In 2016 EPFL established the transdisciplinary International Risk Governance Center (IRGC) with the objective of strengthening the university’s expertise in the understanding of emerging and systemic risks as well as the governance of opportunities and risks associated with new technologies, and to reinforce its collaboration with policy.
IRGC continuously develops the risk governance tools and guidelines, which have been central to IRGC’s reputation since 2004. Those have consistently guided stakeholders in the decision making process about risks marked by complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity.
IRGC’s approach is applied to a large variety of specific issues or domains, including where new technologies create opportunities and associated risks.
- Digitalisation and governance
- Life sciences
- Addressing emerging security risks related to synthetic biology. NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme. Workshop, 7-10 July, EPFL
- Creating value in health and precision medicine. Workshop, Brocher Foundation, 4-6 December
- Addressing concerns over gene drive based malaria control through development and testing of localization mechanisms. Workshop Brocher Foundation, 6-8 May 2020
- Risk governance
- Developing a risk governance framework for nanotechnology. NANORIGO H2020 project
- Resilience and insurance. SmartResilience H2020 project. Analysing the positive feedback between insurance and resilience of critical infrastructure
Paper for the World Congress on Resilience, Reliability and Asset Management (27-30 July 2019): The role of insurance in critical infrastructure resilience
- Illustrating and categorising systemic risks
Synthetic biologists are able to construct new biological systems and functions with applications in energy, health care and farming. Yet these same technologies can also be hijacked to create potentially dangerous pathogens for which there is no known treatment. So as researchers, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to advance science and technology for the common good while at the same time managing the risks of “dual-use” research, or research that can be turned against people or the environment.
The collection of short pieces provides in-depth and pragmatic evaluation of concepts and methods for resilience-based approaches (recovery from disruption) as opposed to risk-based approaches, for articulating better risk and resilience. It considers possible drawbacks of resilience, and the role that resilience can play in helping systems adapt or transform when they face transitions.
Workshop report (November 2018)
In July 2018, with support from the Swiss Re Institute, IRGC organised a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder workshop on the governance of decision-making algorithms. In a round-table setting, a group of thirty participants representing scientists and developers in AI and data science, experts in regulatory issues and policy analysts, and representatives of industry and insurance companies discussed the governance of decision-making algorithms, with particular focus on automated decisions based on learning algorithms (DMLAs). This report draws together some key insights from the workshop.
IRGC’s guidelines for the governance of systemic risks address the question of how to deal with systemic risks in the context of system transitions, i.e., in situations that require adaptation to new context conditions or transformation of an organisation or ecosystem. The guidelines comprise seven interlinked steps. Their successful implementation depends on strong leadership and the willingness to adapt or revise processes, focus on mid- and long-term issues, and accept and resolve trade-offs.
IRGC is partner in three Horizon 2020 projects
TRIGGER (2019-2021) will address the need to better understand the current evolution and challenges in global governance, and in particular the interaction of Europe with new trends in global governance. IRGC’s role will consist of understanding how global governance and emerging technologies interact, and making recommendations for the governance of emerging technologies such as AI or blockchain. See https://trigger-project.eu/
NANORIGO (2019-2022). IRGC’s role will consist of supporting the development of a framework for the governance of risks related to nanotechnology applications and the creation of a European Council for Nanotechnology Risk Governance. With this project, IRGC comes back to nanotechnology governance. In 2005-2008, IRGC produced a white paper for nanotechnology risk governance, a brief with policy recommendations, and application to food and cosmetics. See https://irgc.org/issues/nanotechnology/.
SmartResilience (2016-2019). IRGC organises contribution from insurance to evaluate indicators and methologies developed by SmartResilience partners for measuring the resilience of critical infrastructure. http://smartresilience.eu-vri.eu/
The economics of precision medicine
In April 2018, IRGC invited twenty stakeholders from academia, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, regulation and patient groups to discuss issues of cost-effectiveness, affordability, value and innovative payment schemes in precision medicine.