haick is dean at the Israel Institute of Technology, the Technion. His work developing A-Patch, a skin patch test that is effective, cheap and can transmit infection data to healthcare workers remotely, was supported by both the EU and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Teresa Cortes is based at the Institute of Biomedicine of Valencia, part of the Spanish National Research Council. She is interested in understanding how the bacteria that cause TB in humans infect, survive, cause disease and develop antibiotic resistance. Teresa was involved in the MtbTransReg project. Iñaki Comas, who explains the findings of his project TB-ACCELERATE, is also a researcher at the Institute of Biomedicine of Valencia. He is working on unravelling the intricacy of TB’s genomics to understand the evolution and epidemiology of infectious diseases. His lab is particularly focused on TB, but also works on other diseases, like COVID-19.
June 14, 2022
Bees – from evolution to artificial intelligence
Does a bee’s gut influence its sociability? Can a plant deter pests and attract pollinators at the same time? And with bee populations under threat, can artificial intelligence keep colonies safe? The EU estimates pollinators such as honeybees contribute at least EUR 22 billion each year to the European agricultural industry. They are so important that the United Nations has designated the 20th of May as World Bee Day, so this episode of CORDIScovery looks at bees! Hallel Schreier focuses on the intersection between software, artificial intelligence, hardware and biology. His company BeeWise has created the world’s first robotic beehive! He is joined by Stuart Campbell, who is based at the University of Sheffield where he leads a research laboratory in the area of chemical ecology and evolution of insect-plant interactions. And: Joanito Liberti who is an evolutionary molecular ecologist based at the University of Lausanne. Joanito is currently studying how the gut/brain axis manifests itself through the social behaviour of honeybees.
May 16, 2022
Drones in industry: technical challenges, practical benefits
What do turbine blades high above the ocean and the bowels of a cargo ship have in common? The inspection vital to keeping both safe and functioning can often be hazardous, the sites frequently inaccessible, and the operation always complex. So how can drones help? Technicians rappelling down vast blades on the open seas, checking the parts bit by bit; engineers crawling through cramped spaces where air is poor; ships losing time in dock while cranes are used to get engineers to the top of masts: these have been the traditional ways of checking for wear and tear on wind turbines and in ships. But robots provide a new way of approaching the problem. Here to chat about the industrial use of drones and robots are: The CEO of BladeInsight, the company behind the Windrone Zenith project, André Croft de Moura. André is interested in robotics and data solutions applied to renewable energy generation. He is joined by Alessandro Maccari, whose background is in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. Alessandro is Research and Development director at RINA Services in Italy. He coordinated the ROBINS project and has been applying his expertise to the challenges posed by the use of autonomous vehicles in ship inspections.
April 25, 2022
Violence – triggers and perspectives
From the domestic to the international, how can we anticipate, mitigate, and come to terms with violence? This episode of CORDIScovery looks at how victims of domestic violence can be better served. We ask what role violence plays in distracting communities from preparing for climate change. And we explore how the perception of historic violence plays into a culture’s notion of ‘self’. Catharina Vogt’s project IMPRODOVA, set out to train responders to help the victims of domestic violence more effectively. The team developed tools that are now being used across the board by the police in France, resulting in more charges being pressed than before. Halvard Buhaug, lead writer on a chapter of the IPPC's latest climate change report, ran the CLIMSEC project. He tells us that the relationship between climate change and violence might not be what we imagine. Senior lecturer in political theory at the University of Edinburgh, and the co-director of the Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought, Mihaela Mihai’s research focuses on political memory, art and politics, theories of oppression and political emotions. Her GREYZONE project considered how the perception of historic violence plays into cultural identity.
March 23, 2022
Volcanoes – Nature’s architects
Let’s talk volcanoes! Are we close to being able to monitor and predict volcanic activity in real time? In this episode of CORDIScovery we take a look at what crystals in magma can tell us, hear what it takes to make lava flow in a lab, and find out about the well-named ‘extremophile’ bacteria that thrive in some of the world’s most challenging environments. When not monitoring volcanic activity in the field, Stephan Kolzenburg, who took part in the DYNAVOLC project, is recreating lava flow in his lab to model and predict how lava and magma will behave during an eruption. Jane Scarrow is also working on ways to predict eruptions and how they will evolve. Her VESPER project looked at processes in magmatic reservoirs beneath active volcanoes, and she has also been involved in the response to the Palma eruption. What can bacteria that live in some of the world’s most inhospitable environments reveal about how methane is fixed in our atmosphere? Huub Op den Camp worked on the VOLCANO project, the findings of which could improve our climate models.
February 22, 2022
ICT: exploring the benefits
Finding missing children with real-time input and geofencing, helping a visually impaired person navigate a challenge that crops up in their daily lives, fake news: sorting the wheat from the chaff – this episode we are looking at the bright side of our use of technology. Christian Erfurt launched his first healthcare start-up while still in high school. He is behind the BEMYEYES app that’s available in 150 countries and has almost 5 million volunteers supporting 313 000 users with visual impairment. We have all seen missing children flyers. But how best to move from paper notices to digital tools? Christos Ntanos tells us how the ChildRescue project, a collective awareness platform, is being used to find and rescue missing children. The internet is like rocket fuel when it comes to the spread of misinformation. Francesco Saverio Nucci’s project FANDANGO is using AI to turn the tables, helping news agencies identify what looks suspicious.
January 17, 2022
The medical arms race: overcoming microbial resistance
The antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, organisms are developing, and our bid to counter that with new ways of controlling them, is like an arms race – one we stand a better chance of winning if we use the antimicrobials that are still effective, more carefully. This special episode of CORDIScovery, timed to coincide with the WHO’s annual World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-antimicrobial-awareness-week/2021), invites three guests to share the work they are doing to win the race between the resistance microbes develop, and the ways we have to control them. Fredrik Almqvist (https://www.umu.se/en/staff/fredrik-almqvist/), co-founder of QureTech Bio AB, explains the work the QTB4AMR project is doing to change the chemical relationship between an antibiotic and its target bacteria. The weird and wonderful world of soil microbes and the ways in which they communicate could give rise to a new generation of biopesticides. Ana Bejarano (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ana-Bejarano-4) explains how her RhizoTalk project will help. How did farming become so systemically dependent on antibiotics and is it too late to turn that around? Nicolas Fortané(https://ritme.hypotheses.org/nicolas-fortane), who coordinates the ROADMAP project, shares his findings.
November 18, 2021
Cloth, glass and stone: Innovation and cultural connections in the middle ages
The past is shadowy but the objects that mattered to the societies that came before us illuminate those who produced and used them. So, in this episode we are considering cloth, glass and stone, and what they reveal about innovation and cultural connections in the Middle Ages. Nadine Schibille’s GlassRoutes project looked at the geopolitical, sociocultural and artistic dimensions of glass in the first millennium CE. She is joined by Maria Mossakowska-Gaubert whose project, MONTEX, examined the culture surrounding textile use and production in Egypt, from the Ptolemaic to the early Arab period. Saša Čaval’s project, SOLMUS, considered the medieval burial stones in the Western Balkans, locally called stećci. Who were the people who carved these monoliths and how did their traditions evolve? As with all interesting science, we have more questions than answers!
October 25, 2021
Philosophy of science: the energy and excitement of curiosity
From rabbits plucked out of hats to dark matter, how do we comprehend the inexplicable or the unobservable? What do particle physicists and a magician’s audience have in common? Do we enjoy being baffled? If so, why? What pushes us to seek to understand? Is objectivity so vital in scientific observation and is subjectivity really its negation – or is the relationship between the two more subtle? As one of our guests puts it: “The energy that drives inquiry is not the pleasure we take in final explanations, but the energy and excitement of curiosity itself.” From the importance of the communities that foster scientific discoveries to whether objectivity is all it’s cracked up to be, we hear from Jason Leddington, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, whose book on the philosophy of magic and other arts of impossibility is under contract with MIT Press. He’s joined by Michela Massimi. Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh, and Jan Sprenger, a professor at the Centre for Logic, Language and Cognition at the University of Turin. Michela is the author of Perspectival Realism which will come out in January 2022, published by Oxford University Press, and Jan’s area of interest is the relationship between scientific inference, public trust and the role of objectivity.
September 30, 2021
Another small step: A new age of Solar System exploration
What can distant planets and their satellite moons tell us about the origins of life on Earth? Is there enough water on the moon to support longer, manned missions? Are there lunar sources of oxygen that could make the moon a gateway to our Solar system? And beyond the moon: can we look to Titan to better understand our own origins? And how can we build on what we know about the Earth’s geology to better understand Mars, and other planets? Jeremi Gancet is responsible for the Technologies, Applications and Research Division at Space Applications Services in Belgium. His project is designing a new, lunar rover and sensors – what are they hoping to find? Nathalie Carrasco, professor in planetary science at the University of Paris-Saclay, is mimicking the atmosphere of Titan to trace the origins of life on Earth, what has her work revealed? And Stephanie Werner, professor of geophysics and planetary science at the University of Oslo, has almost completed a database of the composition of rocks on Earth which will be used to profile rocks on other planets, Was Mars ever habitable? Its geology can provide a clue.
July 07, 2021
Ready Player... You? Welcome to the Virtual Reality revolution
Virtual reality – just another bone of contention between screen-addicted adolescents and their frazzled parents? Or can the inherent characteristics of VR, communicating at a distance but in a space that feels intimate, be harnessed to really revolutionise the way we interact? Can avatars, digital representations of ourselves, foster empathy or are they yet another medium providing a cloak of anonymity that can be abused? And are deep fakes about to go 3D? Dr Salvador Alvidrez, Marie Curie Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast is interested in the socio-psychological effects of communication technologies. He is looking at VR and its role in tackling prejudice. Can we use VR to walk around in someone else’s shoes? Fancy a digital twin? Dr Verónica Orvalho’s company Didmo has patented technology to generate digital humans. Her inventions have been used by Microsoft, Universal and Sony and others. But how can the general public make the most of VR? I2CAT is making the tech cheaper and more immersive. Sergi Ferandez explains how.
June 14, 2021
EU researchers tackle pollution
In many areas the pandemic has reduced our impact on the natural environment, but what happens when we emerge from the restrictions and fire up our economies again? Will we also be firing up our production of pollution? From oil spills that threaten our seas, to the stinks that ruin our day, pollution touches us at all levels. How can citizen scientists help? What can we do to keep the air around us free of viruses and particulate pollution? Can we really make the polluter pay for oil and waste-water spills in our seas and oceans? Our guests today are all leading researchers who have been using support from the EU to get some answers. Rosa Arias is a chemical engineer with a background in odour pollution. Her particular focus is on citizen science and science communication, and how that supports responsible research and innovation. Rosa is involved in D-Noses project that gives people the tools they need to record data from one of the most sensitive sensors we have, our noses! Rinsing the air around us to extract viruses and pollution is something Fabio Galatioto has been working on. ISCLEANAIR has come up with disruptive technology to shake up our approach to air purifiers at home, work and on our streets. Drones come into their own when it comes to spotting oil spills and unmanned vehicles can take the samples that can point the finger at the polluter quickly and safely. Ioannis Dontas, a physicist whose focus is on material and surface sciences, tells us more about how the IMRESSIVE project is using of earth observation data to protect the environment.
May 26, 2021
Innovations in European healthcare in the wake of COVID-19
Healthcare professionals working flat out for a year, living through experiences nothing could really prepare them for; health systems stressed to breaking point; a population facing fear, insecurity and grief without the human contact to make these bearable – the pandemic will cast a long shadow. Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s Europe Director warns we are facing a growing mental health crisis the impact of which is likely to be long-term and far-reaching. Lars Montelius is the Director–General of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, and a professor in Nanotechnology at Lund University, Sweden. He is exploring the interface between nano technology and life sciences. What will the next gen sensors look like? How is nano tech going to change how we do things? Professor of Human Computer Interaction and Digital Health in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, Corina Sas is interested in mental health technologies and refining how humans can convey emotions to computers. Do devices have a role to play in helping us deal with mental health challenges? However sophisticated the digital solutions are, will people always prefer face to face contact with a psychiatrist? Dr Elena Phillips, based at the Hamburg Centre for Health Economics has some answers. Pity the public health authorities charged with working out what cutting-edge tech to fund. Can that decision be simplified? Check out what the President of Italian Health Economics Association, Aleksandra Torbica, is working on.
May 19, 2021
The new synergies of shopping
Shopping: can robot assistants woo shoppers back to the post-pandemic high street? A cashless society – the term resonates more than ever as people grow more reliant on contactless payments and online transactions. But is that a green light for fraudsters and, if so, could a biometric credit card be around the corner? However we go about paying for it, buying more online means more returns. One EU funded project is doing great work to make the process greener and less expensive for retailers and consumers. Frank Sandeloev, CEO of CardLab Innovation, has extensive experience in the development of electronic biometric systems. He’s particularly interested in cybersecurity, fraud prevention and their intersection with privacy. Will a credit card that reads your thumbprint and creates a one-time only token when you use it be in your wallet anytime soon? Between sizes and feeling guilty about all those jeans you’ve bought online and returned? Daphne Pijnappel might make you feel better – she’s working on finding an efficient way to put returned goods back on the market. Online shopping is what we are becoming accustomed to, but what about the future of high streets and malls? Is there a role for robots? The prototype developed by the MuMMER project may be able to help. Mary Ellen Foster, is a Senior Lecturer in Human-Robot Interaction at the University of Glasgow, tells us more.
April 12, 2021
The future of aviation
The pros and contrails of flight – The aviation sector is indispensable, but how can we reduce its environmental impact? This episode of the CORDIScovery podcast talks to three researchers whose work on making flying cleaner, more efficient and less invasive for those living under flightpaths, may offer some answers. Dr Andrew Rolt, of Cranfield University is working to make hydrogen powered flight a reality – is that feasible? Dr Vittorio Cipolla, based at the University of Pisa, is hoping to bring a radically redesigned wing to market – will companies embrace disruptive tech? Laurent Leylekian at the French aerospace lab, ONERA, has an ear out for the public’s perception of noise pollution. Is my definition of noise nuisance the same as yours? Listen on to find out.
March 05, 2021
Welcome to the very first episode of CORDIScovery where we’re taking an in-depth look at the drive to maintain healthy ecosystems and biodiversity preservation, introducing you to three EU-funded scientists who are making valuable contributions to this cause. In our first episode, Abigail introduces you to three EU-funded scientists working to protect the world’s biodiversity in the face of increasing levels of human intrusion and climate change. How does biodiversity depend on geography? What impact is the illegal trade in wildlife having on the communities that are involved, and on targeted species? What can be done to preserve areas? Do ‘protected areas’ protect? Answering these and other key questions are Pedro Cardoso of the Finnish Museum of Natural History, Rosaleen Duffy of the University of Sheffield, and Jonas Geldmann of the University of Copenhagen.
February 03, 2021