Themes

Here you can find information on different thematic areas and selected topics. All related articles from our databases are linked to each theme, which makes it easier to find all related information. Please NOTE: this section is work in progress and will be updated continously.

If you would like to suggest a specific topic of relevance for the Western Balkans, or contribute to one of the monthly topics (by sending your resarch paper, unpublished or published articles, by informing the comunity on related events, links, documents etc. – please do not hesitate to contact us any time at info@westernbalkans-infohub.eu and share your ideas and suggestions with us. 

  • POLICY ANSWERS: R&I Policy making, implementation and Support in the Western Balkans

    Fostering the stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans remains a key priority for the EU, especially taking into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has being hitting the Western Balkans societies and economies hard. As outlined in the European Commission´s priorities, green transition, digital transformation and an economy that works for people are crucial for relaunching and modernising the Western Balkans, helping to create jobs and growth, addressing the long-standing challenges faced by young people in the region such as limited job prospects, and inequality. Research, innovation, education and culture are essential drivers in this process - underpinned by evidence-based policy-making.

    In such a context, the EU project entitled POLICY ANSWERS - R&I POLICY making, implementation ANd Support in the WEsteRn BalkanS was launched on 1 March 2022 for a period of four years.

    This new initiative is funded under the Horizon Europe call “Support for R&I policy making in the Western Balkans" (HORIZON-WIDERA-2021-ACCESS-06-01) and it is positioned well in line with the EU’s Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (WB Innovation Agenda), outlining a comprehensive, long-term strategy for cooperation with the region, including an Action Plan for its implementation. Through increased investments, its elements and measures will contribute to the economic and societal development and cooperation in and with the region.

    POLICY ANSWERS focuses on the research and innovation (R&I) policy and governance systems, while also covering the aspects of education, culture, youth and sports. In the next four years, the project will monitor and support policy coordination within the EU-WB cooperation and will support the Western Balkans in strengthening their potential for successful participation in regional and multilateral research and innovation activities, to promote regional cooperation in R&I and to support networking and access to information and excellence.

    POLICY ANSWERS addresses these objectives through targeted project activities: 

    • Organising policy dialogue events (i.e. Ministerial and Steering Platform meetings; ad-hoc policy coordination meetings), offering room for exchange about policy implementation;
    • Carrying out analytical activities such as mapping of relevant institutions, programmes, initiatives, needs and common priorities in the WB; monitoring ongoing activities at different levels related to the implementation of the WB Agenda and progress made related to ERA integration; providing strategic informed recommendations for policy making and agenda setting;
    • Providing and coordinating capacity building and pilot actions in the WB to contribute to the region’s EU integration process and to strengthen their innovation ecosystems;
    • Designing informed policy recommendations to decision makers in the region in the areas of R&I, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport in addressing the EU’s key priorities such as digitalization, green economy and health and aligning them;
    • Implementing regional pilot activities, which reach out directly to academia, industry and civil society; creating new initiatives and initiating success stories at programme level;
    • Supplying an information hub and web platform addressing R&I, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport in the WB to enable better information sharing, create opportunities for joint actions and bring up the WB to EU policy making.

    All these activities are implemented by a variety of stakeholders from and beyond the WB region and in close liaison with the European Commission (EC), the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and other stakeholders invited in a Project Advisory Board (PAB), as well as associated partners.

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    To learn more on POLICY ANSWER and its activities, please visit regularly the present page. You can also reach the project coordination team by writing to policy-answers@westernbalkans-infohub.eu.

  • Widening in Horizon Europe

    Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence actions under the Horizon Europe programme are highly relevant for the Western Balkans. The programme builds on activities under the previous financing period.

    The objectives include:

    • to contribute to building research and innovation capacity of Member States, Associated Countries and Outermost Regions that underperform in terms of R&I performance;
    • strengthening their potential for successful participation in transnational research and innovation processes, promoting networking and access to excellence;
    • upgrading their research and innovation systems, making them stronger and allowing the EU as a whole to advance together, in line with the policy objectives of the European Research Area.

    The European Research Executive Agency (REA) implements six complementary actions: Teaming, Twinning (including Twinning Western Balkans), ERA Chairs, Excellence Hubs, the European Excellence Initiative (EEI), and the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST).

    All funding information and details on how to apply are on the Funding and Tenders portal.

    For additional information, please refer to the Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence page of the European Commission.

  • Green Deal | WB Green Agenda | Sustainable Development

    Europe aims to be among the leaders on the way in a transition towards an economy that gives more to the planet than it takes away. At global level, both ambition and action are needed in this critical decade, to ensure the implementation of the goals of the Paris Agreement and to reach climate neutrality in a sustainable way.  The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) is taking place from 6 to 18 November 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt to accelerate action towards such goals and those of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which celebrates the 30th anniversary of its adoption.

    The EU is pushing for a concrete and increased effort at global level to tackle the interconnected climate and biodiversity crises. With the European Green Deal, Europe´s goal is to becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Measures of the Green Deal accompanied with an initial roadmap of key policies range from ambitiously cutting emissions, to investing in cutting-edge research and innovation, to preserving Europe’s natural environment. From the pandemic and current crises, the EU has stayed on this track and even doubled down on the green transition to phase out its dependency on single-source fossil fuels through the accelerated roll-out of renewable energy, energy savings and the diversification of energy supplies (e.g NextGenerationEU and REPowerEU).

    The new EU Global Gateway strategy (2021 – 2027) supports the green transformation, investing in both mitigation and climate resilience. It also supports clean energy as a way to achieve the Sustainable Developments Goals and commitments of the Paris Agreement. Beyond the EU, the Green Deal EU standards in relation to environmental and climate challenges were also endorsed by the Western Balkans in the Sofia Summit of 2020 in the format of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, which is a reflection, extension and adaptation of the EU Green Deal tailored for the region. The Action Plan includes 58 actions and 7 roadmaps for implementation related to topics of climate policy, sustainable energy, sustainable mobility, circular economy, depollution, sustainable agriculture and food supply and protection of nature and biodiversity.

    Among others, the Plan envisions the adoption of the 2030 Energy and Climate Policy targets to include carbon pricing, coal phase-out plans, pollution control, nature, and biodiversity protection, regional integration, and an indicative timeframe for the harmonization with the EU Emissions Trading System as of 2024.

    Find out more about the developments on the Green Agenda in the Western Balkans, have a look at the Upcoming Horizon Europe calls on the Green Deal , and do not forget to check the related events and calls below!

  • Supporting SME Innovation

    Innovation is the key for productivity and long-term growth. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are on average less innovative face larger barriers on capital and labour markets than large enterprises, but some of them can be or become highly innovative and can reach productivity levels above those of large companies. Supporting innovation in SMEs can foster inclusive growth. Companies which develop and use their internal strategic resources effectively (e.g. managerial and workforce skills, ICT, R&D, etc.), and collaborate with external partners in the innovation system, have better innovation performance.  

    Given the specific circumstances SMEs are currently facing, countries have put measures in place to support them. With a major focus on public health, a wide array of measures are being introduced to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses. Specifically, many governments are urgently deploying measures to support SMEs and the self-employed during this severely challenging time, with a strong focus on initiatives to sustain short-term liquidity. Such policies take various shapes. Some countries have focused on more general policies that have the potential to cushion the blow for the economy and for all businesses, such as support from Central Banks in lending by alleviating monetary conditions and enabling commercial banks to provide more loans to SMEs.

    Authorities can support innovation in SMEs by fostering a sound business environment, helping them to fund, develop and use their internal strategic resources effectively, while building an innovation system including supporting services and that is effective in the commercialisation of research and inclusive of a large range of SMEs.

    Small and medium-sized enterprises account for 99.8 percent of all businesses across Europe. In 2018, there were over 25 million SMEs in Europe (EU-28), of which 93 percent were micro-enterprises (with fewer than 10 employees). They are considered by the European Commission to be the drivers of economic growth and innovation, the ones that can quickly transform research results into marketable and competitive products. Therefore, SME funding is an important building block of the European SME policy.

  • Cultural Cooperation with the Western Balkans for competitive cultural and creative industries

    The European Union (EU) is committed to promoting Europe’s diverse culture in its international relations. Promoting culture as a vital element in EU international relations has been one of the three main objectives of the European Agenda for Culture corresponding to social, economic and external dimensions. This dedication was renewed as part of the 2018 New European Agenda for Culture, which aims at:

    1. promoting the arts, culture and creative thinking in formal and non-formal education and training at all levels and in lifelong learning,
    2. fostering favourable ecosystems for cultural and creative industries,
    3. promoting access to finance, innovation capacity, fair remuneration of authors and creators and cross-sectoral cooperation,
    4. and promoting the skills needed by cultural and creative sectors, including digital, entrepreneurial, traditional and specialised skills.

    EU’s external strategy for culture

    The Joint Communication 'Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations' is the cornerstone of the EU’s international cultural cooperation. The strategy has three main objectives:

    1. Unlocking the potential of culture and creativity for sustainable social and economic development

    2. Promoting peace and fighting radicalisation through intercultural dialogue

    3. Strengthening cooperation on cultural heritage

    The EU fosters cultural cooperation and policy dialogue with countries outside the EU through regional groups, international organisations and bespoke relationships with individual countries.

    Candidate and potential candidate countries

    The EU's Creative Europe Programme supports Europe's cultural and creative sectors. The entire region participates the in the Culture sub-programme of Creative Europe.

    The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) supports the Western Balkans in their preparation for EU accession and facilitates cross-border cooperation, combining bilateral and regional support. Examples of actions under this instrument include the dedicated Call for cultural cooperation projects with the Western Balkans  leading to 13 new projects and joint fight against trafficking of cultural goods in the Western Balkans, jointly implemented by the EU and UNESCO.

    The Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) instrument and the Twinning programme.

    Interreg B, which supports transnational cooperation. Three of its programmes cover partially the Western Balkans (ADRION, DANUBE and Balkan-Mediterranean).

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    For more information please visit the original info source

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  • Youth | Science | Society

    Today, young people across Europe and the Western Balkans are facing diverse challenges and youth work in all its forms can serve as a catalyst for empowerment. The Western Balkans and the EU moreover share a demographic issue, albeit in a different sense: on the one hand, the so-called “brain drain” of highly skilled workers damages the economies and societies in the WBs, while on the other hand, the EU is facing an increased ageing of the population.

    Through its policies, the EU aims to give young people more equal opportunities in education and the job market, and to make sure they can participate fully in all areas of society. This is achieved through various means, notably by engaging in dialogue with young people and by fostering exchange, participation and skills development.

    The EU Youth Strategy represents the framework for EU youth policy cooperation 2019 – 2027. The EU Youth Strategy focuses on three core areas of action around the three words:

    • Engage: The EU Youth Strategy aims towards a meaningful civic, economic, social, cultural and political participation of young people.
    • Connect: Young people in Europe are getting more and more connected. Relations, connections, and exchange of experience are a pivotal asset for solidarity and the future development of the European Union. This connection is best fostered through different forms of mobility.
    • Empower: Empowerment of young people means encouraging them to take charge of their own lives.

    The EU Youth Strategy is based on several instruments, such as mutual learning activities, Future National Activities Planners, the EU Youth Dialogue, the EU Youth Strategy Platform, and evidence-based tools.

    The year 2021 marked the beginning of the new seven-year cycle of the EU programmes in the field of youth, namely the Erasmus+ Programme, youth chapter, and the European Solidarity Corps. The new Programmes are built on the achievements and good practices, but are also introducing new opportunities for young people and organisations working with them, for the development of youth work and European cooperation. Both Programmes emphasise the international dimension, providing opportunities also for young people and actors in the field of youth in the Programme’s Partner countries.

    2022 was proclaimed the European Year of Youth (EYY 2022) by the European Parliament and the Council, in order to Renewing the positive perspectives for young people, while highlighting how the green and digital transitions and other Union policies offer opportunities for young people. Tirana is the European Youth Capital for 2022. Under the slogan "Activate Youth", the city put in place a rich programme, featuring more than 100 events aiming at promoting volunteerism, empowering youth organisations, and creating networks and synergies among young people from all over Europe.

  • Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

    On 6 October, at the EU-Western Balkans Brdo Summit, leaders of the European Union and its Member States, together with Western Balkans leaders launched the ‘Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’, a comprehensive, long-term cooperation strategy of the European Union and the Western Balkans.

    The strategy will promote scientific excellence as well as reform of the region’s education systems, create further opportunities for the youth, and help prevent brain drain.

    As reported by EC news, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said,

    EU cooperation with the Western Balkans offers unparalleled opportunities. The Innovation Agenda for the Western Balkans will open these opportunities to students, researchers, innovators and cultural operators so that they access new markets, become more competitive and build sustainable prosperity. It’s a positive and forward-looking vision for all.

    Through increased investments in Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the Western Balkans Agenda and its proposed actions will contribute to the region’s economic and societal development and cooperation. The EU supports stronger cooperation between the Western Balkans’ stakeholders and EU Member States’ to facilitate the successful implementation of the Agenda deliverables.

    The Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and its Action Plan builds on three main pillars:

    • Political Agenda, Towards a sustainable future by stimulating an economy that supports the recovery and helps to create jobs
      • Reflecting the strategic importance of the region and supporting its integration process through an increased EU engagement;
      • Nurturing knowledge-based societies and evidence-informed policy making;
      • Supporting the association to all the Union programmes covering Research, Innovation, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport;
      • Supporting the implementation of systemic changes and reforms.
    • Thematic Agenda: towards closer alignment with the EU strategic priorities
      • Transforming the national research and innovation eco-systems;
      • Counteracting climate change and supporting the digital transformation;
      • Promoting the implementation of the EU Green Deal in the Western Balkans.
    • Regional Agenda: towards a closer regional economic integration through planned investments in human capital development and digital transformation
      • Enhancing the quality of education and training;
      • Boosting human capital development;
      • Reducing the gender and digital divide;
      • Improving mobility and connectivity;
      • Fostering cultural and regional cooperation.

    Related documents and information:

    EU-Western Balkans Summit - Brdo Declaration

    WB Agenda Factsheet

    International cooperation with the Western Balkans

    Source: official news item

     

  • Ministerial Meeting of the Western Balkans Platforms

    Ministerial Meetings of the Western Balkans Platforms on Research and Innovation & Education and Training & Culture take place regularly.

  • Steering Platform on Research and Innovation for Western Balkans

    The Steering Platform on Research and Innovation for Western Balkans was established in 2006 to facilitate the interaction between the Western Balkan economies, the EU member states, the candidate and potential candidate countries and other states associated to the Framework Programmes for RTD and the European Commission.

    Its main objective is to support the enhanced integration of the WBs in the European Research Area. Therefore it is a strategic body to deal with European, multilateral and regional issues of Science, Technology and Innovation policies in and with the WBs. It acts moreover as an information exchange centre, clearing house for joint ideas and activities, and coordination forum for needs, suggestions and proposals of the WB to the European Commission, the EU Member States, candidate and potential candidate countries and the countries associated to Framework Programs such as Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe and vice versa.

    In this spirit, the Platform continues and intensifies the progress achieved under the EU-Balkan Countries Action Plan on Science and Technology since 2006. In 2017, a new scheme for the support of the SP meetings was introduced funded by the European Commission (International Cooperation Support Facility of the European Commission). Within this facility, plans include the organisation of two Steering Platform meetings in 2017 and in 2018, as well as three thematic meetings including the preparatory meetings for the SP. The last 21th Western Balkans Steering Platform on Research and Innovation was organised in Brussels on 23-24 September 2019.

     


    SP was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in July 2015. The related article is available here. The 18th SP meeting was held in Sarajevo in June 2016 (find an update here) while the 19th SP was held in September 2017 (information is accessible by clicking here). Eventually, Brussels was the location for the 20th Western Balkans Steering Platform on Research and Innovation. All  the latest SP-related articles are available below.  Please note that some of them are not public but restricted to SP members only.


  • Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training

    In cooperation with the Ministries of Education of the Western Balkans Six, the Commission launched the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training on 7 March 2012. Its objectives are to support the transition for the candidate countries and to better prepare the potential candidates in the region for their eventual participation in European Union policies and programmes on education and training. The Ministerial Platform meetings, which convene the Ministers responsible for education in the region and their main staff, decide on spin-off activities and follow-up measures to be taken.

    In 2017 and 2018 the Platform on Education and Training (DG EAC) and Steering Platform on Research and Innovation (DG R&I) were organised jointly (back to back). In 2020, a joint Ministerial Meeting of the Western Balkans Platforms on Education and Training & Research and Innovation brought together key stakeholders from the European Union and the Western Balkan region in an online exchange forum. During the meeting, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, presents her vision and new narrative for the Western Balkans: the ‘Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’, a comprehensive, long-term cooperation strategy of the EU and the Western Balkans.

     

  • European Research Area (ERA)

    European Commissioner Philippe Busquin launched the idea of the European Research Area back in November 2000. “The problem is not money but fragmentation of the efforts carried out at European level,” he had said. “So it is imperative that we mobilise resources and create a movement towards coherence of research policies in Europe.”

    This statement introduced the European Research Area (ERA), which aims to create a unified research area open to the world, and to enable the free circulation of researchers, scientific knowledge and technology. Most importantly, ERA is based on the European internal market.

    Within ERA, National Action Plans are developed based on the following six priorities:

    • More effective national research systems
    • Optimal transnational cooperation and competition, including ‘jointly addressing grand challenges’ and ‘research infrastructures’
    • An open labour market for researchers
    • Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research
    • Optimal circulation, access and transfer of scientific knowledge
    • International cooperation

    Background and process

    In 2014, 2 years after the adoption of its communication on a reinforced European Research Area (ERA) partnership  the Commission reported that EU countries and stakeholders had made good progress in delivering the ERA but more effort would be needed.

    In 2015, the European Council reaffirmed its commitment to a fully operational ERA and endorsed the ERA Roadmap 2015-2020. This is a living document to guide EU countries in structuring their implementation of the ERA priorities at national level.

    It calls on EU members to implement the ERA roadmap through appropriate measures in ERA national action plans and strategies.

    Monitoring of ERA roadmap implementation is integrated into the ERA progress reports, on the basis of headline indicators proposed by the European Research and Innovation Advisory Committee (ERAC)

    A new Communication is planned for the third quarter 2020 and will aim at relaunching and revitalising the ERA in order to:

    • make it future-proof
    • make it better able to address the major challenges of the digital and green transition
    • increase Europe’s resilience following the Covid-19 crisis.

     

  • Horizon Europe (2021-2027) | Framework Programmes

    Horizon Europe is the EU's €95.5 billion research and innovation programme for 2021-2027 and the successor of Horizon 2020. This new program shall consolidate the results and success of Horizon 2020 and shall allow the EU to remain at the forefront of research and innovation worldwide. Horizon Europe represents therefore  the most ambitious research and innovation program ever. Today's Horizon Europe work programme is based on the Horizon Europe's Strategic Plan, which was adopted in March 2021 to set the EU's research and innovation priorities for 2021-2024.  Most of the funding is allocated based on competitive calls for proposals, set out in work programmes.

    New funding opportunities have already opened up since early 2021: in February the Commission launched the first European Research Council calls under Horizon Europe and in March it launched the new European Innovation Council. Furthermore, in April, it quickly mobilised €123 million for research and innovation into coronavirus variants. The other first calls for proposals will open on the Commission's Funding and Tenders Portal on 22 June. The European Research and Innovation Days on 23 and 24 June mark the occasion to discuss Horizon Europe amongst policymakers, researchers, innovators and citizens.  Horizon Europe Information Days targeting potential applicants take place between 28 June and 9 July.

     

  • Partnerships and Missions in Horizon Europe

    A specific theme for the POLICY ANSWERS activities to support the integration of the Western Balkans in the EU Partnerships (of which there are 49) and EU Missions (of which there are 5).

    EU Missions are a novelty of the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme for the years 2021-2027. The intention is to bring concrete solutions to some of the greatest challenges and deliver concrete results by 2030. EU Missions will deliver impact by putting research and innovation into a new role, combined with new forms of governance and collaboration, as well as by engaging citizens. EU missions support Commission priorities, such as the European Green Deal, Europe fit for the Digital Age, Beating Cancer for instance.

    EU Partnerships bring the European Commission and private and/or public partners together to address some of Europe’s most pressing challenges through concerted research and innovation initiatives. They are a key implementation tool of Horizon Europe, and contribute significantly to achieving the EU’s political priorities.

     

  • Capacity-building opportunities | Regional Innovation Academy

    Capacity building is an enabling and empowering process; it provides researchers, scientists, R&I managers, etc. with the necessary tools and networks resulting in better chances for producing substantial and excellent research results.

    To drive innovation-led economic growth it is nowadays necessary to strengthen the S&T and Innovation Ecosystem. Countries generally have to define their need for science and technology services, while enhancing the capacity of universities to train graduates in high-demand skills. Initiatives are needed to encourage collaborative innovation between and among universities and industry—in order to harness the intellectual capital of countries’ higher-education systems to sustainably and efficiently support prosperity. Capacity-building initiatives for instance could relate to improving research qualifications of faculty and staff, boosting research capacity in key disciplines, strengthening university-industry links in high-growth economic sectors, and finally bolstering the policy capacity of higher-education institutions in science, technology and innovation.

    Over the past years, it has moreover become clear, especially in the WB countries, that there is a need for training programs, workshops and internships as part of capacity building and professional development of staff working in the R&I management environment and support services. Only thanks to a strengthened administrative, research and innovation capacity at the level of the WB economies can guarantee themselves successful participation in the Framework Programmes (Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe) and other national, regional and EU research funding programmes. This is why RTDI capacity and potential in the WB region are again under our spotlight. 

    The POLICY ANSWERS project aims to select key resources and create some ourselves, curating the "Western Balkans Regional Innovation Academy".

    Please find below also a selection of articles related to the topic. Besides, we kindly invite you to let us know about any further relevant calls for papers, training and internship opportunity for young researchers, any national training opportunity for administrative project staff etc.: you can contact us at any time and provide the information via office@wbc-rti.info.


    RTDI capacity in WBC as well as capacity-building opportunities had already been in the focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter.  You can find the related articles here.


     

  • Regional Strategies for and with the Western Balkans | Macro-regional Strategies

    Which strategy is being followed in research and innovation in the Western Balkan countries? Are there too many strategies and how well interconnected are they? Are they truly been followed or just pieces of paper? Which macro-regional strategies apply to the Western Balkans (e.g. the EU Strategy for the Danube Region or the Adriatic-Ionian Region)? How are activities being implemented?

    The essence of strategy is that you must set limits on what you're trying to accomplish. (Michael Porter)


    "Regional Strategies for and with the Western Balkans" was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in 2016 (the related article is available here). Please find below also a selection of further related articles.


     

  • Research and Innovation Policy in Western Balkans - some recent developments

    In recent years the Western Balkan countries have made some important efforts to overcome the negative consequences of the economic and political transition and its impact on the region’s research and innovation sectors: They adopted a variety of strategies, laws and programs to improve the performance of the sector on the national level  and they improved the regional cooperation in R&D for example by committing themselves to “Western Balkans Regional R&D Strategy for Innovation” and Smart Growth pillar of the “South East European 2020 Strategy” (SEE 2020).  All countries are also associated to Horizon 2020; the preliminary results show some first success stories however overall participation rate is quite low. WBC also agreed on the establishment of “Western Balkans Research and Innovation Centre” (WISE) by the end of 2015 aiming at strengthening the regional research, innovation and technology systems by providing support, advice, information and recommendations to the states, public and private institutions, non-governmental organizations and all other relevant stakeholders. However, social and political problems are still more pressing in WBC than the low level of R&D investment (Serbia and Montenegro spend on around 1% of GDP on R&D, while other countries in the region spend up to 0,3% of GDP)  or support for technology transfer activities. The importance of the education, research and innovation for the overall success of the EU-integration efforts of the Western Balkans was again confirmed during the 1st Joint Science Conference held on July 15-17, 2015 in Halle and Berlin and during the second Summit Meeting on the Western Balkans held in Vienna on August 27, 2015 – both events in the framework of the Western Balkans Process, also known as the ‘Berlin process'. 


    Research and Innovation Policy in Western Balkans - some recent developments was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in August 2015. Related article is available here . Please find below also a selection of the topic related articles.


  • Western Balkans Process | Joint Science Conference | Berlin Process

    The Berlin Process is a platform for high-level cooperation between high official representatives of the Western Balkan Six (WB6) and their peers in Berlin Process host countries. The main objective is to help accelerate the entire region’s closer alignment with the EU. Iin this context, the Berlin Process concentrates on areas such as infrastructure development and connectivity, business, regional youth exchanges, reconciliation and science. With the establishment of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), the agreement to develop a Common Regional Market, the signing of the Regional Roaming Agreement and the creation of “green lanes” to speed up border procedures with key goods in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Berlin Process has brought significant results that are tangible for the people in the region and that are intended to prepare the region for accession to the EU.


    On the invitation of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an intergovernmental conference on the Western Balkans was held in Berlin on 28 August 2014. It was the launching conference of the Western Balkans Process. Since 2014, the Berlin Process has aimed to improve and intensify the Western Balkans' regional integration. 


    After the launching of the political initiative, the Leopoldina as Germany’s National Academy, was entrusted by the German Federal Government to take over the initiative in the field of education, science and society. A standing conference  in the framework of the Western Balkans Process / Berlin Process was then initiated. The circle of stakeholders of this Joint Science Conference is represented by national academies of sciences and arts, rectors’ conferences, distinguished scientists ad personam and junior scientists. Further representatives of (international) organisations, the EU-commission, national governments and embassies take part as invited participants or observers. The participants discuss current challenges and possible solutions and improvements for the science systems in the Western Balkans. The results are usually summarised in Joint Statements, Final Conclusions or Communiqués. These are fed into the annual Western Balkans Leaders’ Summits in form of recommendations and independent advice. The 1st Joint Science Conference was held in Halle and Berlin in 2015, the 2nd Joint Science Conference in Vienna in 2016, the 3rd Conference was held in Paris in 2017, the 4th Conference in Rome in 2018, the 5th in London in 2019. No Conference was held in 2020, while the 6th Joint Science Conference was held online on 1-2 July 2021

     

  • Strategic Foresight in the Western Balkans

    With the COVID-19 crisis, the world is experiencing unprecedented disruption to daily lives and to the social, economic, and governance systems that support them. The Western Balkans are no exception. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are struggling hard and looking for ways to respond to the still unfolding situation. Foresight is the discipline of exploring, anticipating and shaping the future to help building and using collective intelligence in a structured, systematic and systemic way to anticipate developments. Foresight can therefore help to cope with such uncertainties and understand the implications for SMEs and policymakers in the long term. Lessons learned in today’s pandemic could be used to inform tomorrow’s policy actions. While being overwhelmed by these challenges, the Western Balkans must not overlook the opportunities that crises can provide to re-imagine and rebuild our future. In the coming period, choices will be made on how to best allocate and invest resources to recover from the crisis. Such decisions will shape the coming decades and therefore it is important to start thinking about:

    • What are the biggest opportunities for transformation towards more resilient Western Balkans?
    • How will the Western Balkans' economy, society, and governance evolve until 2035?
    • What role can Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) play in the coming decades?

     

    In such a framework, the Commission has recently published the study “Strategic Foresight in the Western Balkans: Recovery on the Horizon.” The study outlines three scenarios on the possible futures of Research and Innovation (R&I) policies in the Western Balkans region in 2035. Making use of Strategic Foresight will yield benefits for research and innovation eco-systems, as outlined in the ‘Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport’.

    Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said:

    We need to think about how research and innovation policies can unfold their potential and bring added valued to all our citizens. The Western Balkans Agenda on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport will advance the most desirable shared future in this region and we are already delivering on one of its objectives with this foresight study.

    The study’s scenarios are rooted in an extensive co-creation process with more than 700 experts on R&I from the Western Balkans, who represent academia, civil society, the private sector, international organisations as well as central and subnational governments. The scenarios help to envision different futures and highlight possible actions that can be taken today in the Western Balkans to work towards the most sustainable future:

    • Joining the Common Market: outlines a potential future in which the latest EU Members Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia benefit from a range of European Framework Programmes and tailored support initiatives such as the European Commission’s Green Deal Just Transition Mechanism.
    • Looking beyond EU borders: constitutes a scenario in which EU accession negotiations have come to a standstill.
    • Putting Business First: depicts a scenario in which economic modernisation and public sector innovation are supported by EU institutions as well as by the European Investment Bank.

    The study concludes with initial roadmaps tailored for each of the Western Balkans that can inspire decicion-makers with goals and actions needed to further develop their R&I systems.

     

  • Science Diplomacy

    The fact that science is without borders is what makes it so useful as a diplomacy tool. The integration of Europe's scientific community played indeed a key role in developing an integrated European community. Science diplomacy has been very valuable in creating those connections between the European countries, first after World War II and later the Cold War.

    There is actually a long history of the relationship between science and diplomacy, however the term ‘science diplomacy’ is a phenomenon of the 21st century. Since then there have been numerous efforts to define it, which have produced different typologies of operations and motivations associated with science diplomacy.

    Science Diplomacy could be defined as the effort to leverage science engagement and exchange in support of broader objectives beyond science discovery (Gluckman et al. 2017). In its broadest terms it is 'the use and application of science cooperation to help build bridges and enhance relationships between and amongst societies, with a particular interest in working in areas where there might not be other mechanisms for engagement at an official level (Vaughan Turekian, AAAS).
    In such a context, science diplomacy corresponds to a series of practices that stand thus at the intersection of the two fields. These practices can help to address global challenges, promote understanding, and increase influence and prosperity (www.science-diplomacy.eu).

    Three are the phenomena of science diplomacy:

    • science for diplomacy – the use of science to advance diplomatic objectives;
    • diplomacy for science – the use of diplomatic action to further scientific and technological progress; and
    • science in diplomacy – the direct involvement of science or scientific actors in diplomatic processes.

    Find below some articles related to Science Diplomacy. This information area has just been created and will grow also thanks to your announcements and the information you would like to share with us. Feel free to contact us at office@wbc-rti.info!

     

  • Digital Agenda for the Balkans | Digitalisation

    The Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans aims to support the transition of the region into a digital economy and bring the benefits of digital transformation, such as faster economic growth, more jobs, and better services.

    In 2018, the Commission together with Ministers from six Western Balkan partners - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – committed to:

    • Investing in broadband connectivity
    • Increasing cybersecurity, trust and digitalisation of industry
    • Strengthening the digital economy and society
    • Boosting research and innovation

    Digitalisation is a key priority for regional progress and the POLICY ANSWERS project also aims to put it into focus, aligning priorities between the regional stakeholders and the EU.

  • ICT Research & Innovation

    The ICT sector represents 4.8% of the European economy. It generates 25% of total business expenditure in Research and Development (R&D), and investments in ICT account for 50% of all European productivity growth. EU investments in ICTs are due to increase by about 25% under Horizon 2020 compared to FP7. This EU investment will support the whole chain from basic research to innovation that can deliver new business breakthroughs, often on the basis of emerging technologies. Information and Communication Technologies underpin innovation and competitiveness across private and public sectors and enable scientific progress in all disciplines. (EC) Thus in H2020, ICT-related topics can be found in all priorities, from 'Excellence Science' to 'Industrial Leadership', to 'Societal Challenges'. Please check the updated version (as of July 2016) of the Guide to ICT-related activities in WP 2016-17 which is designed to help potential proposers find ICT-related topics across the different parts of H2020. The European Commission is also organising an Horizon 2020 Calls Info Day on 2 December 2016 in Brussels that is relevant for potential proposers from the Western Balkans as well.

    Photo: © flaivoloka


    In Focus: ICT Research & Innovation is in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in October/November 2016


     

  • Health | COVID-19 emergency

    On 30 January, the World Health Organisation declared the Corona Virus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern while, on 11 March, it characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. Worldwide countries started to declare state of emergency and approved first set of emergency measures and support operations.

    The EU and its member states, for instance, are working together to reinforce national healthcare systems and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. They are also taking action to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. At the same time, the EU Commission announced immediate support of up to €38 million for the Western Balkans to tackle the health emergency and the reallocation of €374 million from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance

    This page intends to give you an overview of the common response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

     

  • Mobility and circulation of researchers | Marie Slodowska Curie Actions

    The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) are the EU flagship programme for the training, mobility and career development of researchers in all scientific domains (‘bottom-up’), at all stages of their careers and from all over the world. They encourage transnational, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility with specific focus on skills fostering innovation, employability and entrepreneurship. The MSCA also support excellent doctoral programmes and networks, including industrial doctorates and joint doctorates. The MSCA are at the crossroad between the European Education Area and the European Research Area.

    The applicants to MSCA can be individual researchers or institutions managing programmes, depending on the action. Academic organisations account for 74% of the total participations in MSCA in all Member States countries and universities represent 57% of all participations. Overall, 56% of the total MSCA budget is dedicated to Innovative Training Networks, i.e. to doctoral programmes mainly implemented by universities.

    The MSCA have supported since its creation 25 years ago almost 140,000 researchers and will have supported near 65,000 researchers just for Horizon 2020 (since 2014), including 25,000 PhDs, and have funded over 1000 excellent international doctoral networks. They effectively train excellent, creative and innovative researchers contributing to important scientific breakthroughs. Evidence shows that the MSCA have a positive impact on individual researchers by promoting their international, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary (“3-i”) mobility. But the MSCA also have a positive impact on organisations and at system level. The MSCA have a structuring effect on Europe's research and innovation capacity and practices by inspiring institutional reforms at national level, making Europe an attractive and competitive global location for researchers.

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  • Research Infrastructures

    Research infrastructures (RIs) are those facilities, resources and related services that the scientific community use to conduct high-level research.  They cover a range of research fields from engineering and social sciences to genomics and astronomy and can be single-sited (a single resource at a single location), distributed (a network of distributed resources) or virtual (the service is provided electronically). Research infrastructures can be also used beyond research e.g. for education or public services and are nowadays crucial for fostering innovation.

    The importance of RIs are undisputable as they play a vital strategic role in the advancement and exploitation of knowledge and technology. Not only are they necessary to the structuring of the scientific community – offering high quality research services, networking facilities, attracting young people to science – they also aid in the construction of an efficient research and innovation environment. As Carlos Moedas, former Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said:

     “Europe needs top-class research infrastructures to generate new knowledge that helps tackle the environmental and social challenges our societies are facing.”

    The European approach to research infrastructures has made remarkable progress in recent years with the implementation of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap, integrating and opening national research facilities and developing e-infrastructures underpinning a digital European Research Area (ERA).

    ESFRI started a comprehensive reflection process on the role of research infrastructures in the evolving ERA. Within the H2020 programme the objective is to develop the European RIs so as they become a new world-class RIs by integrating and opening national RIs of pan-European interest, development, and through deployment and operation of ICT based e-Infrastructures. This to foster the innovation potential of RIs and their human capital while also reinforcing European RI policy and international cooperation.

    In future it is expected that Research Infrastuctures will remain at the core of the ERA and Horizon Europe will further aim at integrated and inter-connected world-class research infrastructures through:

    • Consolidation of the landscape of European Research Infrastructures (meaning a) higher R&I sustainability through the development, operation and sustainability of ESFRI that is essential to the creation and use of new knowledge and the competitiveness of industries and b) making the EOSC (European Open Science Cloud) an effective and comprehensive delivery channel for R&I services;
    • Opening, integrating and interconnecting Research Infrastructures ( this to enhance the research landscape by ensuring openness to key international, national and regional R&I and integrating their services);
    • Reinforcing  the European Research Infrastructure policy and International Cooperation (the goal is a stronger cooperation with international counterparts and international participation in European Research infrastructures).

    Find below all information we published as far as the research infrastructures are concerned.

     

  • Erasmus

    The Commission launched end of January 2017 celebrations on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the start of Erasmus, one of the most successful programmes of the European Union. The Commission also published the Erasmus+ Annual Report. Events will take place throughout 2017 at European, national and local levels to highlight the positive impact of Erasmus both on individuals and society as a whole, and to give all those involved the opportunity to debate how the programme should evolve in the future.

  • Eureka Network

    Eureka is an international network established in 1985 as an agreement between 18 countries to foster European competitiveness and integration and to encourage R&D cooperation. Since then, Eureka has expanded to include over 45 countries in Europe and beyond who share the same goals and have national funding available to organisations who apply through our programmes.

    Under the motto “Towards a New Eureka”, Austria takes Eureka's Chair from July 2020 to June 2021, and celebrates the 35th anniversary of the Network. The Austrian Chairmanship prioritises the further development of Eureka's programmes, global outreach and internal cooperation, as well as upholding the unique selling point of Eureka: keeping its valuable local specialisations and core DNA intact. Eureka’s Austrian Chairmanship is held by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG): Austria's national contact point for Eureka.

    The EUREKA Network has a broad set of instruments, which are the different mechanisms used to run calls. Countries can decide which instruments to use to support their collaboration.

    • EUREKA Network Projects enable bottom-up bilateral and multilateral projects between any country in the EUREKA Network in any area.
    • EUREKA Eurostars enables collaborative projects (2 cut off dates per/year) in any area with projects led by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
    • EUREKA Clusters are industry driven public private partnerships which build communities and convene projects between SMEs and large industry in specific technology and market areas.
    • EUREKA GlobalStars calls enable collaborative projects between any country in the EUREKA Network and countries outside the EUREKA Network in any area.
    Eureka's programmes are flexible and open to startups, SMEs, large companies, research organisations and universities. Discover here all the national and regional funding bodies in the Eureka network and check out here the open calls for projects
     
    Find below a series of articles we have just published as far as this topic is concerned.

  • Responsible Research and Innovation | RRI

    RRI stands for “Responsible Research and Innovation” - a concept promoted by the European Commission, that has emerged in recent years as a science policy framework, which seeks to align technological innovation with broader social values, and to support the institutional decisions concerning the goals of research and innovation in conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity. RRI encourages these stakeholders to reflect and anticipate how R&I may shape the future, to remain adaptive and responsive to change and the increased complexity.

    RRI promotes diversity and inclusion as well as openness and transparency in the development of Research and Innovation (R&I) policies, programmes and activities. RRI aims to engage publics and responsible actors (researchers, citizens, policy- and decision makers, business, third sector organisations and others) in the science and innovation field, to produce ethically acceptable, sustainable and socially desirable research and innovation outcomes in line with the values, needs and expectations of the European society.

    The RRI approach has developed over the years and the term implies that societal challenges should be a primary focus of scientific research while indicating the methods by which that goal should be achieved. In such a context, Responsible Research and Innovation involves holding research to high ethical standards, ensuring gender equality in the scientific community, investing policy-makers with the responsibility to avoid harmful effects of innovation, engaging the communities affected by innovation and ensuring that they have the knowledge necessary to understand the implications by furthering science education and Open Access.

  • Open Science

    The term “open science” was firstly coined by economist Paul David (2003) while describing the properties of scientific goods generated by the public sector and in opposition to the perceived extension of intellectual property rights into the area of information goods.

    Open Science is the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods. In a nutshell, Open Science is transparent and accessible knowledge that is shared and developed through collaborative networks (Vicente-Sáez & Martínez-Fuentes 2018).

    Open Science in one of the three policy priorities of the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Moedas and is part of the Digital Single Market (DSM) initiative of the European Commission. The European Commission affirms that: “Open Science represents a new approach to the scientific process based on cooperative work and new ways of diffusing knowledge by using digital technologies and new collaborative tools. The idea captures a systemic change to the way science and research have been carried out for the last fifty years: shifting from the standard practices of publishing research results in scientific publications towards sharing and using all available knowledge at an earlier stage in the research process.

    Open Science encompasses a variety of practices, usually including areas like open access to publications, open research data, open source software/tools, open workflows, citizen science, open educational resources, and alternative methods for research evaluation including open peer review (Pontika et al., 2015).  It is enabled by digital technologies, and driven by the enormous growth of data, the globalisation and enlargement of the scientific community including new actors (e.g. citizen science), and the need to address societal challenges. The institutions involved in science are affected (research organisations, research councils, funding bodies), as is the way in which science is disseminated and assessed e.g. the rise of new scientific disciplines, innovative pathways in publishing (among them a substantial rise of open access journals), new scientific reputation systems, and changes in the way the quality and impact of research are evaluated.

    In the short term, Open Science may offer more transparency, openness, inclusiveness and networked collaboration. In the long term, it may make science more efficient, reliable and responsive to the grand challenges of our times as well as foster co-creation and Open Innovation. Open Science increases the impact and quality of science and it might also change the assessment of scientific integrity.

    Open access to scientific peer reviewed publications has been anchored as an underlying principle in Horizon 2020 and as such is obligatory for any publication which is the result of a Horizon 2020 grant.

    Find below all information items we have been collecting! It is a work-in-progress section therefore do not hesitate to contact us at office@wbc-rti.info to promote your initiatives!

     

  • Science Communication

    Making complex scientific topics accessible for the public while maintaining scientific accuracy requires placing the science and research in a larger narrative context with an important social responsibility.

    “You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”. This quote is attributed to Albert Einstein and should be the motto of all professional science communicators. However, in the current modern society - in which anti-scientific tendencies are winning a certain weight - communicating the social role of science is fundamental and responsibility lies with the specialists themselves when they relate to the broader public. Society has become more and more dependent on the scientific work and experts have to be aware of their social role and need to build a relationship of trust with the rest of the population. This was recently mentioned by Professor Giorgio Parisi, Physics Nobel Laureate 2021 in the talk “The value of science”.

    Science communication should be part of a scientist's everyday life as communicating with society about science and its benefits is more important than ever. Although having more scientists who are effective communicators benefits science and society greatly, there are still relatively few training opportunities for science students and professionals to develop these skills. Fortunately, effective communication skills are no longer perceived as soft skills. Increasingly they are becoming part of the core professional skills every science student and professional should have. 

    “When scientists can communicate effectively beyond their peers to broader, non-scientist audiences, it builds support for science, promotes understanding of its wider relevance to society, and encourages more informed decision-making at all levels, from government to communities to individuals,” told us Milica Momčilović, president of The World Federation of Science Journalists and board member of the Balkan Network of Science Journalists.

    When scientists communicate more effectively, science thrives.

  • Women in Science | Gender Equality

    Promoting gender equality is a core activity for the EU. The European Commission is committed to promoting gender equality in research and innovation. It is part of the European Commission Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025, which sets out the Commission’s broader commitment to equality across all EU policies. In addition, the EU has a well-established regulatory framework on gender equality, including binding directives, which apply widely across the labour market including the research sector.

    Because of the peculiarities of the research sector, specific action is needed to overcome persisting gender gaps. Many structural barriers to gender equality in research and innovation persist.

    The European Commission addresses these barriers through

    • the main funding instrument Horizon 2020,  the first framework programme to set gender as a cross-cutting issue, with one of the underpinning objectives being to integrate the gender dimension into research and innovation  content.
    • within the European Research Area in collaboration with member countries and research organisations. Already under the ERA Communication 2012 framework, the European Commission has set 3 objectives to work with EU countries and foster an institutional change (gender equality in scientific careers, gender balance in decision making, integration of the gender dimension into the content of research and innovation).

    Infographic: closing gender gaps in research and innovation

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    Please find below some gender / women in science related links and articles.



     

  • Scientific Diaspora

    There is a long history of outmigration from Southeast European countries, creating large population groups residing abroad (mostly in EU countries and USA) and are usually referred to as SEE diaspora, SEE emigrants, SEE expatriates etc. Regarding scientific diaspora and brain drain, the governments in the region - being aware of related challenges for the overall economies – have recently undertaken a number of initiatives to address the issue. These include several of the traditional measures, from creation of directory databases, “knowledge networks,” and discussion forums to the provision of visiting and post-doctorate fellowships. Please find below some related reports, links to directory databases and other related information. 


    South East European Scientific Diaspora was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in December 2015. Related article is available here . Please find below also a selection of the topic related articles.


     

  • RTDI Evaluation | Evaluation Culture

    The complexity and heterogeneity of innovation systems in different European and Western Balkan countries  requires strategic intelligence to design, implement, and monitor research, technological development, and innovation (RTDI) measures at different spatial levels (local, national, regional, and European) by addressing issues of relevance, efficiency, efficacy, impact, and sustainability . For this purpose, evaluations are an essential tool for evidence-based decision-making. This is especially true in the South-East Europe region, which is characterised by the adoption and adaptation of new RTDI policies, programmes, and (support) institutions, and a transformation of funding towards competitive schemes. At the same time, however, a lack of methodological and procedural know-how on the part of both evaluators and awarding authorities concerning the purpose, design, and use of evaluations, has become evident.


    RTDI Evaluation | Evaluation Culture was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in March 2016. Related article is available here. Please find below also a selection of the topic related articles.


  • Research Project Administration

    Administration of Projects, the so-called Project management (PM), was created more than 50 years ago to realize technical development and manufacturing projects of great complexity. This concept has developed over the years and is currently defined as a set of principles and activities to follow for making the everyday decisions that keep a business running, even a small scientific research project.   More precisely, PM is a set of activities leading to the positive implementation of a project, where a project may be defined as involving a group of interrelated activities that are planned and then executed in a certain sequence to create a unique output (product or service) within a specific time frame. Research projects differ in many ways from development projects, the most relevant being sometimes lack of strong requirements and inability to plan an output from the start of the project. Moreover, today the economic and political imperatives and pressures are common across the globe. Given the increasing need for external research funding, the role of research administrators in universities or institutions is now more important than ever.  The nature of research management and project administration is changing, and it is becoming more professional.


    Find below some information items related to research project administration topics. This Theme was just created on our portal and you are invited to contribute with your experiences, trainings, etc. Write to office@wbc-rti.info or submit your content directly through the website.

  • Research funding opportunities

    The European Commission will invest almost €16 billion in research and innovation in the next two years under Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding scheme, following a new Work Programme for 2016-17 adopted in October 2015. All Western Balkan countries (except Kosovo* which also can participate as a third country) are associated to Horizon 2020, thus legal  entities  from  Associated  Countries  can  participate  under  the  same  conditions  as legal entities from the Member States. Following the first preliminary results of the WBC participation in Horizon 2020, indicating overall low participation rate (Albania: 10%; Bosnia & Herzegovina: 13%; FYROM: 15%; Montenegro: 18%; Serbia: 11% and in particular low participation of industry/SMEs) – research organisations from WBC, universities, SMEs and single researchers are invited to put their ideas on paper and find partners to jointly prepare excellent proposals within a new work programme 2016/2017. 

    “Horizon 2020 will continue to fund researchers and innovators at the cutting edge of their research disciplines, working on the latest breakthroughs in science. It supports projects across the cycle from research to innovation, using a range of financial instruments to facilitate their exploitation and access to markets. It will also invest in training of researchers including exchanges between industry and academia, create opportunities to build research teams in Member States where the research and innovation potential is underexploited, and take a strategic approach to international cooperation in research and innovation. In line with the "Open Science, Open Innovation, Open to the World" agenda set by Commissioner Moedas, responsible for Research, Science and Innovation, the Work Programme is designed to open up European research and innovation, for instance, by attracting more SMEs; ensuring better use of research results and strengthening research cooperation with other countries. It will also greatly enhance the impact of EU research funding, in line with the EU Budget focused on Results strategy launched by the Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva, responsible for budget and human resources.” (Source: European Commission - Fact Sheet, MEMO/15/5832)

    There are several topics introduced within different calls for proposals in Horizon 2020 but also some other current or future funding programmes which might be of high interest for Western Balkan countries. Please find below some selected calls and useful documents. 


    Research funding opportunities and performance of WBC was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in October 2015. Related article is available here . Please find below also a selection of the topic related articles. 


     

  • Finding open calls

    On this page you can find some of the currently open calls related to the Western Balkans, as well as Horizopn Europe and other calls that could be of interest for the region.

  • Finding project partners

    If you are searching for project partners, please refer to some of the links indicated below. You are also welcome to use the news section of this portal to publish your parner search (reaching over 3000 registered users), or one of our social media channels (eg. you can reach via our Facebook profile over 1120 persons interested in WBC and cooperation in RTI.  

  • Useful information regarding dissemination activities

    Here you will find some useful information regarding dissemination activities.

  • Information useful for financial project managers

    Here you will find useful information in particular relevant for financial project managers.

  • Smart Specialisation | Partnerships for Regional Innovation

    Smart specialisation strategies (RIS3 or S3) are about enabling regions to turn their needs, strengths and competitive advantages into marketable goods and services. They aim to prioritise public research and innovation investments through a bottom up approach for the economic transformation of regions, building on regional competitive advantages and facilitating market opportunities in new inter-regional and European value chains. They help regions to anticipate, plan and accompany their process of economic modernisation.

    The S3 approach is thus characterised by the identification of strategic areas for intervention based both on the analysis of the strengths and potential of the economy and on an Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) with wide stakeholder involvement. It embraces a broad view of innovation supported by effective monitoring mechanisms. Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3 or S3) set priorities at national and regional level to build competitive advantage by developing and matching research and innovation own strengths with business needs, to address emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner, while avoiding duplication and fragmentation of efforts. They are also a backbone of national or regional research and innovation strategic policy frameworks in Europe.

    Since 2011, the Smart Specialisation Platform (S3 Platform) acts as a facilitator for regions and countries in the uptake and incorporation of the smart specialisation concept and methodology in their research and innovation strategies. The community is continuously growing. (Source: EC-JRC).

    Smart Specialisation has already been in the focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in 2016 and 2018.  You can find the related articles here and here. Further related articles posted since then are also collated below.

     

  • Information useful for SMEs involved in research

    Here you will find some relevant information focusing the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) who are involved in research and innovation.  

  • From Research to Market

    Traditional modes of funding in research and higher education sector are in the process of change across Europe, including the higher education institutions in Western Balkan region. Public resources are being reduced in many countries while becoming more demanding and competitive at the same time, thus funding efficiency and financial sustainability are high on the agenda of the national, regional but also EU policy-makers. The trend related to modernisation of universities is clearly away from purely educational institutions towards entrepreneurial universities. The relevance of the topic was confirmed during the final conference of WBCInno project, held in Novi Sad on September 18, 2015.  In words of Prof. Dr. Goran Stojanovic, conference organiser from the University of Novi Sad:

    “The topic “Modernisation of universities” is important topic bearing in mind that in this era, universities should be not only educational and research institutions, but also institutions which should establish close links with business sector, providing new opportunities for employment of students. Universities in WB region especially should improve this so-called third mission and they should take role also to create new working places through opening spin-offs or through cooperation with industrial sector. In situation when industrial sector in WBCs is not well developed, such as in the most developed countries in Europe and worldwide, university should educate students, should try to create job opportunities and to create new innovative values on the market. It seems that we expect from universities to be ALL IN ONE, but bearing in mind that the most educated persons are on our universities, it is realistic that universities can perform above mentioned complex roles and responsibilities.”

    The purpose of the conference was to provide an international forum for the exchange of useful information over the broad spectrum of fields covered by entrepreneurship, knowledge/technology transfer, and university and business cooperation, so Prof. Stojanovic. 

    “The above-mentioned topics have resulted in 35 papers being submitted and reviewed, with 93 authors from 8 countries. Accepted papers were presented through 23 oral presentations and 12 posters sessions.”


    From research to market - what is needed in WBC? was in focus of the WBC-RTI.info newsletter in September 2015. Related article is available here. Please find below also a selection of the topic related articles. 


  • Cluster Development

    The term "Cluster" was initially elaborated by Alfred Marshall, the English economist who noted that the companies belonging to the same sector tend to group together in the same geographical territory with goal to optimize their economic activities. He called this phenomenon “industrial districts”. The theory of industrial districts was further developed and nowadays the term is widely accepted and used among those who have been responsible for industrial and regional development.

    Today’s economic map of the world is characterized by “clusters” meaning geographic concentrations of interrelated companies and institutions in a particular field.  Clusters are a geographic concentration of firms, higher education and research institutions, and other public and private entities that facilitates collaboration on complementary economic activities and partnerships on innovative projects.  

    Clusters embrace a range of linked industries and other entities significant for keeping competitiveness; they include, for example, suppliers of specialized inputs such as components, machinery, and services, and providers of specialized infrastructure. Clusters also often  extend to channels and customers as well as to manufacturers of complementary products and to companies in industries related by skills, technologies, or common inputs. Finally, many clusters include governmental and other institutions—such as universities, standards-setting agencies, think tanks, vocational training providers, and trade associations—that provide specialized training, education, information, research, and technical support. While some of the world’s leading clusters specialize in high-technology industries (e.g. Silicon Valley) clusters are also found in sectors ranging from wine making to automobiles to biotechnology.

    Clusters are powerful engines of economic development and drivers of innovation in the European Union. EU's policy tendencies aimed at stimulating the development of competitive agglomeration are determining Member States to steer public measures to support associative forms such as clusters or poles of competitiveness.  Clusters provide a fertile business environment for companies, especially SMEs, to collaborate with research institutions, suppliers, customers and competitors located in the same geographical area.

    Find below all information items we have been collecting! It is a work in progress area, therefore do not hesitate to contact us at office@wbc-rti.info to promote your cluster development initiatives!

  • Knowledge and Technology Transfer (KTT)

    Knowledge transfer (KT) is a term used to encompass a very broad range of activities to support mutually beneficial collaborations between universities, businesses and the public sector. Discussion around KT often focuses on the formation of spin-out business or the licensing of intellectual property (IP) based on the outputs of university science and technology-related research. Although these are vitally important areas, KT actually encompasses a much broader range of activities and is not limited to the science and technology disciplines. In Western Balkan countries, where R&D capacities have been greatly affected by brain drain and underinvestment in research, where technology transfer activities are still scarce and collaboration with industry tends to be driven by occasional opportunities rather than by strategic, long term partnerships - the need for a strategic approach to KTT in order to improve the science and innovation systems in WBC is obvious. In other words, knowledge on how to cover the entire chain from research to the market should be facilitated. In this regard, some relevant activities are currently ongoing in the region.

    Since knowledge is transferred i.a. through events and networking, we would like to draw your attention to recently held Workshop on Investment Vehicles and Financial Instruments supporting Technology Transfer and Innovation (Belgrade, March 2017 - presentations online available) and upcoming "Workshop on the Role of Science/ Technology Parks and Incubators in Innovation Ecosystems - Promoting Technology Transfer and Innovation" to be held in Thessaloniki (May 2017). Furthermore, we would like to inform you that a project "Capacity Building for Technology Transfer for the Western Balkans –EU4Tech" (European Commission, Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations) has been recently kicked-off. Further information will be available soon. Also, an interesting funding opportunity such as the 2nd Call within the Danube Transnational Programme is to be launched soon. Under specific objective 1.1. of this upcoming call, the following topics (that are also of interest for WBC) will be funded: commercialisation of research results and technology transfer; cluster policies and transnational cluster cooperation based on smart specialisation approaches; management of intellectual property rights for supporting innovation.

  • Public Procurement | R&I Innovation Procurement

    Research and innovation is often related to the idea of ​​greater spending and, perhaps for this reason, we instinctively tend to think that in an economy with limited resources, the promotion of innovation should not and cannot be a priority. However, the promotion of innovation procurement is precisely linked to the objective and the need to optimize costs. Innovation makes it possible to intercept new or inadequately met social needs, helping to effectively support the development and social changes. Another objective that can usefully be achieved through innovation procurement   is the promotion of innovative SMEs and start-ups, which often find it difficult to make their innovative products penetrate the market.

    Public procurement constitutes a policy tool in the field of innovation and sustainable development. Buying innovative products and services creates economic, environmental and social benefits because of the development of new ideas and their transformation into innovative products aiming simultaneously at enhancement of citizens' everyday life and economic development. In this respect, the promotion of innovation procurement has mainly been achieved until now with the development of public procurement tools, such as Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP) and Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI). Eventually, the lever of public demand can make the entire system evolve towards innovation, actively contrasting the absence of high quality products on the reference market.

    By developing a forward-looking innovation procurement strategy that uses Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP) and Public Procurement of Innovative solutions (PPI) in a complementary way, public procurers can drive innovation from the demand side. This enables the public sector to modernize public services faster while creating opportunities for companies to gain leadership in new markets. Innovation procurement opens the door to higher quality and more efficient solutions that value environmental and social benefits, better cost-effectiveness; and new business opportunities for enterprises. Public procurement can further play an important role as a strategic policy lever to advance diverse policy objectives – such as protecting the environment, promoting sustainable development, achieving more inclusive growth, and promoting ethical behaviour and responsible business conduct.

     

  • Bioeconomy

    Many definitions of the Bioeconomy exist. Defining Bioeconomy is of utmost importance as the definition is the basis on which key sectors are identified, policies designed and priorities acknowledged. Definitions change and evolve; some of them emphasize the technology aspect, others the economic contribution of the bioeconomy or the importance of a sound knowledge-base and the sustainable utilisation of biological resources. Some others interpret it in more philosophical terms, e.g. (“A vision for the future society” (Socaciu, 2014, p1) or “A future in which we rely on renewable biological resources to meet our needs for food, materials and energy” (EC, 2014). Despite the different visions similarities, such as the emphasis on economic output and a broad, cross-sectoral focus keep constant.

    The European Commission adopts a process-oriented definition of the Bioeconomy and defines it as: "the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. Its sectors and industries have strong innovation potential due to their use of a wide range of sciences, enabling and industrial technologies, along with local and tacit knowledge." Source: "Innovating for Sustainable Growth - A Bioeconomy for Europe" (2012) 

    Bioeconomy comprises those parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources from land and sea – such as crops, forests, fish, animals and micro-organisms – to produce food, materials and energy. The market at EU level presents an annual turnover of around two trillion euro, and employs around 18 million people. It is already one of the Union's biggest and most important sectors while its potential for the future is even greater.

    Bioeconomy has been gaining momentum since September 2005 with 50 countries and regions around the world now having a Bioeconomy strategy or related document in place. Europe's Bioeconomy Strategy addresses the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into vital products and bio-energy. It was recently updated to accelerate the deployment of a sustainable European bioeconomy so as to maximise its contribution towards the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the Paris Agreement.

    The new strategy aims at strengthening the connection between economy, society and the environment. More engagement is necessary. The bioeconomy community needs to develop a clear, visible corporate identity. More global platforms are needed to share views and change views, and to learn mutually about practices, good and bad. This is one of the conclusions indeed also of the World BioEconomy Forum 2018.

    Find below some articles related to Bioeconomy. This information area has just been created and will growth also thanks to your announcements and the information you would like to share with us. Feel free to contact us at office@wbc-rti.info!

  • Social Sciences and Humanities | SSH

    SSH gathers a series of academic disciplines, concerned with aspects of human society and culture and the relationships among individuals within a society. SSH as a whole has many branches ranging from anthropology to philosophy, and from gender studies to global studies, each of which is considered a social science itself. Branches include, but are not limited to: anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, economics, history, human geography, jurisprudence, linguistics, political science, psychology, public health, and sociology. The term is can also be used to refer to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century.

    As a cross-cutting issue of broad relevance, Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research is currently fully integrated into each of the general objectives of Horizon 2020. Embedding SSH research across Horizon 2020 is thus essential to maximise the returns to society from investment in science and technology. Topics like competitiveness, climate change, energy security or public health are complex and multi-faceted and  need to be thout across disciplines. Indeed, the idea to focus Horizon 2020 around "Challenges" rather than disciplinary fields of research illustrates this new approach.

    Examples of the role of SSH are:

    • Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing, SSH research could provide the economic and social analysis necessary for reforming public health systems;
    • Smart, green and integrated transport, SSH research analyses the socio-economic aspects of transport, prospective studies and technology foresight;
    • Climate action and resource efficiency, SSH research tackles the cultural, behavioural, socio-economic and institutional change in order to move to a more self-reliant and resource efficient economy;
    • Europe in a changing world, there will be a range of topics covering areas like new ideas, strategies and governance structures for overcoming the crisis in Europe, innovation in the public sector enabled by ICT, business model innovation, social innovation, European cultural heritage, history, culture and identity;
    • Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies, the arts and humanities might be an essential source for creativity in development of services and product design.

    You can search for funding opportunities related to social sciences and humanities in the new EC Funding and Tenders Portal.

    Find below some articles related to SSH. This information area has just been created and will growth also thanks to your announcements and the information you would like to share with us. Feel free to contact us at office@wbc-rti.info!

  • Migration Research

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  • INFORM | Closing the Gap between Formal and Informal Institutions in the Balkans

    One of our topics is related to research on Western Balkan's challenges towards EU integration. Here we will present the Horizon 2020 funded INFORM project, focusing on "Closing the Gap between Formal and Informal Institutions in the Balkans".

    INFORM aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the interaction between the formal institutions brought about by EU integration processes and the informal institutions prevalent in the Western Balkan countries. Formal institutions and rules, such as legal and political regulations, as well as organizations and mechanisms of their implementation, determine formal constraints. Informal institutions, on the other hand, comprise the unwritten rules within a society and highlight the importance of such aspects of social life as conventions, cultural norms, and networks of affinity. The project is based on the premise that, shaken by radically changing ideological and legal structures over the past century, citizens of the Western Balkan countries continue to rely on informal social networks to ensure their socio-economic and political security. These parallel processes have resulted in the widening of the gap between formal institutions and informal social practices. Consequently, the distance between proclaimed goals and existing practices represents a key challenge to the European integration of Balkan societies. INFORM aims to address this paradox by explicating the key formal and informal “rules of the game” that underpin tactical maneuvering between formal and informal institutions in various spheres and at various levels of social life in the Western Balkan countries. The identification and deciphering of the unwritten rules allows for a comparison to the demands and recommendations laid out in the key EU integration. The meticulous, bottom-up research, based in ethnographic approach, will result in policy recommendations aimed at acknowledging informality as part of social life and closing the gap between formal and informal institutions in Balkan societies.

  • Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF)

    ESOF is a biennial, pan-European, general science conference dedicated to scientific research and innovation.  Usually ESOF brings together over 4,500 leading thinkers, innovators, policy makers, journalists and educators from more than 90 countries, to discuss current and future breakthroughs in contemporary science. It is therefore one of the best opportunities for everyone from leading scientists, early careers researchers, business people, policy makers, science and technology communicators to the general public to come together to find out more about how science is helping us advance today.

    As Covid-19 has spread around the globe, the 9th edition of ESOF has been redesigned to allow physical and virtual spaces to work together. The Forum was held in the Old Port of Triest at the new Trieste Convention Center - TCC, a multifunctional congress centre which was inaugurated specifically for ESOF2020.
    Of the over 150 events scheduled from 2 September onwards, approximately 70 were held in virtual format, another 70 in hybrid format and roughly a dozen events exclusively with physical attendance. Plenary conferences, addresses by major speakers, workshops, and special events were made available by streaming, and most were also recorded to subsequently be made available on demand.

     

  • Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) | Framework Programmes

    The EU framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, has been instrumental in helping the Western Balkans achieve excellent levels of Science, competitive industries and improving society.

    With nearly 80 billion euros of available funding for the period 2014-2020, in addition to the private and national public investment the money has attracted, Horizon 2020 is one of the biggest EU research and innovation programmes in the world. Supporting the Europe 2020 growth strategy, it places research and innovation at the centre of smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth while tackling societal challenges.

    Horizon 2020, the EU's €77 billion research and innovation funding programme, supports scientific excellence in Europe and has contributed to high-profile scientific breakthroughs such as the discovery of exoplanets and gravitational waves.

    The European Commission has announced to spend €30 billion of the EU research and innovation funding programme Horizon 2020 during 2018-2020, including €2.7 billion to kick-start a European Innovation Council. During 2018-2020, the Commission seeks a greater impact of its research funding by focusing on fewer, but critical topics such as migration, security, climate, clean energy and the digital economy. Horizon 2020 is also more geared towards boosting breakthrough, market-creating innovation.