[Theme in Focus] Project management skills for a successful WBC integration in the ERA, WBC-RTI.info Newsletter, April 2018

Project management skills and research administration competences are to be considered as one of the prerequisites for successful WBC integration into the ERA. Sometimes young entrepreneurial-minded people are perceived as ‘agents of change’ in their own countries. Nevertheless these young managers still claim to be less well-versed in basics topics related to research project administration. Networks of research managers such as COST TN1302 BESTPRAC can play a key role in such a context and enable officers of the member societies to compare their national or regional issues, and to learn from each other as explained us Ms Andjela Pepic. As most frequently mentioned barriers, young project managers in RTDI field include the lack of proper training programmes, the need for more practical courses within higher education institutions, the missing links between academia, research and business sectors, etc. This is what moreover Mr. Gabor Szüdi – project coordinator of Excellence-in-RESTI (Excellence in research, social and technological innovation project management) reported us in an interview ....

Project management skills and research administration competences are to be considered as one of the prerequisites for successful WBC integration into the ERA.
The role of research administrators in universities or institutions is now more important than ever while the nature of research management and project administration is changing, and it is becoming more professional. Timely and accurate administrative support is indeed essential to obtain and execute sponsored-research projects. Research administrators shall be capable of guiding a project from inception to positive completion, while coordinating processes and systems guide and encourage people to successfully perform a specific work-plan. In such a context, people are fundamental to create successful projects. The major purpose of project management should be thus to align and motivate people and to support their decision-making. It is people's skills, creative insights and performance that will ultimately lead to project success, not a number or a graph.

Networks of research managers can play a key role in such a context and enable officers of the member societies to compare their national or regional issues, and to learn from each other. As Andjela Pepic - Chair of the COST TN1302 BESTPRAC – told WBC-RTI.INFO “there is a whole community of research administrators eager to share their knowledge and experiences learning from each other on best practices and weaknesses in administrative, financial and legal aspects of EU projects’ implementation” Indeed, more than 500 research administrators from 40 countries established a Targeted Network funded under the COST Programme entitled “The Voice of Research Administrators - Building a Network of Administrative Excellence – BESTPRAC” (started in October 2013 – ending in October 2019).

Read here the article by Ms Pepic for more information on BESTPRACT and understand how research administrators are sharing their experience in administrating EU funded projects on European-wide scale, offering practical tools for project management and administration, as well as providing best practices exchange.

It must be moreover noticed that sometimes, young entrepreneurial-minded project managers are perceived as ‘agents of change’ in their own countries. Nevertheless these young managers still claim to be less well-versed in basics topics related to research project administration. As most frequently mentioned barriers, they include the lack of proper training programmes, the need for more practical courses within higher education institutions, the missing links between academia, research and business sectors, etc. This is what Mr. Gabor Szüdi – project coordinator of Excellence-in-RESTI (Excellence in research, social and technological innovation project management) reports us in the following interview. Read below to learn more about this Interreg DTP funded activity, that started from the mapping of missing skills and competences related to the management of technological, social and research-based innovation projects in all Danube Region countries and is eventually developing  both online modules to increase the competences of those managers of technological, social and research-based innovation projects as well as an Infodesk Service with extensive knowledge base on project management issues, tools and calls for proposals, etc.

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Q1 - Excellence-in-ReSTI is a project aiming at increasing the competences of those managers of technological, social and research-based innovation projects. Briefly said, you provide support to the young project managers and administrators in public and private R&D&I institutions for a better quality of all kinds of innovation projects. Your project covers the Danube Area but we would like to listen about the specific skills that are not fully developed yet in the WB countries participating in it. How would you describe the state of the art in those countries?

One of our activities involves the analysis of missing project management skills and competences in the whole Danube Region so as we can provide the most tailor-made e-learning offer to our future participants in the Excellence-in-ReSTI pilot training programme.

The data has been collected through an extensive survey and stakeholder interview process (almost 1,000 survey replies were received and more than 200 interviews were conducted in the Danube Region), and the analysis is still ongoing; however, what we can already see that the young project managers and administrators in WBC countries (in our case Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro) claim to be much less well-versed in basics topics such as EU funding landscape, grant application writing or partner search and consortium-building than their counterparts in EU Member States within Danube Region.

This is related to our other finding that both formal and non-formal training programmes are much less in WBC countries therefore interested people are in a tougher position to acquire relevant knowledge.

Q2 - Is the figure of project administration recognized? Do organisations understand the need for qualified research project administrators? What are the barriers still to overcome?

Our findings show that almost all organisations understand the ever-growing need for qualified research project administrators; many of our interviewees from WBC countries explicitly underlined that the abundance of such qualified workforce in private companies and public authorities is essential prerequisite for the successful EU integration. Some of them considered these young entrepreneurial-minded people as ‘agents of change’ in their own country or region.

Nevertheless, WBC countries were much less optimistic about the chances of capacity-building than their counterparts in EU Member States within Danube Region. The most frequently mentioned barriers included the lack of proper training programmes, the need for more practical courses within higher education institutions, the missing links between academia, research and business sectors, and – on a more political level – the insufficient funding and too bureaucratic governance and administrative structures.

Q3 - Could you describe the strategy you follow as well as the specific activities you initiate to raise local expertise?

The general logic of the project is that first we mapped the missing skills and competences related to the management of technological, social and research-based innovation projects in all Danube Region countries through desk research, stakeholder interviews and a survey. Based on the data gathered and analysed, we elaborate a novel blended learning programme tailor-made for the actual needs and requirements of our main stakeholders, i.e. young graduates and early-stage project managers (as well as taking into account the views of more experienced stakeholders).

Our call for selecting the best pilot training applicants is currently ongoing in all Danube Region countries (deadline: 10 June) and all our partners have to organize local dissemination events to get applicants from as many places as possible. With this local engagement, we intend to have the broadest participant base possible and, in case our pilot training proves to be a success, after the project our Excellence-in-ReSTI curriculum can be offered as part of academic programmes at different regional and local settings.

Q4 - Project administration is a wider concept including financial administration, planning and managing logistics for research activities, communications, etc. Do you focus in particular on any of project administration related subjects? What about the networking between research project administrators?

We are currently developing 5 blended learning modules that cover the most important missing research project management skills and competences in the Danube Region. Our second module deals with project design, while our third module with project management. Within these modules we offer specific courses about budget development, financial management and reporting, IPR or communication, dissemination and exploitation. So we are really offering courses covering topics within the widest concept of project management and administration.

Our project is active in the capitalization process of the Danube Transnational Programme: Excellence-in-ReSTI belongs to the 3rd thematic pole (“Entrepreneurial Learning Systems”) of the with 4 other projects (lead by Hungarian Lead Partner of project SENSES, IFKA Public Non-profit Ltd.). We are in a constant networking and synergy-building effort to foster cooperation between key stakeholders in the Danube Region (participation in events, as well as common activities and publications), aided by the Joint Secretariat of the programme. In addition, we also seek to network and find synergies with DTP projects in other poles, such as project EDU-LAB which is also dealing with an innovative e-learning solution.

Q5 - What shall be the final output of Excellence-in-ReSTI? Can you already boast some mid term results/ achievements? Any practical tools that WBC project managers could benefit from?

The final output of Excellence-in-ReSTI is a 5-module (20-course) innovative online blended learning programme aimed specifically at young graduates and early-stage R&D&I project managers. This will be tested through a 1-year pilot training programme with around 25 funded participants (who will attend 3 face-to-face courses during their online learning).

At project mid-term we are well advanced in developing our online modules, as well as background analysis report. However I would highlight one of our more visible outcomes, which is the InfoDesk service available at https://desk.zoho.eu/portal/excellenceinresti

The Infodesk offers an extensive knowledge base on project management issues, tools and calls for proposals. It also offers a chance to self-test your knowledge in various research and innovation topics. It is worth checking out if you have a research project idea or plan to submit a new research project, or are just generally interested in the topic.

But the most innovative InfoDesk feature is our ticket submission system, where all interested people have a chance to submit a question on a wide range of R&D&I project management related topics which will be answered by one of our experts. So if there is a relevant question you cannot find the answer anywhere else please give a try to our Question and Answer service at the above link!


 

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Document type
  • Discussion paper
Language

English

Publication Year

2018

Geographical focus
  • WBC
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Admin WBC-RTI.info on June 22, 2018
Modified on June 22, 2018