Baltic Science Network Rests Committed to Spreading ExcellenceEstonia, the pioneer of digital innovation and e-society, hosted the key Baltic Science Network seminar on spreading excellence and widening participation in Tallinn, the second most innovative capital of the EU. Discussions which took place at the beginning of the second phase of the Network´s implementation gave a notable contribution to the overall understanding of which existing initiatives and potential new measures should be combined to enhance the research potential across the Baltic Sea Region.

On 15 November 2017, the Baltic Science Network (BSN) held a Steering Committee meeting. One of the key themes was the concluding discussion on the joint non-paper dedicated to the Framework Programme 9. Likewise, the Network members shared initial thoughts on the future guiding thematic areas of joint transnational strategies themed as welfare state, photon and neutron sciences and life sciences. These suggested broad thematic areas serve as the initial point of departure. Consequently, expert groups will be established that will hone the exact niche of common interest. In order to enrich the Network´s awareness of the potential future support measures for research cooperation across the Baltic Sea Region, a brainstorming workshop facilitated by Gaia Group, was held during the concluding phase of the BSN meeting.

On 16 November 2017, the BSN transnational seminar “New Tools for Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation in Research and Innovation Programmes” was held at the helm of the Estonian EU Presidency at the Art Museum of Estonia (Kumu).

The BSN transnational seminar was the most notable occasion of macro-regional discussions on widening measures implemented with the support of the EU Framework Programmes so far. While mapping the potential solutions to the existing challenges associated with the innovation gap in the EU, the Baltic Sea Region remained the overall focus area. In addition to the EU Framework Programmes, a special attention was turned to widening participation strand of some of the research cooperation programmes aligned with the European Research Area.

During her opening remarks Mailis Reps, Estonian Minister for Education and Research, elaborated on the importance of presenting sound arguments, once suggesting the development of new policy measures. Minister pointed out the importance of BSN and Baltic TRAM (Transnational Access in Macro-region), the two projects endorsed during the first CBSS Science Ministerial, as well as the BONUS Programme. Likewise, she pointed out the topicality of the CBSS Baltic 2030 Action Plan.

The main findings of the seminar were threefold, focusing on domestic research excellence, enhancing the complementarities between the existing support schemes as well as recognising the unique characteristics of challenges faced by the Baltic Sea Region in relation to the existing innovation gap.

It was re-affirmed that excellence should be first and foremost developed at home. Likewise, the focus should be kept on people as the main catalysers of innovation. The driving force behind a research excellence ambition should stem from setting long-term goals and investing time in building networks. It was stressed that the EU13 challenges affect EU15 as well, since all institutions are interested in benefiting from the cooperation with EU-based institutions which represent a growing research competitiveness and renowned expertise.

While acknowledging that the overall support schemes´ landscape is very dense and not the easiest to navigate, participants recognised the value of exploring further complementarities of research support schemes of the Cohesion Policy and the EU Framework Programme and other means. One of the promising starting points in terms of aligning the joint activities with relevant thematic transnational and European commitments taken up by the BSN members is the Network´s contribution to the implementation of the EU Global Strategy, as pointed out by Indrek Reimand, Deputy Secretary General at the Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia. Gunnel Gustafsson, Director of NordForsk, presented lessons learnt from the Nordic cooperation which could bear relevance to the Baltic Sea Region-wide setting. Anders Bergstrӧm, Coordinator of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) Policy Area Education, Research and Employability (PA Education), expressed readiness to explore support measures which would help to enhance the drafting skills for the EU Framework Programme´s project applications.

The challenges to widening participation and the reasons behind the persisting dissimilarities in innovation performance in EU were discussed among speakers with many suggestions of specific solutions. Kadri Ukrainski from the University of Tartu presented to the conference attendants the key findings of the BSN research paper “Participation in ERA and Baltic Sea RDI Initiatives and Activities: Analysis and Policy Implications for Widening Participation of Strong and Moderate Innovators”.

The BSN Tallinn seminar allowed to explain to the wider audiences the newly introduced term “functional proximity”. It is tailored for assessing to what degree the innovation and knowledge generation capacities are of a compatible character, thus making cooperation easier including lower transaction costs. Similar institutional and governance structures can contribute to increasing functional proximity. In other words, functional proximity reflects the orientation towards similar focuses e.g. processes and end-products. Currently, the Baltic Sea Region is characterized by a low level of functional proximity. However, if applied in a careful manner the concept could facilitate the passage of the Baltic Sea Region towards offering solutions for an inclusive research excellence development. 

BSN´s second phase of implementation will be guided by the encouraging words offered both by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) of the European Commission. Namely, Wolfgang Burtscher, representing DG RTD, brought the audience´s attention to the simple fact that Europe´s talent pool is everywhere. However, unlocking its full potential requires time due to the fact that networking and finding the most appropriate cooperation partners is not a speedy process. Rudolf Niessler, representing DG REGIO, noted the importance of further supporting the engagement of researchers and enterprises in the international communities of innovators, which shape the overall understanding of technological development. He pointed out that there was a gap in funding and supporting companies until they can fully commercialize their product. Thus, a suggestion to design in the next upcoming financial framework of INTERREG a tailored strand to address this matter was presented for a wider consideration.

Photo credit: Aron Urb, Foto-Orants OÜPhoto credit: Aron Urb, Foto-Orants OÜ

Besides the earlier mentioned speakers, a wealth of other perspectives on which niches might serve to advance the Baltic Sea Region´s research excellence, were presented, for example, circular economy, bio-economy, agriculture and civil engineering to name a few. The seminar also testified to the overall understanding that further advancement of research excellence is inseparable from national financial contributions as well as acknowledgement of achievements reached both by pulling together national resources, as well as benefiting from the Cohesion Policy instruments and the EU Framework Programmes. The BSN Tallinn seminar was concluded by highlighting the commitment of the macro-region to build stronger and more competitive Europe. Seminar´s moderator Andres Koppel, slightly paraphrasing the widely cited saying of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, closed that the Baltic Sea Region should ask not what Europe can do for the macro-region, but what the macro-region in a joint fashion can do for Europe.

Videos of the BSN Tallinn seminar panels are available on the YouTube channel of the Estonian Information Technology College:

Photos of the BSN Tallinn seminar are available on the CBSS Flickr account here.

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Download the pdf Conclusions (392 KB)

 

BSN Contributes to the Lithuanian Discussions on Widening Participation
 

On 21 November 2017, Baltic Science Network (BSN) “Study on Research Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region: Existing Networks, Obstacles and Ways Forward” was presented by Dr. Žilvinas Martinaitis, Research Manager at Visionary Analytics, during the conference “Widening Lithuanian Research Potential” hosted by the Research Council of Lithuania in Vilnius. The event was dedicated to the launch of the Lithuanian Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) office in Brussels (LINO).

Conference “Widening Lithuanian Research Potential” took place shortly after the BSN Tallinn seminar “New tools for spreading excellence and widening participation in research and innovation programmes” organised at the helm of the Estonian EU Presidency. Thus, it offered a much-awaited opportunity to present to the wider audiences the main take-aways of the BSN Tallinn seminar, which bear relevance to the Lithuanian aspirations in engaging more actively in the projects and research support measures offered by Horizon 2020 and the future Framework Programme 9.

“Widening Lithuanian Research Potential” wasn´t just an introspective event in terms of focusing solely on the Lithuanian research landscape and dynamics. The event benefited from insights presented by Ms Magda de Carli, Head of Unit for Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission.

Likewise, among the conference speakers was Dr. Ene Kadastik, Deputy Head of Research Policy Department, Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, who gave an outline of the Estonian engagement in Horizon 2020, as well as offered an insight in the research and innovation related agenda of the Estonian EU Presidency. “Widening Lithuanian Research Potential” allowed also to highlight the latest success of Estonia, being praised in the PISA 2015 ranking as the Europe´s best nation and the 6th best country globally in the evaluation of students´ problem solving skills.

In order to provide a more nuanced insight in the engagement of the Widening Member States (based in the Baltic Sea Region) in Horizon 2020 funded initiatives, a number of Teaming projects, Twinning projects and ERA Chairs´ implementers showcased their experience. For example, Teaming has sparked a change in the attitude towards research, putting emphasis on sustainability of the research findings and their impact on society.

In view of the BSN´s upcoming advocacy activities in Brussels, “Widening Lithuanian Research Potential” helped to establish closer ties with the Brussels-based actors of countries represented by the BSN.
 

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 BSN Presented to the Corporate Governance Experts

Baltic Science Network (BSN) was presented by its Polish representative, Angelika Kędzierska-Szczepaniak, Vice-Dean for Students and International Relations of the University of Gdańsk, to the attendants of the conference “Corporate Governance and Finance Conference”. The event took place on 19 – 20 October 2017. It was hosted by the Department of Corporate Finance of the University of Gdańsk.

Throughout the last months, the University of Gdańsk has promoted BSN among the guests of its hosted conferences, such as “Value Management” and “Modelling and Forecasting the National Economy”. Therefore, the University of Gdańsk is praised as one of the most active BSN members which continuously supports a dynamic dialogue with wider audiences regarding the goals and activities of BSN, a renowned macro-regional initiative.

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The first BONUS Symposium brought about new evidences and knowledge for improved management of marine living resources in the Baltic Sea. The research findings discussed during this event are of potential relevance to the Baltic Science Network and its ongoing exploration of blue growth´s role in researchers’ mobility.

The first BONUS symposium titled “Science delivery for sustainable use of the Baltic Sea living resources” was held in Tallinn. Initiated by the BONUS INSPIRE project coordinator Dr. Henn Ojaveer, and organised together with BONUS BIO-C3 project, the event focused on science delivery not only for the scientific community around the Baltic Sea but also, through stakeholder panel discussions, for the policy-relevant cross-sectoral audience of key end users. Three days were split into four sessions offering 72 oral presentations and 35 poster presentations.

The opening speech was delivered by Dr. Tarmo Soomere, President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. Dr. Andris Andrušaitis welcomed the 150 participants from 14 different countries on behalf of BONUS Secretariat and in the capacity of Chair of the Symposium’s Scientific Committee.

As an excellent example of clustering and cooperation, ten ongoing BONUS projects - BONUS INSPIRE, BIO-C3, GOHERR, BALTICAPP, BAMBI, BLUEWEBS, CHANGE, BALTCOAST, OPTIMUS and INTEGRAL - contributed to the symposium, as well as two BONUS+ projects ECOSUPPORT and IBAM through their earlier data. This was very welcomed in a recent paper by Pauline Snoeijs, Steve Bernard, Mike Elliott et al. “Towards better integration of environmental science in society: Lessons from BONUS”, and is a strong evidence of collaborative projects, such as in BONUS, tending to produce better quality papers than the single-team papers.

Such findings are also of relevance to Baltic Science Network (BSN) which serves as an EUSBSR Policy Area Education flagship and a notable macro-regional network for national science and research ministries. The initial BSN research findings presented during its most recent BSN Steering Committee meeting evidenced further that there is a strong support to life sciences and in particular marine sciences in the Baltic Sea region. This niche expertise is further supported by a good academic track record in terms of outstanding academic publications.

A distinct characteristic of the entire BONUS symposium was a brilliant integration of applied research (need-to-know) with exciting curiosity stories (nice-to-know), as summarized by Dr Andrušaitis. Although the symposium mainly dealt with the need-to-know questions, the abstract book offers further insight in the wealth of research collected in preparations ahead of the Symposium. The importance of knowledge synthesis was underlined by Dr. Jason Link, Prof. Dr. Herman Hummel, as well as Prof. Adriaan Rijnsdorp.

The symposium ended with closing words by Dr. Kaisa Kononen, director of the BONUS Secretariat informing the audience about the very recently published and very positive final evaluation of BONUS.

Further information about the Symposium, as well as future updates on a synthesis paper that is being developed based on the stakeholder panel discussions of the Symposium will be made available through the Symposium website here.

This BSN release is largely based on the BONUS news available at www.bonusportal.org.

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BSN BSRUN Riga Forum

Photo credit: University of Latvia

On 19 October 2017, Baltic Science Network was noted during the Annual Forum 2017 of the Baltic Sea Region University Network "Universities as the bridge between East and West" held in Riga. The event was hosted by the University of Latvia.

Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the Council of the Baltic Sea States´ (CBSS) Secretariat, during her presentation of the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda elaborated on the Baltic Science Network (BSN) bearing relevance in the context of the implementation of focus area “Quality Education & Lifelong Learning” of the CBSS Baltic 2030 Action Plan.

Among the speakers of the event were the BSN Finnish representatives, Irinja Paakkanen, Head of International Affairs, and Mari Leino, Planning Officer of the University of Turku. They elaborated on the mobility programmes implemented by the University of Turku during the presentation “Implementing University Strategy in Mobility Programmes”. 

Prof Krzysztof Bielawski, Vice-rector for Development of the University of Gdańsk, was also among the participants of the Forum. University of Gdańsk is the Polish BSN member, which was nominated for the participation in the Network by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland.

Baltic Sea Region University Network is one of the BSN members.

Photo album of the Forum is accessible here.

Full programme of the Forum is accessible here.

 

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Baltic Science Network marks another step closer towards the finalisation of its national action plans by presenting to the wider readership the study “Participation in ERA and Baltic Sea RDI Initiatives and Activities: Analysis and Policy Implications for Widening Participation of Strong and Moderate Innovators”.

The statistics on the Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (FP7) suggests that the ‘performance’ of most of the new Member States (EU-13) of the European Union (EU) falls short of that of the old EU Member States (EU-15). The survey conducted by Visionary Analytics “Study on Research Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region: Existing Networks, Obstacles and Ways Forward” also confirms this finding. In order to unfold the full potential of the new EU Member States to the benefit of the overall EU competitiveness over other regions of the world it is important to design additional tools to improve participation of EU-13 in the science cooperation programmes supporting the European Research Area. This line of thinking also entails a position that quotas or other direct forms of positive discrimination should be avoided.

Figure 4: Success rates in H2020

Baltic Science Network (BSN) with the INTERREG Baltic Sea Region (BSR) Programme´s support is undergoing an extensive research, which unravels the reasons behind the low participation of the majority of EU-13 located in the BSR. The main finding of the latest BSN survey is that the lack of functional proximity is the main challenge hampering more active RDI cooperation among relevant peers based in the BSR.

First, the barriers for collaboration were determined by Visionary Analytics. Thereafter solutions to improve the current situation were sought for in the latest published survey “Participation in ERA and Baltic Sea RDI Initiatives and Activities: Analysis and Policy Implications for Widening Participation of Strong and Moderate Innovators” co-authored by Ukrainski, Karo, Kirs and Kanep. Novel and forgotten measures for increasing cooperation are reflected on, and policy interventions are suggested.

Namely, the study proposes two types of new instruments aimed at increasing the functional proximity across the BSR as well as improving top-down coordination of regional RDI actions to respond to the global, EU-wide and macroregion-specific developments and societal challenges. The instruments are divided into sticks (regulatory instruments), carrots (economic instruments), and sermons (communication instruments).

For the BSR, the joint research beyond the current interests, such as RDI related to the conditions of the Baltic Sea itself, need to be defined and agreed (‘sticks’) and communicated (‘sermons’), but also promoted through joint representation at the EU level. Novel instruments, serving as 'carrots', for speeding-up a bottom-up cooperation should be introduced, such as:

  • BSN research prizes;
  • 2nd best funding grants for good quality applications which were not granted the funding of the European Research Council or H2020 but were recognised of having a considerable importance to the macro-regional research advancement. It would serve as a BSR-specific, so to say, sister award resembling the Europe-wide Seal of Excellence, which was outlined also during the BSN Riga workshop;
  • virtual service-centres and shared service-centres.

The BSN latest study is recommended as a suggested reading for all the experts interested in staying up to date with the latest developments of EU-13 and widening measures discussed in the context of the future (9th) EU Framework Programme. Likewise, the publication bears relevance in the context of the 2018 – 2020 time frame of the H2020 implementation, which will be characterised by intensified efforts to spread excellence and broaden participation across Europe.

Both latest BSN studies will be presented in the transnational seminar “New Tools for Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation in Research and Innovation Programmes” on 16 November 2017 in Tallinn. Readers interested in joining the event are invited to proceed to the online registration for the seminar which will be closing on 31 October 2017.

The full Working Paper is accessible here.

The Executive Summary of the study paper is accessible here.

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