Keynote Speaker
Dr. Phoebe Koundouri, Professor

Dr. Phoebe Koundouri, Professor

Department of International & European Economic Studies, Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece
Speech Title: The role of Big Data in the Transition to Sustainability

Abstract: The European Green Deal (EGD) is the growth strategy for Europe, covering an extensive range of areas, including Climate Action, Energy, Agriculture, Industry and Infrastructure, Environment and Biodiversity, Transportation, Finance and Development, and Research and Innovation. At the same time, the political leadership of Europe has explicitly committed to integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the European policy framework and economic agenda. The 17 SDGs derive from the UN Agenda 2030 and serve as the blueprint for developing national/continent/global investment programs for poverty eradication and sustainable development on a global scale by 2030.
In 2020, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN), established a Senior Working Group (SWG), consisting of distinguished academics and representatives of international organizations, in an effort to support the European policymakers in the joint implementation of the EGD and the 17 SDGs and help them in the new challenging regulatory framework.
In its 2nd Annual Report, the SWG proposed two text-mining methodologies - A human-based and a (deep) Machine Learning-based- to analyse EGD policy documents and assess their alignment with the Agenda 2030 and the 6 Transformations for operationalizing the SDGs introduced by Sachs et al. 2019. Further, the SWG built the connection between EGD/SDGs implementation and the need to measure, monetize and integrate into investment assessment processes, Natural and Social Capital. Through a meta-regression analysis of values extracted from existing empirical studies, an ecosystem-based benefits-transfer valuation approach was developed using a value transfer function, to assign economic values to Natural Capital across the 14 biogeographical and marine areas of Europe and the importance of bringing them into investment and financial decisions were highlighted.
In this Keynote Speech, Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, the lead author of SDSN SWG’s annual reports, outlines the framework around the transition to Sustainability, explains the massive work being done by the cluster of Institutions she directs (AE4RIA) in this regard, and highlights the crucial role that Information Technology and Big Data technologies have in supporting an effective “Green and Digital” transition. The objectives of the 17 SDGs are complex, interrelated, and very demanding of the scientific foundations on which their implementation relies; and Big Data algorithms are required for their ability to process huge amounts of data in a logical time frame, supporting in this way the extraction of valuable insights from unstructured forms of information and facilitating a reliable process of monitoring the SDGs achievement at global, national and local levels.

Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals, European Green Deal, Big Data algorithms, Machine Learning, Ecosystems Valuation

Biography: Prof. Phoebe Koundouri is a world-renowned environmental economics professor and global leader in sustainable development. She is widely recognized as a pioneer in innovative, human-centric, interdisciplinary systems for the sustainable interaction between nature, society, and the economy. Prof. Koundouri is listed in the most-cited women economists in the world, with 15 published books and more than 300 published peer reviewed scientific papers.
Prof. Koundouri is University Professor (the university’s highest academic rank) at the School of Economics, Athens University of Economics and Business, an elected fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (World Academy of Art & Science) and the President-elect of the European Association of Environmental and Natural Resource Economists for the period 2019-2025 (EAERE -with more than 1200 scientific member institutions, from more than 75 different countries).
Prof. Koundouri is the Founder and Scientific Director of the Research Laboratory on Socio-Economic and Environmental Sustainability (ReSEES) ( at Athens University of Economics and Business, focusing on interdisciplinary research on socio-economic and environmental systems. She is also Affiliated Professor at the ATHENA Research and Innovation Center, where she founded and scientifically directs the Sustainable Development Unit and the EIT Climate-KIC Hub Greece ( of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (, the latter focusing on accelerating technological and social innovations for use in the transition to a climate neutral economy.
Prof. Koundouri is also the co-Chair of United Nations Sustainable Development Network (UN SDSN) -Europe ( The leadership of UN SDSN-Europe is constituted from existing National SDSN European networks and its mission is to serve as a science driven interface with European Commission policymaking. Prof. Koundouri is also the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Centre for Research on the Environment and the Economy (ICRE8) ( and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Forest Institute (
Prof. Koundouri is one of the Commissioners of the prestigious Lancet Commission on COVID-19 ( for which she co-chairs the "Jobs-based Green Recovery” Task Force. She leads the UN SDSN Senior Working Group on "Transformation Pathways for the implementation of EGD and the SDGs", co-leads the UN SDSN Sustainable Shipping and Ports and Shipping Initiative, and the UN SDSN 4-seas (Mediterranean, Black, Caspian and Aral Seas) Blue Growth Initiative. She is a member of the CEPR (Center for Economic Policy Research) Network (RPN) on Climate Change ( , member of the Priministerial Committee for the Recovery and 10-year Development Plan of Greece, the National Climate Change Committee of the Greece, as well as chair or member of numerous European and International Scientific, Research and Policy Boards and Committees.
Prof. Koundouri acts as a scientific advisor to the European Commission, World Bank, European Investment Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, OECD, UN, NATO, and WHO, etc. numerous national and international foundations and organizations, as well as national governments across the world. Also, Prof. Koundouri is editorial board member of more than 20 prestigious scientific journals.
Since 1997, she has coordinated more than 100 interdisciplinary research projects, in all five continents, focused on combinations of Sustainable Development, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, Behavioural Economics and Econometrics, Economics of Wellbeing and Happiness, Natural Resource-Food-Energy Nexus, Smart Water Systems, Ecosystem Services Valuation, Blue Growth, Circular Economy, Systems Innovation, Innovation Acceleration and Commercialization, and has attracted significant competitive research funding. Prof. Koundouri and her large interdisciplinary team (more than 200 researchers) have produced research and policy results that have contributed to accelerating research and innovation for the enablement of Sustainable Development and has contributed to shaping European and National policies.
Over the last two decades, Professor Koundouri has given keynote and public lecturers, at high level forums all over the world, and received various prizes for academic excellence, including best paper awards, highest policy impact paper, European Research project award, etc. as well as the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Synergy Grant (2020-2027) ( , which focuses on design of the next generation of urban water systems, via the combination of water science, systems and control theory, economics, decision-science and machine learning. This is the biggest research project in the world at the moment working on urban water systems.
Prior to joining the Athens University of Economics and Business, Professor Koundouri has held academic positions at the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Reading and London School of Economics. Prof. Koundouri holds a PhD and MPhil in Economics and Econometrics from the University of Cambridge (UK). For her studies she received a full scholarship from the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.