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Safety is freedom, from unaffordable harm, and, thus, a human right. For this reason, the risk problem goes far back in history, and its assessment and management have always been a challenge for humankind. On the other hand, the related scientific field is relatively young, driven by the evolution of the exposure of Society and the World to natural, technological and anthropomorphic hazards.

Risk assessment and management have been the dominant paradigm for the design and operation of safe systems. Examples of areas of applications include the chemical process industry, the nuclear industry, the transportation sectors, the aerospace industry etc.  Risk assessment and management is a mature discipline. Structured risk assessment and management guides analysts to identify possible hazards/threats, analyze their causes and consequences, and describe risk, typically quantitatively and with a proper representation of uncertainties. In the assessment, the analysts make assumptions and simplifications, collect and analyze data, and develop and use models to represent the phenomena studied. For example, the failure modes of components due to a given earthquake, the heat fluxes on a structure due to a fire, the response of operators to an accident are all the results of conceptual models that attempt to mimic how a real accident would proceed, based on the knowledge available. The risk assessment involves the consideration of thousands of scenarios with multiple failures, thus providing an in-depth understanding of the system failure modes with consequent increase of the awareness on risk and the attention to safety, which typically leads to an overall improvement of the safety of the system.

Although the basic ideas and foundational principles forming the basis for the scientific field and the building blocks for the risk assessment and management practice today have been around since the 1970s and 1980s, the field has developed considerably since then and continue to do so. New and more sophisticated analysis methods and techniques have been developed, and risk analytical approaches and methods are now used in many societal sectors.

Advances are still being made in the risk field in its
two directions: (i) Science:  performing research on and developing the concepts, theories, frameworks, approaches, principles, methods and models to understand, characterize, assess, communicate and manage risk  (ii) Engineering: using risk assessment and risk management to study and treat the risk from specific activities and phenomena. The scientific part (i) provides the concepts and the tools for the engineering specific assessment and management of (ii).

But actually, the World keeps rapidly changing in many ways. Nowadays, digitalization is bringing new opportunities of connectivity, monitoring and awareness, and is changing the way we communicate and socially behave. Mobility and social pressure are changing the landscape in which we live and operate. Continuous advancements in technical knowledge and technology are improving our production processes, products and services, as well as our environments, while changing the business and work/job scenarios. As the digital, physical and human worlds continue to integrate, we experience a deep transformation in industry, which far-reaches into our lives. The 4th industrial revolution, the internet of things and big data, the industrial internet, are changing the way we design, manufacture, supply products and services, the way we move and live in our environment. This is creating a complex network of things and people that are seamlessly connected and communicating. It is providing opportunities to make production systems and services more efficient and faster, and more flexible and resilient the complex supply chains and distribution networks that tie the global economy. In this fast-pace changing environment, the attributes related to the reliability of components and systems continue to play a fundamental role for industry, and those related to safety and security continue to be increasingly of concern, as a right to freedom from harm. The innovations that are being developed have high potential of increased wellbeing and benefits, but also generate new and unknown failure mechanisms, hazards and risks, partly due also to new and unknown functional and structural dependencies. On the other hand, the advancements in knowledge, methods and techniques, the increase in information sharing, data availability and computational capabilities, and the advancements in knowledge that these can bring, offer new opportunities of development for the analysis and assessment of risks. An evolution of risk assessment and management is in the making, or perhaps even a “revolution” that takes the form of new approaches to and methods for risk assessment.

Considering the above context, new directions are shaping the road of advancement of risk assessment and management, based on: 1. the recognition that the knowledge, information and data (KID) available for analyzing and characterizing hazards, and for modeling and computing risk are substantially grown and continue to do so; 2. the evidence that the modeling capabilities and computational power available have significantly advanced and allow unprecedented analysis with previously infeasible methods; 3. the concern on the increased complexity of the systems, nowadays more and more made of heterogeneous elements (hardware, human, digital) organized in highly interconnected structures and whose behavior is difficult to anticipate or predict, driven by unexpected events and corresponding emerging unknown responses of the system as a whole; 4. the realization that to manage risk in a systematic and effective way it is necessary to consider together all phases of the potential accident scenarios that may occur, including prevention, mitigation, emergency crisis management and restoration, and that this entails an extended vision of risk assessment for an integrated framework of business continuity (with respect to production reliability and availability) and resilience (with respect to safety); 5. the acknowledgment that risk varies significantly over time and so may also the conditions and effectiveness of the prevention, protection and mitigation measures installed.

In line with this perspective, the Sino-French Laboratory on Risk Science and Engineering (RISE) has been established to take up these directions of development of risk assessment and management, and contribute to the challenges associated to the development of our world.