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.
- Resilience and insurance
- Illustrating and categorising systemic risks
- Managing risks related to the fabrication of fake information by machine learning systems
- Addressing biosecurity risks
- Addressing concerns over ‘gene drive’-based malaria control through development and testing of localization mechanisms
- Creating value in health and precision medicine
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.
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 representing scientists, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, regulators and patients to discuss issues of cost-effectiveness, affordability, value and innovative payment schemes in precision medicine.
Governance of trust in precision medicine
November 2017. Following a two-day expert meeting on the subject of Trust and Precision Medicine, IRGC published a workshop report to summarise the main findings and recommendations. Participants discussed about the concept of trust and conditions of trustworthiness with respect to three essential components of the precision medicine value chain: data collection, data analysis and provision of medical care. The report provides recommendations for strategies that earn and provide evidence of trustworthiness, and sustain public trust around precision medicine, including communication, transparency and ways to assess trust.
December 2017. The IRGC Framework (published in 2005) provides guidance for early identification and handling of risks, involving multiple stakeholders. It recommends an inclusive approach to frame, assess, evaluate, manage and communicate important risk issues, often marked by complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. This update of the short ‘introduction’ to the IRGC Framework summarises the framework and provides illustrations of some of its components in various sectors.
A roadmap for the development of precision medicine
IRGC policy brief
June 2017. The purpose of this overarching roadmap is to recommend a structured process that organisations can follow in their transition towards the development of precision medicine, including the consideration of critical elements such as: the role of citizens and patients, data, regulation, and payment.
Governing risks and benefits of Distributed Ledger Technologies
Highlights from an IRGC workshop
June 2017. IRGC organised a multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder expert workshop with the objective of improving the understanding of the risks and opportunities related to the implementation of distributed ledger (or blockchain) technologies in the medical/health, insurance, and institutional sectors. Participants discussed issues of cybersecurity, privacy, data integrity, trust, and law.
Transatlantic patterns of risk regulation
April 2017. Based on a study commissioned by the European Parliament in 2016, this report offers a descriptive transatlantic comparison of regulatory standards in four key sectors: Food, automobiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals. It shows that EU risk regulation is not always or generally more stringent than US regulation. The reality is a complex mix of parity and particularity between EU and US risk regulation.
March 2017. As part of an on-going workshop series and project work on cybersecurity and in line with its mission to bridge the gap between science and policy, IRGC organised a one-day expert workshop on Governing Cybersecurity Risks and Benefits in the Internet of Things, applied to connected vehicles and medical devices.