RI-URBANS at a glance

Improving air quality with research

Our goal is to develop an air quality monitoring system that complements those that are currently available. Identifying and measuring the changes in air pollutants will allow European health administrations and agencies to effectively mitigate the impact of poor air quality on human health.

Our specific concerns include two hazards that have increasingly contributed to poor air quality in recent years – nanoparticles and particulate matter fractions in the air.


Atmospheric pollution is the fourth cause of premature mortality in 2019, according to the recent evaluation of the Global Burden of Disease 2020. The global costs associated with air pollution by particulate matter were estimated at 4.5% Gross Domestic Product by the World Bank 2016. In Europe, the European Environmental Agency recently reported almost 0.4 million premature deaths in EU during 2018. Due to the success of European Air Quality policy this number has reduced dramatically since 1990, when as many as 1.0 million premature deaths were estimated to have been caused by poor air quality.

The significant efforts in Europe to abate air pollution have remarkably improved urban air quality, to the extent that, in the last decades, ambient levels of several pollutants decreased markedly (by more than 80% in the case of SO2). For other pollutants such as NO2 and particulate matter, the decrease reached 30-50%, especially from 2000 to 2010, but much less since then, and for O3, NH3, and Benzo[a]Pyrene, the decrease was very small or negligible. The last report of the European Environmental Agency shows that in 2018 large proportions of the EU urban population were exposed to NO2, PM10, PM2.5, and O3 levels exceeding the respective current WHO air quality guidelines.

Changes in emissions in the last decades prompted new urban pollution patterns to be considered in new policy developments and health impact studies.


The RI-URBANS’ main objective is to demonstrate how service tools from atmospheric research infrastructures can be adapted and enhanced in air quality monitoring networks in an interoperable and sustainable way.

We want to better address the challenges and societal needs related to air quality in European cities (and industrial, harbour, airport, and traffic hotspots).

This project responds to the urgent need to substantially reduce air pollution across the EU and to engage in a strategy to evaluate the health impacts of air pollution on citizens.

RI-URBANS is based on the premise that advanced monitoring and modelling tools developed in research infrastructures, by air quality experts and advanced monitoring networks can be used to supplement current networks of regulated pollutants.

Service Tools

RI-URBANS provides 20 advanced Service Tools to meet the demands of new and complex urban air quality scenarios and enhance the analysis of air quality.

A Service Tool (ST) is any tool that RI-URBANS has reviewed, tested, and recommended for urban areas. These tools can be used to assess air quality in accordance with RI-URBANS’ advanced air quality monitoring recommendations. These recommendations include protocols for measuring advanced air quality parameters (derived from ACTRIS and CEN or, in specific cases, proposed when not available), mapping protocols, emission inventories, modelling tools, and suggested epidemiological approaches to evaluate the health effects of new pollutants. Clear procedures for using the Service Tools will be provided to the users.

Explore all our advanced Service Tools for optimised urban air quality management:

The pilots

RI-URBANS will implement 5 pilot studies in 9 selected European cities (Athens, Barcelona, Birmingham, Bucharest, Helsinki, Milan-Bologna, Paris, Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and Zurich) for testing and demonstrating services. These selected European cities represent different air quality environments.

They combine the ability to perform advanced long-term air quality observations and the commitment of the local and/or regional monitoring networks to benefit from the corresponding pilot actions. The former provides the reference to the new air quality observations-metrics to be evaluated and for which their association with health outcomes will be compared with that obtained for conventional metrics. The latter ensures the sustainability of the pilots beyond this project’s lifetime.

A pilot aims to demonstrate on a real scale the ability of air quality research infrastructures to integrate complementary measurement systems and methods, but also the effectiveness of integrating different components of an urban observing system for air quality studies.


Our take on addressing new air hazards

RI-URBANS is organised into 9 Work Packages (WPs) built within the 4 Strategic Pillars.

Three WPs (WP1-3) will focus on providing a landscape analysis, collecting and compiling data from past initiatives, and developing advanced service tools for improving air quality monitoring, in particular for addressing the nanoparticle impact on human health.

WP4 will demonstrate through several pilot studies the application of innovative tools in different urban environments. WP5-6 will provide a roadmap for upscaling.

WP7 will support the internal and external communication and outreach of RI-URBANS, and WP8 the coordination and management of the project. Finally, a WP 9 will cover all issues related to ethics, according to the requirements of the European Commission.


Our take on addressing new air hazards

All RI-URBANS tasks are arranged on different work packages (WP) by the European Union. The WP are sorted by topic, not chronologically, to help us mark our goals on each group of tasks.

Creating new tools adapted to the new risks
Management and complementary tasks
Testing our monitoring system in real cities
Developing a roadmap for implementation
D1 (D1.1)        Guidelines, datasets of non-regulated pollutants incl. metadata, methods

D2 (D1.2)       Pan-European overview: concentrations of non-regulated pollutants

D3 (D1.3)       Report on source apportionment studies and recommendations for source apportionment procedures

D4 (D1.4)       NRT source apportionment ST for submicron carbonaceous matter (pilots)

D5 (D1.5)       NRT source apportionment ST for submicron carbonaceous matter (final)

D6 (D1.6)       Observational methodologies for horizontal and vertical profiling for AQ purposes

D7 (D1.7)        Processing and experimental digital tools for AQ from 3D remote sensing

D8 (D1.8)       Integration for strategical guidance for upscaling and stakeholders’ engagement

D9 (D2.1)       Best practices for evaluation of nanoparticles and health for application in pilots

D10 (D2.2)     Evaluation of new AQ metrics and health

D11 (D2.3)      Harmonization of the oxidative potential of PM monitoring for application in pilots

D12 (D2.4)     Added value of oxidative  potential to assess the health

D13 (D2.5)     Description of methodology for mobile monitoring and citizen involvement

D14 (D2.6)     Added value of mobile and citizens’ observations for urban mapping and health

D15 (D2.7)      Best practices for upscaling AQ-health observations

D16 (D3.1)      Framework to crosscheck methodologies to assess urban emissions

D17 (D3.2)      Methodology to improve European urban emission inventories

D18 (D3.3)     High resolution annual sectoral emissions for main pollutants, nanoparticles and nonexhaust contributors

D19 (D3.4)      High resolution mapping over European urban areas

D20 (D3.5)    Assessment of the modelling system supporting policy implementation

D21 (D3.6)   Pan-European report on health indicators, variabilities, sources,  uncertainties, and roadmap in support pilot

D22 (D4.1)   Monthly reports of concentration levels and PMF for each city during the pilot operation

D23 (D4.2) Comparison of NRT source apportionment and manual PMF in the pilot citie

D24 (D4.3)   Summary: source apportionment pilots, sustainability and associated benefits

D25 (D4.4)       Nanoparticle concentration levels in the pilot studies

D26 (D4.5)       Summary: nanoparticle aerosol pilots, sustainab., assoc. benefits for AQMNs and AQ policy

D27 (D4.6)       Air pollution variability in the pilot studies

D28 (D4.7)       Summary: Mapping procedures, sustainability and applicability for upscaling

D29 (D4.8)       Summary: health effects of novel AQ metrics, source contributions: epidemiology

D30 (D4.9)      Summary: OP of PM, PM components and PM source contributions

D31 (D4.10)     Summary: novel health effect indicator pilots,  sustainability, associated benefits

D32 (D4.11)     Initial analysis of the hot spot pilot results

D33 (D4.12)     Summary of AQ hotspot pilots, sustainability and associated benefits

D34 (D4.13)     Synthesis of RI-URBANS pilot actions, sustainability and importance on upscaling

D35 (D5.1)         RI-URBANS Data management plan (preliminary)

D36 (D5.2)        Open Research Data (preliminary)

D37 (D5.3)       Service catalog on ACTRIS and IAGOS services for urban sites

D38 (D5.4)       Guidelines and training on AQ tools (source apportionment, mobile measurements, low-cost sensors, citizen science)

D39 (D5.5)       STs for model. Urban air novel diagnostics and eval. of regional AQ models over urban areas

D40 (D5.6)       Roadmap: Replicating AQ monitoring solutions: Warsaw and applicability to other cities

D41 (D5.7)        Roadmap: Upscaling sustainable access to RIURBANS STs (service portfolio, modelling tools, cost/benefit analysis) and solutions

D42 (D5.8)       RI-URBANS services to ACTRIS and IAGOS portfolios

D43 (D5.9)       RI-URBANS Data management plan (update)

D44 (D5.10)     RI-URBANS Data management plan (Final)

D45 (D5.11)      Open Research Data (final)

D46 (D6.1)       Information packages for local, regional and national AQ administrations

D47 (D6.2)       In-situ presentation of the information packages and stakeholder workshop

D48 (D6.3)       Roadmap: Citizen engagement for AQ monitoring

D49 (D6.4)       European added value of implementing the RIURBANS strategy

D50 (D7.1)       Dissem., exploitation and communication plan (initial)

D51 (D7.2)       RI-URBANS public & internal website launched

D52 (D7.3)       RI-URBANS brochure/flyer/roll up and teaser

D53 (D7.4)       RI-URBANS results promotion – video release

D54 (D7.5)       RI-URBANS project legacy – final video

D55 (D7.6)       RI-URBANS booklet summarising information packages from WPs 5-6

D56 (D7.7)       Guidelines for IPR management

D57 (D7.8)       Open publications and reports

D58 (D7.9)       Final Report on dissem. and communication

D59 (D7.10)     Dissem., exploitation and communication plan (updated)

D60 (D7.11)     Dissem., exploitation and communication plan (final)

D61 (D8.1)       Management structure

D62 (D9.1)       H – Requirement No. 1

D63 (D9.2)      POPD – Requirement No. 2

M1 (M1.1)        Datasets for source apportionment, health modelling and measurement guidelines

M2 (M1.2)       Provising of data management and QA/QC tools for centralising, comunicating and analysis

M3 (M1.3)       NRT aerosol number size distribution ST for RI-URBANS

M4 (M1.4)       Existing single pollutant and new source apportionment at selected EU supersites

M5 (M1.6)       Data management for online source apportionment ST

M6 (M1.7)        Accuracy check of online SA ST vs. offline SA analysis

M7 (M1.8)         Requirements for the  implementation of vertical profiling measurements in pilot sites

M8 (M2.1+ M2.3) Multi-year datasets of daily air pollution and health, and of oxidative potential

M9 (M2.2 + M2.4 + M2.6) Demonstration analyses daily air pollution and health, oxidative potential and urban mapping

M10 (M2.5)      Guidance document for mobile monitoring in RIURBANS pilots

M11 (M2.7)       Best practice document for roadmap upscaling

M12 (M3.1)       Validation of regional models’ vertical profiles including diagnostics relevant to urban air

M13 (M3.2)      Dataset on PM ultrafine and non-exhaust sectoral emissions distribution over Europe and pilot cities

M14 (M3.3)      Top-down and bottom-up estimation of city-scale emission inventories

M15 (M3.4)      Improved modelling tools integrating regional and urban scales

M16 (M3.5)      Definition of metrics for sub-grid variability

M17 (M4.1)       Source apportionment started

M18 (M4.2)      Comparison NRT vs manual PMF in each pilot city

M19 (M4.3)      Aerosol number size distribution measurements

M20 (M4.4)     NRT data provision in operation

M21 (M4.5)     Mapping pollutants related to health effects

M22 (M4.6)     Start of sampling in health indicator pilot cities

M23 (M4.7)     Compilation of pilot datasets ready

M24 (M4.8)    Analysis of novel AQ metrics and source contributions

M25 (M4.9)     Setting up links with WPs 1-3

M26 (M4.10)  Detailed plan of the hotspot pilots

M27 (M4.11)   Pilot measurements  initiated

M28 (M4.12)  Pilot studies finished in 9 pilot cities

M29 (M5.1)     Overview of measurement data and pilots, recommendations for data curation

M30 (M5.2)    Overview of measurements and products on conditions and pollution above surface

M31 (M5.3)     QA/QC measures in the pilot activities defined

M32 (M5.4)    First workshop with AQMNs and/or AQUILA network

M33 (M5.5)    Toolbox for AQ models over urban areas

M34 (M5.6)    Upgrading source apportionment tool

M35 (M5.7)    Meeting with stakeholders regarding status and needs

M36  (M5.8)   Guidance for co-design with stakeholders

M37 (M6.1)    Establish contacts with AQ-competent administrations and private companies to maximise the RI-URBANS impacts

M38 (M6.2)   Establish contact with EU and international agencies on AQ and AQ-health

M39 (M7.1+M7.2+M7.4+M7.5) Communication tools and procedures set up

M40 (M7.3)   Project kick-off meeting

M41 (M7.4)    RI-URBANS science meeting

M42 (M7.5)    RI-URBANS workshop for stakeholders and science devised in WP6

M43 (M7.6)   Project mid-term meeting

M44 (M7.7)   Project final meeting for AQ stakeholders and partners

M45 (M8.1)   Operative project structure (including the setting up of the Coordination, Executive, Advisory and Stakeholder Boards)

M46 (M8.2)  Questionnaire for final impact evaluation of RIURBANS


In the course of transferring advanced observation and modelling tools from the research infrastructures to air quality monitoring networks and implementing them successfully into the associated operational framework, research is needed and innovation will be created across many parts of the project.

Our key ambitions on innovation:

  • Developing near real-time source apportionment for non-refractory particulate matter speciation and black carbon

  • Near real-time data access to nanoparticle size distribution

  • Source apportionment of nanoparticles

  • Evaluating the impact of air pollution in health

  • Mapping nanoparticles concentrations using mobile units

  • Offline and online measurements of oxidative potential to trace toxicological patterns

  • Linking highly advanced vertical atmospheric measurements with urban air quality services and modelling tools

Engagement with stakeholders

RI-URBANS counts with a Stakeholder Board, which is integrated by a representative from the nine major air quality monitoring networks involved in the
pilots, and from experts of the European Environment Agency, the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, and the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme.

Their major role is to enhance the participation and interaction with the monitoring networks involved in the project and the major agencies related to air quality and health, specifically to comment on the RI-URBANS pilot development, pilot outcomes, data products, and their interoperability.

Management structure

Ensuring an effective implementation of the project

The RI-URBANS management structure and bodies are devised to:

  • Coordinate and manage the project activities in administrative, technical, and financial terms.
  • Ensure the quality of the project outcomes, implementing internal and external review processes.
  • Assess and mitigate the project-related risks and troubleshoot arising problems.
  • Ensure communication between the consortium and the European Commission, and between the project partners.

Ensuring equal-opportunity recruitment

RI-URBANS adopts several strategies in the recruitment, selection, and career progression processes to ensure that women and men get equal chances to develop and advance their careers.

Gantt Chart

Check out the RI-URBANS project workflow that depicts start-end months for WPs and tasks, and expected delivery months for deliverables and milestones.