Thomas Jakl

Thomas Jakl is Chair of the PARC Governing Board. He works as Deputy Head of Directorate General V – Environment and Circular Economy and Head of Department „Chemicals Policy and Biocides” in the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Austria.

Chair of PARC Governing Board: We serve as PARC’s backbone to let it shine

PARC has 200 partners in 29 countries united in research and development. That requires strategic steering, which is the role of the PARC Governing Board (GB). In this interview the Chair of the GB, Thomas Jakl, unfolds his view on its responsibilities, priorities and challenges.

“It is my goal to let PARC become a strong and reliable European voice addressing important issues at the science/policy interface of chemicals’ risk assessment and management,“ he sums up his message. “It is the Governing Board’s job to serve as PARC’s backbone and to let it shine."

Responsibilities of the Governing Board

Thomas Jakl, what is the most important responsibility of the Governing Board in PARC?

“The Governing Board provides the highest-level strategic steering of the Partnership through continuous dialogue by its members with the implementation bodies to align PARC activities with activities undertaken at the EU, national and international levels. The GB sort of embraces as well as manifests the political commitment for the uptake of PARC results and its sustainability.

The Governing Board consists of representatives from the national ministries and competent authorities responsible for the national political and financial commitment to the Partnership. It is also of utmost importance that the key European Commission Directorate-Generals (RTD, GROW, ENV, SANTE, JRC) nominated representatives to the board.  

"In constant dialogue with the Coordination Team and the Management Board, the GB defines PARC activities as described in the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and implemented by the annual work plans. Through its steering and coordination, the board applies the strategic objectives of the partnership and their implementation during the whole lifetime of PARC,"says Thomas Jakl.

New priorities of PARC

The Governing Board is discussing the priorities in PARC, could you mention some of the potential new priorities of PARC for the next years?

“A “mapping of needs survey” was performed in order to guarantee a transparent prioritisation process and to allow the appropriate addressing of further regulatory needs by the Partnership. This was instrumental for suggesting new substances or group of substances, endpoints and even methods and case studies to be included in PARC’s list of priorities for future years, in the different work packages.

Interestingly, both micro- and nanoplastics have been frequently proposed for monitoring, in the general population as well as at the workplace and in the environment. In terms of closing data gaps of concern on toxicity testing, micro and nanoplastics as well as polymers and mycotoxins were mentioned several times.

Concerning human biomonitoring for workers nanomaterials and nanoparticles were nominated frequently but also substances in welding fumes, battery chemicals and PFAS were mentioned. Furthermore, the monitoring of substances classified as persistent, mobile and toxic (PMT) along with the ones classified as very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) in the environment was proposed for prioritisation.

Mixtures of endocrine disruptors were prioritised for integrative exposure and risk assessment. In terms of endpoints of concern, the development of integrated approaches for testing and assessment of chemicals neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity were the front runners, followed by endocrine disruption for environment.

The developmental and reproductive toxicity was most frequently proposed under the task of innovative and methods for toxicity testing. In addition, it would be important to work on indicators to monitor the activities on PARC, but also to engage in the use of PARC’s results and data to support and develop indicators; need for analytical methods for PFAS.

PARC should also pay more attention on the risk assessment on nanomaterials. A document with an overview on current activities will be produced, which will serve then as a basis for a decision on the future work. It is my goal to let PARC become a strong and reliable European voice addressing important issues at the science/policy interface of chemicals’ risk assessment and management.

Challenges in implementation

What are the challenges which PARC will meet with the implementation of the results and recommendations from PARC at EU and national levels?

The greatest challenges in implementing these results are, on the one hand, the definitive selection of the priorities to be implemented within the framework of the Partnership and, on the other hand, the best possible integration of the new proposals into the ongoing activities. For this reason, we are now working closely with the work package Co-Leaders to define realistic targets in order to guarantee successful completion and meeting the short and long term objectives of the Partnership.

PARC should develop executive summary/produce easily accessible recommendations for regulators. Another major challenge will be to align the needs of the EC and Member States in order to get recommendations with high impact to the regulators, current research and society. Finally, it is my sincere belief that PARC is a masterpiece of the European Union’s policy. As a best practice example for ensuring tailored research, accompanying a key area of the Green Deal, PARC is truly unique. It is the Governing Board’s job to serve as PARC’s backbone and to let it shine."