As Europe is slowly preparing to lift some of the COVID-19 restrictions, we thought it is time so share some of our experiences of European project work in the current lock-down situation. While some or most of the experiences apply to European and national research projects we are participating, this blog is exploring mainly the CS-AWARE specific situation.

In general, all of our partners – both University and SME partners – follow the lock-down rules devised by our national governments. In practice this means that all partners work in home office. The good news is that European projects always have been trailblazers for remote collaboration and the use of remote productivity tools, so the right tool set for remote collaboration has already been in place and actively used in day-to-day project work. This means that aside from the general slowdown that is expected as an impact of the novel and unparalleled societal and economic lock-down, no fundamental shift in the day-to-day project work had to be done and the project could continue its routine work from day one of the lock-down.

For CS-AWARE, which is currently in its piloting stage, a concrete impact was the added workload imposed on local administrations due to the lock-down. While on one side essential city operations have to continue and are even intensified through the additional COVID-19 tasks, as much of those operations as possible need to be conducted from home office isolation by the Municipal staff. In Larissa the situation was even more strict due to a complete precautionary lock-down of city hall, leaving our project partners no choice than to postpone CS-AWARE activities. Thanks to the great dedication and effort of our partners in Rome, we were able to continue to conduct all piloting activities with the Municipality from home office, and our partners in Larissa put great effort into catching up with the postponed CS-AWARE piloting activities after recent lifts in the lock-down policies of the Greek government. All in all, the project is very happy that piloting activities can continue without significant delays, and will complete on time and without restrictions. We think this is an extraordinary achievement giving the situation in the Municipalities, and only shows the dedication of our project partners to CS-AWARE.

Dissemination and Commercialisation efforts of CS-AWARE are of course a different story. CS-AWARE had planned several events, like the Major Cities Conference, to conduct interactive workshop like sessions with the participants and gather feedback from a broader audience. Similarly, many commercialisation activities like meetings with potential investors, had been planned in this project phase. Long story short, all of the events that CS-AWARE planned to be present have been cancelled or postponed to next year. Commercial meetings are either being cancelled or severely limited due to the limitations of remote communication for this particular type of activity. Those are of course unforeseen circumstances that can not really be mitigated, other than postponing the activities to a time frame after the project end. This is a reality that we unfortunately have to accept, while at the same time trying to create outstanding project results – hopefully to be shared in events around Europe in the foreseeable future! Always remember: In lock-down situations like this it is perfectly normal to talk to your plants or walls. Do not forget to contact medical professionals as soon as they start talking back 🙂

Thomas Schaberreiter
University of Vienna