Technology has a major impact on the nature of crime. Criminals are quickly integrating new technologies into their modus operandi or building brand-new business models around them. At the same time, emerging technologies create opportunities for law enforcement to counter these new criminal threats. Thanks to technological innovation, law enforcement authorities can now access an increased number of more suitable tools to fight crime. When exploring these new tools, respect for fundamental rights must remain a key consideration.
Europol was mandated by the Justice and Home Affairs ministers from all the EU Member States at the end of 2019 to create an Innovation Lab to support the law enforcement community in the area of innovation.
The Lab aims to identify, promote and develop concrete innovative solutions in support of the EU Member States’ operational work. These will help investigators and analysts to make the most of the opportunities offered by new technologies to avoid duplication of work, create synergies and pool resources.
The activities of the Lab are directly linked to the strategic priorities as laid out in Europol Strategy 2020+, which states that Europol shall be at the forefront of law enforcement innovation and research.
The Innovation Lab’s work
The work of the Europol Innovation Lab is organised around four pillars:
- The Lab manages projects to serve operational needs of the EU law enforcement community. These projects aim to turn the results fundamental research, prototypes and proof of concepts developed by Member States or external partners, into tools and concrete solutions. Projects can be initiated by Europol and/or by EU Member States in the framework of the EuCB (European Clearing Board for Innovation).
- In close cooperation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Interpol Innovation Centre, the Europol Innovation Lab Observatory monitors technological developments that are relevant for law enforcement. The Observatory analyses and reports on the risks, threats and opportunities of these emerging technologies.
- The Lab maintains networks of experts from industry, civil society, international organisations, academia, and law enforcement. The networks provide input to the Lab’s various activities.
- The EU Innovation Hub for Internal Security is a collaborative network of innovation labs from other EU agencies. Europol hosts the secretariat of the EU Innovation Hub and a multi-agency group of EU agencies’ staff who run its daily operations. The Hub coordinates projects in the wider field of internal security. This includes border management, criminal justice and the security aspects of migration and customs. In the Hub, multiple organisations have joined forces: European Member States, Europol, Frontex, eu-LISA, Eurojust, FRA, EMCDDA, EIGE, EASO, CEPOL, JRC and the European Commission.
In this context, the Lab aims at leveraging innovation in its various activities. Examples include:
- Developing strategic partnerships that can deliver novel technological solutions to EU Member States;
- Setting ethical standards in the development of technical solutions and data governance;
- Fostering a culture of innovation in the EU law enforcement workforce;
- Advancing the EU law enforcement’s capability to detect data bias and manipulation;
- Promoting legislative, regulatory and compliance standards that facilitate the use of innovative technologies.
The Innovation Lab community on the Europol Platform for Experts (EPE) is open to police and innovation experts from EU Member States and countries with which Europol has an operational/strategic agreement. Particular sub-sites have a more restrictive user access policy.
If you have specific questions, or you would like to join the EPE, please contact: Innovation-Lab [at] europol.europa.eu