The Project


As an active key actor in the spatial planning and social innovation arena for Renewable Energy Landscapes REL, the PEARLS project will reinforce the population’s commitment to secure, clean and efficient energy. REL are regarded as spaces where renewable energies change the population’s relationship with energy and their landscape perception. Despite all efforts, resistance to REL lingers in Europe, while the reasons for strong social acceptance in Mediterranean and South American countries are still unknown. Thus PEARLS will focus on Southern European countries and Israel due to their wealth of renewable energy resources and citizens’ deep engagement with REL.

PEARLS main goal is to develop applied knowledge through questions about how to increase public engagement in the behalf of sustainable renewable energy system through planning processes. Its results will transform policy initiatives and strategic interventions with the population, in places where energy resources are relevant and local communities are disadvantaged from the opportunities that networking offers. Using secondment, staff exchange and collaborative research, the project will investigate on national legal basis; will develop methodologies on social innovation; and will explore tools from the multidisciplinary approach of Social Sciences in different European regions. Budget conditions will reinforce research and innovation staff exchange from the academic and non-academic sector, sharing resources from the implementation of the project within all the participants.

PEARLS is radically transforming scientific knowledge on how to best implement REL across Europe and extend southern landscapes towards other Mediterranean countries through participant networks. PEARLS will generate a step change in the way that REL are theorised, detected and addressed and provide crucial support for the Pan-European Energy Challenge by establishing international, intersectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration as the nexus of a five-country holistic pool of universities and research centres in close cooperation with non-academic sectors. All Partnership members, from five universities and nine non-academic beneficiaries (companies, private consultancies, cooperatives and business assocations) have proven expertise and experience in working with renewable energy, energy policy, REL, spatial planning and social innovation, through the internationalisation of applied research and training for capacity development. Via secondments, staff exchange and collaborative inquiry, the project will investigate how to enforce renewable energy best practice to contribute to the Energy Challenge. Deliverables will be provided by working reports, websites, toolkits, training and methodology materials, seminars, and scientific papers, academic journals and books.

The academic Partnership is between five universities (Seville, Lisbon, Trento, Thesaloniki and Haifa) and seven non-academic organisations (industry organisations and business, small and medium companies, government agencies and civil society organisations such as non-profit) from Southern European countries. The entire consortium has strong expertise and research capacity to produce deliverables in the form of interviews, participative maps, training materials, guidelines on environmental impact assessment, internationalization of legal frameworks, websites/resource bases, best practices on reflexive and inclusive public participation, working papers and academic journal articles. In addition to research capacity development, PEARLS will consolidate existing links and forge new connections for future research applications to the European Union and beyond on issues of renewable energy landscapes.

Who is undertaking the project?

The Consortium consists of 13 academic and non-academic entities from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Israel, and 3 more entities from Spain, United Kingdom and Italy that will support the Consortium as an Advisory Board. All participating organisations have been selected for their diverse, complementary experience and expertise in planning and public engagement in renewable energy in Southern European countries and Israel. All are highly internationalised organisations in the Mediterranean Basin and have a proven ability to ‘go the extra mile’.

The management structure comprises:

  • The overall Project Coordinator based in Seville, who liases between the Consortium and the Funding Authority and acts as the Chair of the work;
  • The Steering Committee, which is a body comprised of all Work Package leaders and co-leaders (ICSUL, CLANER, AUTH and USE) and that is entitled as the consortium’s ultimate decision-making body;
  • The Partnership Board that includes one representative of each beneficiary of the Project;
  • The Advisory Board as an external body which supports and advices the Steering Committee and the Coordinator. The academic and non-academic organisations that belong to this body are the Italian National Agency for New Technologies (Italy), Prodiel (Spain) and Exeter University (United Kingdom).

The Coordinator is supported by a team comprised by the Research Financial Service, Senior Academic Staff, Technical Research Assistants, Doctoral Candidates and Administrative Staff. Finally, the Management Support Team works as administrative assistant to the Partnership Board, the Coordinator and the Steering Committee and develops the day-to-day management of the Project.

The European Social Research Laboratory (EUSOCLAB) at the University of Seville coordinates the overall project, working with PEARLS partners to advise on research design, theoretical frameworks and data collection methods and analysis for all WP. EUSOCLAB members have considerable expertise in developing teaching and researching REL spatial planning and social analysis in Southern Europe. They have conducted research on spatial planning, environmental analysis, public engagement and REL in Southern Spain and on research precarious academics.  EUSOCLAB has a range of international links and also postgraduate students. It is located in the University of Seville’s International Centre, which provides resources for international staff and students.

The Coordinator is responsible for overseeing planning, organising, motivating, controlling resources, procedures and protocols to achieve the deliverables and answer the project’s research questions. The project is strategically managed to ensure that the deliverables match expectations and objectives and that the end product functions effectively. This involves rigorous schedule, risk and financial management, as well as the embedding of quality assurance into all the processes, procedures and products from the study e.g., peer review, data back-up plans and contingency planning.

ICSUL – Instituto de Ciências Sociais main expertise is in social sciences research. Thus, it plays a key role in WP5: Social Innovation and Public Engagement. ICSUL will send researchers to companies to collaborate on studying and implemeneting public engagement with renewable energies, and also to government organisations to collect information on legislation, policy and planning tools. ICSUL will also provide training on social research and participatory methods.

UNITN – The Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering at Trento University works on spatial and landscape planning and renewable energies. Social issues raised by energy technologies will be addressed in conjunction with the Department of Sociology and Social Research. University staff will cooperate on international projects, providing expertise in different fields, and applied research in spatial planning and landscape protection.

AUTH – Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is the largest public Greek University, is committed to conducting high quality research in pioneering topics aimed at promoting quality and excellence. The AUTH team has proven ability, with a large number (more than 150) of peer-reviewed publications in high quality journals and national and international conferences. The experience of AUTH team members involved in this project has also been demonstrated by their involvement in international research collaboration (e.g., FP7 projects) and in international collaboration networks (e.g., Tempus, COST) that enhance the team’s scientific and research experience.

BGU – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will contribute to analysing governance and the legal-regulatory aspects of land-use planning. In particular they will study and assess different aspects of renewable energy location, including landscape impact, institutional capacities and public participation in planning. The Israeli academic partner will be able to host project beneficiaries for cross-national data gathering and analysis, and cooperation in networking events.

COOP – Coopérnico is a Portuguese Renewable Energy Cooperative (480 members in 2017) that combines its sustainability-oriented and social nature with support for solidarity, education and environmental protection projects. Its contribution will be to focus on citizen and business engagement in the creation of a new energy, economic and social paradigm that benefits both society and the environment: renewable, efficient, fair, democratic and decentralised. Other relevant activities include the promotion of best practices in energy use to their members in order that they might contribute to a more sustainable future by using green electricity in their homes or companies. Furthermore, it also challenges people to show concern for the environment and society and empowers them as owners and decision-makers in the area of energy provision.

ENERC – Enercoutim is an Association of Solar Energy Companies in Southern Portugal with extensive experience in managing demonstration innovative technology platform infrastructure, operating as a plug-and-produce platform in the field of photovoltaics and system integrations. They have developed a high ability to carry through pilot projects in the area of renewable energy system integration with regional level support.

CLANER – Cluster de Energias Renovables is a cluster of companies, official bodies, research centres, universities and foundations in the areas of renewable energies and energy efficiency in Southern Spain. It is a non-profit Association which works as an organisational alliance of renewable energy firms. The Cluster has around one hundred members (SMEs, Multinationals, Universities, Research Centres, public bodies and foundations) and represents over 90% of the renewables sector in the South of Spain. CLANER promotes research, technological development and innovation in products, processes and services linked to its field, while also fostering cooperation among its members. It provides an excellent network of multidisciplinary expertise and a multisectoral approach through engineering, planning, assistance, training, maintenance and supply in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

TERR – Territoria s.l. is a firm that provides experience in the field of spatial and visual landscape analysis and operates as a research adviser to regional and local administrations using self-developed methodological tools. Areas of expertise include: Landscape Character Assessment; Visual Impact Assessment; typological analysis; and the identification of visual landscape resources, all by means of GIS-use combined with fieldwork and qualitative methods. TERR has the capacity to host secondments in its area of expertise and to contribute to conceptual and analytical frameworks related to landscape and heritage management and communication and dissemination activities, and project management support.

GSH – GeoSystem Hellas will design and implement a geographic information system which will be the basis for recording project geographical data and any information derived from these data. GIS capabilities will offer a user-friendly environment to easily and quickly extract the required information and to intervene when necessary to identify and make any corrections required in the study areas. GSH will update the PEARLS project website. It will be available to transfer knowledge to the participating organisations via in situ & webex training and project site e-questionnaires. An online manual will be made available. The company will participate in networking events and also invite cooperation with participating organisations interested in technology transfer.

AKKT – AKKT Engineering is a Greek high-tech company and consultancy that also provides services for managing and delivering government and private sector projects and advisory services, mainly in the areas of urban and spatial planning, architectural design, environmental engineering, hydraulic engineering, geo-informatics, land survey, and photogrammetric and cadastre 3D mapping projects. The company has also been involved in and implemented deliverables for several projects in European Territorial Cooperation, Cross Border and other Programmes that involve research & innovation in spatial, strategic and environmental planning.

TC&E – Tsakoumis Consultants & Engineers is a Greek company with experience and expertise in the development and implementation of IT projects and new technologies in both public and private sector enterprises and organisations. The company provides comprehensive IT consulting services including analysis and strategic planning of information systems, planning and support in energy applications, development and application of informatics projects and new technologies – geo-informatics, management of resources, mapping, spatial analysis database, GIS development and adaptation, training and support.

SPI – Science-Policy Interface is an Israeli research and consultancy group that links science to real life in the government, the business sector and NGOs. Its main goal is to integrate scientific knowledge and considerations into the government. The group specializes in environmental sciences, ecology, alternative energy, sustainability, risk management, and local and international regulations. Its collaboration with government ministries and the academia, and its communication of science to non-scientists are growing on a daily basis.

What are the aims and objectives of the project?


To develop research and innovation skills between early stage and experienced researchers, combining social and technological aspects for the sustainable implementation of REL in Southern European countries and Israel.


To investigate and compare data, approaches and processes in Southern European countries and Israel in order to: (a) determine potential commonalities relevant to the subject under investigation (b) exchange this knowledge within the consortium via secondments and (c) transfer this knowledge to a wider audience.


To share and integrate multidisciplinary knowledge through international and multisectoral synergies to develop frameworks, processes and operational tools to enhance the spatial planning and social innovation arena for REL and boost relevant policy agendas.


To produce outputs within the framework of international and intersectoral activities based on the PEARLS project, such as scientific, management and training activities, and dissemination and communication of the results.

What are the research questions of the project?


What are the policies and strategies for effective, efficient and sustainable REL implementation in partner countries?


How do the public accept REL implementation in light of their energy behaviour and aspirations?


What are the significant dilemmas voiced in public participation e.g., sustainability issues, conflicts, employment opportunities?


What innovations exist to promote and support extended renewable energy landscapes?


Who are participating in this process? Where are REL located and why?


What values shape the implementation of spatial planning tools for renewable energy development e.g., economic, social, cultural?


What networks and practices are developing social innovation tools? What are their best practices?


What is the best way to export the applied knowledge expertise on REL in Southern European countries and Israel?

Why is this project needed?

The PEARLS research and innovation project is relevant because globalisation is a dominant policy discourse in the transition to a low carbon economy. The Energy Challenge needs to reinforce public engagement in support of renewable energy. This is often presented as a face-off process, with scant attention paid to the way that cultural approaches towards energy behaviour and public participation contribute to the sustainable implementation of renewable energies.

The overarching objective of this Project is to develop an international and intersectoral network of organisations working in a joint research programme to contribute to the Pan-European Energy Challenge through the implementation of renewable energy best practices. Participants will exchange skills and knowledge that lay the groundwork for key advances in spatial planning and social innovation while strengthening collaborative research among different countries and sectors.

PEARLS Project focuses on how principles avoiding climate change and global warming can be applied to European strategies on public engagement to renewable energy. Despite scientific approach on the promotion of renewable energies and public acceptance based on Not in My Back Yard and Landscape Quality, PEARLS project will develop research capacity in the field of spatial planning and social innovation in Southern European countries. These countries are critical examples of natural resources availability underpinning renewable energies but where less attention to public participation into spatial planning processes is paid. To reinforce knowledge and expertise, new approaches such as Please In My Back Yard, Place Attachment and Territorial Heritage will be developed.

PEARLS interrogates and develops planning and public engagement to deploy renewable energy through questions related to: (a) regional differences in renewable energy resource exploitation; (b) people that can be involved in energy policy initiative support; and (c) whether REL should be developed as focus areas for renewable energy in order for the interaction with the landscape to be better understood.

The nature of the PEARLS partnership means that it will develop strategies for planning and public engagement with all actors in support of REL in beneficiary countries. Through spatial planning and social innovation, the consortium will contribute to achieving REL in Southern European countries and Israel while observing the principles of effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability in support of the Energy Challenge.

Low Carbon Economy Transition is one of the main challenges that society is facing nowadays. Thus, enhancing the sensitivity on this process, and promoting the advantages that it has for people as individuals and for society as a whole is becoming urgent. This sensitivity must come as result of a better understanding of the new Energy Paradigm. This means that a great involvement of the educational sector is required. On the other hand, it is very important to ensure equal and inclusive participation of local actors in the managing process.

What is the anticipated impact of the project?


Generation of stronger awareness that change in the energy model cannot occur without a change in the population’s behaviour toward energy.


Generation of evidence-based training materials on social innovation and public engagement tools for use in renewable energy development and other research contexts.


Stimulation of new trans-methodological approaches to support investigation into social and technological issues by different research and innovation staff.


To spark sensitivity to a Low Carbon Economy and the advantages that it has for new life patterns on the individual level and for society.


To foster the involvement of young researchers in the dissemination of research results as a complementary way of extending the outreach of their scientific production.


Reproduction of public participation schemes to support renewable energy projects developed in countries in Southern Europe and in Israel and to export these to an international audience as good practice.


Development of a cadre of researchers, technical staff and policy makers across different sectors and national contexts with in-depth expertise in spatial planning and energy policy.


To favour the involvement of the public at large in the Energy Challenge debate (from those who are unfamiliar with it to those who are most in favour of/against renewable energies).


To generate new channels of communication between society, researchers and companies by way of everyday formats, such as social networks and Internet video channels.


To ensure equal and inclusive participation in events promoted by participant organisations in collaboration with local institutions and authorities in their own countries.

Integrity & Ethics

All research potentially raises ethical issues and this Project is no exception. For that, this research applies without exception the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and its Supplementary Protocols. The nature of our research work means that relatively few ethical issues are raised and these can be addressed in a relatively straightforward way.

All research partners within the consortium agree to comply with all ethical thinking and legislation within respective countries including those reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Moreover, the Project adheres to the guidelines of the national funding agencies. Rather than thinking about research ethics only in the phase of data collection, the consortium undertakes a comprehensive strategy on ethics by considering ethical issues from the very early phase of research planning. Ethical issues are predominantly relevant for case studies, interviews, fieldwork and dissemination. They include the following spheres:

  • All partners will be aware of intellectual property and copyright issues. These issues will be examined thoroughly and resolved by contacting directly the relevant parties before using resources in the project.
  • All research partners obtain permission to access sites, written/informed consent, debriefing, explaining the right to refuse/omit answers or withdraw, and consent for interview recording.
  • Prospective participants (stakeholders, interviewees, workshop participants) will be given full information in advance about the research’s purpose. They are invited to contribute in a variety of ways, dependent on their willingness to be involved.
  • All research partners ensure that interview schedules will avoid unnecessarily intrusive questions. Before consent is obtained from respondents and before research begins, all researchers agree to inform prospective participants of the following:
    • Which individuals and organisations, if any, will be permitted access to personal data, and under what circumstances such access will be granted.
    • The purpose for which personal information provided is to be used.
  • All researchers agree to work in accordance with equal opportunity policies and ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of age, gender disability or ethnicity. Furthermore, the data is appropriately used for the purposes of the project and will not be retained for longer than is necessary.
  • All researchers envisaged by this project is Social Sciences research concerned with adults specifically those who are engaged in renewable energy landscapes and whose participation is voluntary. As such they should all be able to give their consent for participation informed by a relatively sophisticated understanding of the way that research works and what its implications are. Nevertheless they will be provided with written documentation explaining the aims and objectives of the research and an opportunity to question these.

Gender Balance

Gender balance has been a specific input throughout the entire process. EUSOCLAB envisages gender aspects as a quality of researchers that has to be included in and strengthened throughout the construction of the proposal as the best way to ensure that it is put into effect. The project has taken gender into account in relation to the composition of the partnership, i.e., the coordinator at the University of Seville and the leads in Portugal, Greece and Israel are all female. There are also female representatives from non-academic organisations in Spain (Territoria), Greece (ATTK) and Israel (SP Interface), and there is also gender balance among Advisory Board representatives. And last but not least, there are female members of the different participant organisations who will be on secondment, thus providing opportunities for both genders to build their capacity via transnational mobility. Gender will also be taken into consideration in everyday processes and transactions. This means that the project will aim to be gender sensitive in relation to the objectives and deliverables and also in terms of inclusive working practices and procedures in focus groups and the choice of people for interview.


Feel free to contact us for more information about PEARLS Project


Address:  Avda. Ciudad Jardín, 20/22, 1ª pta.            41005 Sevilla ( España )

Funded by: Marie Sklodwska Curie Actions. H2020 Research Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE)

Project Number:  778039 - PEARLS

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 778039.

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