Interview Pascal Sanders

The PARC spirit: Committed to collaboration and innovation

A year and a half into the project, Partnership for Assessment of Chemical Risks (PARC) has reached many milestones. But as the activities grow in number, challenges may arise to keep PARC on track, states PARC Coordinator Pascal Sanders in this interview. He is confident that the challenges will be overcome by the diverse skills combined in PARC and by a strong commitment to collaborate and come up with innovative solutions.

PARC has brought together over 200 institutions from 29 countries and three EU agencies, including the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA). Coordinated by ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, it is the ambition of the PARC partners to contribute significantly to the EU goal of a pollutant-free environment.

The PARC spirit

Pascal Sanders, a year and a half into the project, how would you describe the PARC spirit?

"The spirit of PARC is characterised by a commitment to collaboration, innovation and the co-construction of research projects and case studies to respond to current and emerging challenges in chemical risk assessment and thereby protect health and biodiversity. This spirit is evident in the diversity of institutions and partners working together to develop state-of-the-art chemical risk assessment methods," says Pascal Sanders.

The landmarks reached

Can you describe three major landmarks reached so far?

"Over the past 18 months, PARC has achieved several important milestones. Firstly, the partnership was successfully launched in Paris in May 2022, marking the beginning of this ambitious programme.

Secondly, a participatory approach in all stages, from the definition of the strategy and preparation of the annual work plans to their execution, has been implemented, encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing between all partners and the wider stakeholder community. This is reflected in the governance structure and bodies, which include representatives from the Ministries and the European Commission, international partners and stakeholders. Dialogue between science and policy takes place at a European level and via national hubs.

Finally, communication tools, such as the PARC website, have been developed to facilitate the dissemination of information and the involvement of stakeholders."

The challenges to be faced 

If you should pick three major challenges for PARC, what would they be?

" As we move forward, we face three major challenges. Firstly, we need to maintain an overview of our partnership's activities to ensure consistency and alignment with our objectives, while taking account of ongoing regulatory developments at national, European and global level.

Secondly, we need to facilitate the work of each partner, so that they can contribute effectively to achieving our objectives by working in projects or case studies.

Finally, we must keep a collective objective to achieve the wider scientific, societal and economic impacts so that the risk assessment of chemical substances in 2030 contributes to the achievement of global sustainable development goals notably by enabling the relevant substitutions of the most harmful chemicals."

The strengths needed to proceed

Which strengths within PARC can we use to overcome these challenges?

"To meet these challenges, we will draw on our strengths, in particular the diverse expertise of our partners from academia, national and European risk assessment, public health and environmental agencies. This will enable us to take a global approach to chemical risk assessment. We also benefit from strong support from European authorities, such as ECHA, EFSA and the EEA, who can provide guidance and resources to help us meet the challenges but also facilitate the uptake of results and methods by risk assessors.

Finally, our commitment to collaboration and knowledge sharing fosters innovation and the development of effective solutions to complex problems. PARC has taken the legacy of previous successful European projects such as HBM4EU, collaborates with several on-going EU projects such as EURION and ASPIS Cluster. We develop also our synergies with international initiatives supported by OECD or WHO.

Together, we will continue to advance our programme of work, adapting it to have a lasting impact on the protection of human health and the environment," says Pascal Sanders.