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FP7

INCONET-GCC2 Report Summary

Project ID: 609521
Funded under: FP7-INCO
Country: Greece

Final Report Summary - INCONET-GCC2 (Science, Technology and Innovation International Cooperation Network between EU and the Arab Gulf Countries aiming at the bi-regional coordination towards HORIZON2020)

Executive Summary:
INCONET-GCC2 is a three year (2014-2017) project funded by the European Commission – Directorate General for Research and Innovation – with a view to establish a “Science, Technology and Innovation International Cooperation Network between European Union and the Arab Gulf Countries aiming at the bi-regional coordination towards HORIZON2020”.

To this end, the INCONET-GCC2’s overall goals have been to:
• support the institutional bi-regional policy dialogue in Science, Technology and Innovation by engaging the relevant STI stakeholders in both EU and GCC,
• strengthen the bi-regional cooperation between research and innovation actors, especially in the context of Horizon 2020 programme by encouraging an increased participation in H2020, and enhancing capacity building in the GCC region, and
• monitor progress in the bi-regional STI cooperation.

INCONET-GCC2 builds on the results of previous cooperation activities with the Arab Gulf Countries (INCONET-GCC 1st phase) while it focuses on selected societal challenges of mutual interest as identified during the previous collaboration, in particular on Smart Cities and Health/Diabetes.

Throughout the duration of the INCONET-GCC2 a number of activities were implemented in order to achieve its objectives including:
- mapping of bilateral and multilateral R&I agreements between EU MS/AC and GCC countries, organisation of policy panels, and drafting of key policy documents with the aim to support the bi-regional R&I policy dialogue;
- organisation of a series of thematic workshops, innovation summer schools, and mobility grant schemes in order to identify common research priorities and increase cooperation between R&I actors;
- organisation of training seminars for H2020 NCPs from the GCC countries and Yemen in order to share good practices and contribute to capacity building of the respective national structures;
- implementation of a series of H2020 Information Days, organisation of International Conferences, and maintenance of a dedicated project website in order to raise awareness on the opportunities for collaboration in H2020 and to encourage participation of GCC R&I stakeholders in the programme.

Project Context and Objectives:
INCONET-GCC2 overall goal has been to support the institutional bi-regional policy dialogue in Science and Technology, to strengthen the bi-regional cooperation between research and innovation actors, especially in the context of the Horizon 2020 programme and finally to monitor progress in the bi-regional STI cooperation.

INCONET-GCC2 built on the results of previous cooperation activities with the Arab Gulf Countries (namely the INCONET-GCC phase 1 project) while it focused on selected societal challenges of mutual interest as identified during the previous collaboration (specifically, health/diabetes and smart cities/energy). INCONET-GCC2 explored how to achieve win-win across national, multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches in response to these issues while also realizing and underpinning new path-breaking kinds of capacity-building and organizing clustering activities around the selected research priorities and societal challenges.

More specifically, INCONET-GCC2 main aims have been to:

I) Support the EU-GCC bi-regional R&I policy dialogue through, among others, the implementation of specific analyses, and coordinate INCONET-GCC2 with similar activities and initiatives undertaken in the region. Specifically, the expected outcomes were the following:
- Support policy dialogue on S&T field as described in the Joint Action Programme for Implementation of GCC-EU Cooperation Agreement;
- Organize a networking platform supporting policy dialogue under which two meeting with involved stakeholders should be held in order to provide feedback to the different policy bodies at EU and Arab Gulf countries level;
- Support activities and policy discussions aiming to reciprocal calls for proposals with different stakeholders in the GCC region;
- Liaise and coordinate with other research activities and networks promoting the selected societal challenges in the GCC region.

II) Promote joint research initiatives through clustering activities within the selected societal challenges. The expected outcomes were the following:
- Organisation of thematic workshops and innovation summer schools in the selected research priorities;
- Set-up of cluster areas on the project website to facilitate interaction between interested stakeholders;
- Facilitation of researchers’ mobility

III) Enhance capacity building through continuous support of the existing H2020 National Contact Points (NCPs) in the GCC countries and Yemen, and their expansion in order to cover as many areas of H2020 as possible. Training seminars for all NCPs of the region were foreseen in this respect, as well as a small benchmarking exercise in order to identify strong points and shortcomings in the NCPs’ operation.

IV) Roadmap future research activities and provide recommendations to the EC and the national regulatory and funding authorities on the way forward in EU-GCC R&I cooperation. More specifically:
- Develop a roadmap of longer-term, implementation-oriented research activities that will drive the next research EU-GCC agenda of institutional stakeholders and engage the research community including the industry within EU-GCC cooperation;
- Derive policy recommendations for the Arab Gulf Countries -national and the EU level policymakers, on the way forward to create the institutional framework required for the emergence of EU-GCC research cooperation;
- Deliver an INCONET-GCC2 continuity/sustainability plan.

V) Raise awareness and disseminate information on H2020 as well as the activities of the INCONET-GCC2 project through:
- Publications and other informative products such as the INCONET-GCC2 leaflet, and poster, proceedings facilitating awareness and disseminating INCONET- GCC2 results;
- Development of the INCONET-GCC2 communication portal;
- Organisation of a series of H2020 Information Days and INCONET-GCC2 International Conferences.

Project Results:
Throughout the duration of the INCONET-GCC2 project a number of activities were implemented in order to achieve its objectives.

I. Supporting the EU-GCC bi-regional R&I policy dialogue and coordinating INCONET-GCC2 with similar activities and initiatives undertaken in the region

Activity 1: A mapping of bilateral and multilateral agreements between EU MS/AC and GCC countries was carried out. The initial focus was on R&I agreements however the scope expanded to cover other sectors as well. In order to monitor progress in the bi-regional cooperation related to Health and Smart Cities themes, this mapping presented the current overview of partnerships, bilateral programmes and programmes between EU and GCC regions with a particular focus on the above mentioned sectors. Some key points underlined by representatives from European and GCC institutions were included in this mapping, in order to highlight the current state of the art, the opportunities, challenges and weaknesses related to health and smart cities themes. The information collected gives evidence that exchange of good practices between EU and GCC can be the right means to identify the key barriers to be overtaken developing, implementing and improving long term impacts.

Activity 2: Organisation of two policy panels in order to explore possibilities for the establishment of a more structured policy dialogue between EU and GCC. The first was held in Oman, 12/2015 with the participation of key policy stakeholders from EU MS/AC, GCC countries, and the EC. The second was organised in Brussels, 11/2016 with the participation of representatives from relevant national authorities of France, Germany, Italy, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The panels were organised in the framework of the INCONET-GCC2 International Conferences in order to maximize their potential impact and enrich the deliberations.

Some of the main conclusions reached from both panels included the following:
- There is a need to take into consideration the commonalities as well as the differences between the EU and GCC regions when planning ahead activities to further promote cooperation;
- It is important to take advantage of existing structures and mechanisms and build on them. At the same time one needs to be open and flexible in creating new tools if this is needed;
- When planning ahead, activities to be considered could include: creation of a joint EU-GCC expert group to promote further the R&I policy dialogue exploring in particular the possibility of setting-up a joint funding mechanism within or outside the context of H2020; joint training activities of policy/decision makers in order to create common culture.

Activity 3: Bilateral meetings were held at the margin of major events organized in the context of INCONET-GCC2 between representatives of the EC and relevant national authorities from the GCC countries in order to examine concrete opportunities for structured cooperation in the framework of H2020. Among others, the possibility of a joint funding mechanism within the framework of H2020 was discussed. More information on these deliberations cannot be disclosed in this report but is available upon request from the project coordinator subject to clearance from the EC.

Activity 4: Collaboration with other projects, networks and initiatives was sought through participation in various relevant events over the 3-year period, as well as through the systematic networking with key stakeholders active in EU-GCC cooperation. In particular, close ties were established with the EU-GCC Clean Energy Network which is an EU-funded project (EuropeAid) focusing on the area of Clean Energy and RES. This collaboration focused mainly in the exchange of information, participation in project events, and common networking opportunities.

II) Promoting joint research initiatives through clustering activities within the selected societal challenges

Activity 1: Development of an Engagement Strategy for the active involvement of key R&I stakeholders from GCC and the EU with the focus being on the two selected thematic areas. The objectives of the Engagement Strategy were to promote INCONET- GCC 2 activities and results to various GCC and EU stakeholders and elicit their interest in participating actively in the project events, consultations and in the development of strategic directions that relate to research priorities, areas of common interest and cooperation. This process would feed the next phases on the project, primarily clustering activities, thematic workshops, design of EU- GCC joint calls, etc. The engagement process also allowed active cooperation of GCC and EU partners from research and academia, industry and government and policy makers. The Engagement Strategy aimed to ensure the sustainability of the project results by building and highlighting common interest and common benefit areas of cooperation.

The Strategy involved primarily the mapping of entities from both GCC and EU regions, in particular Research and academic entities; Industrial partners; End users; Government stakeholders and policy makers; and International organisations and associations, all active in areas and domains relevant to the above mentioned thematic areas. The main principles for the effective engagement; type of engagement and contribution; as well as the key challenges for stakeholder engagement were also analysed.

Activity 2: Organisation of five thematic workshops involving R&I stakeholders from the EU MS&AC and GCC in Kuwait, 06/2014 on Health/Diabetes (112 participants); in UAE, 10/2014 (63 participants) and Bahrain, 03/2015 (82 participants) on Smart Cities; in Oman, 12/2015 on innovation issues concerning the two priorities (143 participants); and in Qatar, 03/2016 on RES and Smart Cities (70 participants). During the events, key stakeholders from the whole innovation chain from both EU and GCC highlighted the challenges linked to selected research priorities of mutual interest and proposed ways to advance research cooperation. The events were also very successful in mobilizing regional actors and raising awareness among them on the opportunities in H2020.

The workshop objectives were as follows:
- To highlight the challenges linked to development and the significance of adopting and promoting a coherent plan for tackling those challenges;
- To promote the ‘Smart Cities’ model and the related technologies and solutions linked to it with a particular focus to energy and environment;
- To promote the dialogue among international key institutions and experts focusing, in order to identify common areas for cooperation and promote action plans;
- To raise awareness on various funding opportunities available, as well as cooperation paths, mainly but not exclusively, through EU’s Horizon 2020 Program as well as other national GCC programs and initiatives, etc.

The workshops targeted organizations, entities and professionals from both GCC and EU countries, namely:
- Urban, regional and national authorities;
- Development, planning and funding agencies;
- Research and Academic entities;
- Industry experts already active or willing to become active in “Smart Cities” models and applications;
- Healthcare professionals and health services experts from private and public sectors;
- Citizen’s associations, etc.

Activity 3: Dedicated cluster areas were created on the project website for the two thematic priorities with lists of key R&I stakeholders as well as links to relevant partner search engines of NCP networks. The cluster areas can be accessed at the following web addresses:
http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/themes/health-diabetes/
http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/themes/energy-smart-cities/

Activity 4: A mobility/grant scheme was implemented to facilitate the participation of researchers from GCC in the INCONET-GCC2 Summer Schools (see below). A total of 16 grants were awarded through two rounds of open calls. The main goal of the mobility grants was to support the development of EU-GCC joint research proposals through the facilitation of researchers’ mobility - in particular mobility of young researchers and PhD students from the GCC involved with research related to Smart Cities and Health/Diabetes.

The mobility grant schemes focused on the facilitation of researcher mobility within the two identified priority research areas of Smart Cities and health-related issues, especially the non-communicable diseases (NCD) prevalent in the GCC states – primarily diabetes, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular ailments. Within these two focus areas, the specific goals of this activity can be summarized as follows:
- Promote EU->GCC and GCC->EU knowledge flows to ensure a diverse and highly skilled workforce in both the EU and the GCC countries that has the capacity to respond to opportunities and challenges in EU-GCC research;
- Strengthen the cooperation and the development of joint research activities between academia and industry both on an EU-GCC basis and also within the GCC countries themselves;
- Promote co-advising and exchanges of PhD students and young researchers between the EU and the GCC countries;
- Facilitate new partnerships through the transfer of knowledge from academia to industry and vice-versa, both on an EU-GCC basis and also within the GCC countries themselves;
- Stimulate professionals and scholars to create networks that exceed national frameworks through the enhancing of cooperation between stakeholders from the EU and the GCC;
- Raise scientific excellence in both the EU and the GCC countries through the stimulation of inter-regional research networks of excellence with a specific focus on innovation.

The ultimate purpose of the researcher mobility scheme was to stimulate transnational research involving the collaboration of researchers and PhD students from the GCC countries with colleagues from Europe for the joint benefit of both regions. The associated researcher mobility should also contribute to the creation of new research networks of excellence linking the two regions through the two focus areas of Smart Cities and Health, which are of prime importance to both regions.

Activity 5: Two innovation summer schools were organised in Greece, 09/2015 (28 participants) and Qatar, 04/2016 (42 participants) on Smart Cities and Non-Communicable Diseases respectively. The main objective here was to bring together GCC researchers with experts from the EU in order to create a synergistic environment where proposed cooperative projects could be discussed and refined. This activity was carried out in close cooperation with the mobility grant schemes described above.

The Innovation Summer Schools were seen as a multi-disciplinary opportunity to diffuse institutional research projects as well as other relevant initiatives (such as: public, entrepreneurial, innovative, cultural, industrial) that could be relevant for the discussion of the selected societal challenges / research priorities. The innovation summer schools helped interested students and academics as well as individuals working in the private sector or government, to better understand the specific thematic priorities and get comprehensive knowledge on the various aspects of the selected themes. During the innovation summer schools, participants attended daily lectures, seminars and tutorials, aimed at developing attendees thinking on a range of issues related to the selected theme. That was followed by discussions and explorations of how to adopt common methodological grounds.

The 1st Innovation Summer School was entitled “Collective awareness platforms for Smart Cities development” and was held in Volos, Greece on 7-10 September 2015. For more information, please visit:
http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/event/1st-inconet-gcc2-innovation-summer-school-collective-awareness-platforms-for-smart-cities-development/

The 2nd Innovation Summer School was entitled “Health Research and Innovation: The Development of Personalized Healthcare to Address Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)” and was held in Doha, Qatar on 17-19 April 2016. For more information, please visit:
http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/news/qatar-university-hosts-2nd-inconet-gcc2-summer-school-health-research-innovation/

III) Enhance capacity building through continuous support of the existing H2020 National Contact Points (NCPs) in the GCC countries and Yemen

Activity 1: Two training seminars for H2020 NCPs from the GCC countries were organised in Brussels, 11/2014 and Qatar, 04/2016 in order to familiarise them with the programme and assist them in their development.

The first seminar was organised as part of the “International NCP Workshop - Promoting the International Dimension of Horizon 2020” which was held on 26/11/2014 in Brussels within the framework of the INCONTACT 2020 project. NCPs from Qatar and UAE attended the event. Provided that the goal of this workshop was to highlight the global dimension of Horizon 2020 and facilitate the exchange of views for the enhancement of international research cooperation, participants from the Arab peninsula gained valuable experience by attending. The main achievement was a clearer and in depth understanding of National Contact Point (NCP) responsibilities for Arab Gulf Countries National Contact Points who participated in the workshop.

The second seminar was organised in Doha, Qatar, on 20 April 2016. NCPs from Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, and Bahrain attended. The training focused on the following topics:
- Introduction to H2020 and the project cycle
- What is an NCP? (NCP systems and structures, roles, responsibilities, services offered)
- NCP Networks and what they can offer
- Participant portal, project management, and reporting
- Joining a consortium, finding the right partners
- Good practice examples and other case studies

Overall, from both training activities the following conclusions were reached:
The performance of Arab Gulf Countries NCPs is lower compared with other countries and regions of similar profile. This is partially explained by the non-existence of a specific ongoing STI dialogue shaping a concrete framework of cooperation between EU and GCC. GCC NCPs should follow some success stories from other 3rd countries (such as Egypt) in order to boost the participation of stakeholders in Horizon 2020 during the next period and the forthcoming Work Programmes. At this moment, inconsistencies in GCC NCPs are identified in the following areas:
- Weak knowledge of Horizon 2020 rules and conditions
- Infrequent update in informing interested stakeholders on open and forthcoming calls under Horizon 202
- Prioritization of bilateral agreements on R&I between EU Member States and Gulf Countries
- Limited existence of topics of mutual interest or not apparent from the way they are presented in the relevant calls
- Gulf countries fall under the category of “developed countries” and therefore local legal entities are not automatically eligible for funding under H2020.

In order to tackle the above mentioned challenges two general directions should be followed:
- GCC NCPs need to monitor all H2020-related activity. This translates into a pressing need to gain access to information and data that will let them better prepare and provide actors in their country with effective consultation and guidance. Early access to the information on work programmes, selection results, projects’ outcomes can play a fundamental role in better preparation and participation of local organisations to Horizon 2020 and can be critical in overcoming the common perception of the difficulty of engaging with H2020. GCC NCPs should create close ties and more frequent networking with NCP networks at least in the identified thematic areas of mutual benefit (i.e. Health & Energy). Such a direction will facilitate GCC stakeholders join European consortia, a major difficulty for 3rd countries participation in collaborative projects;
- To perform their duties, GCC NCPs need a consistent training schedule which will be covering the whole implementation period of Horizon 2020. Moreover, training sessions should include other 3rd countries NCPs with similar cultural characteristics and good success rates in FP7 and Horizon 2020 (e.g. Egypt).

Activity 2: A benchmarking exercise was carried out with the participation of NCPs from the GCC countries and Yemen. The NCPs were asked to fill-in a specific questionnaire which aimed to acquire information on issues related to:
- NCP Strategy
- Basic NCP activities
- NCP Operation & Services provisions
- NCP Resources Sufficiency
- NCP self-assessment.

The main conclusions reached from the exercise were the following:
- The Gulf Countries National Contact Points who answered this questionnaire have a very basic understanding of Horizon 2020. Moreover, Horizon 2020 dissemination and communication to the R&I community of their country seems not to be at a high priority for the hosting organizations of the National Contact Points. Because of these two facts they underperform in activities related with the main activities for an NCP as described in the Guiding Principles for National Contact Points official EU document.

The following steps and recommendation were suggested in order to improve the overall performance of Horizon 2020 GCC NCPs:
- Establishment of a systematic training session to nominated GCC NCPs with hands-on experience sharing by European NCPs. Such a round of training sessions (including webinars, training workshops, seminars, participation in conferences with other NCPs from EU and 3rd countries) should be taken in combination with a continuous monitoring of H2020 success rates of GCC.
- Hands-on sessions organized in EU with the participation of GCC NCPs, confirming after the closure of each on having the knowledge in a specific thematic areas / managerial aspect of H2020 (e.g. steps for preparing & submitting a proposal, financial reporting main issues for a 3rd country based partner etc.)

The above mentioned issues, could improve the performance of GCC NCPs provided that the political dialogue about the establishment of a bilateral ST&I agreement between EU and GCC succeeds. Otherwise, the interest on learning and promoting H2020 will face similar obstacles and hurdles.


IV) Roadmap future research activities and provide recommendations to the EC and the national regulatory and funding authorities on the way forward in EU-GCC R&I cooperation

Activity 1: A White Paper was elaborated in the context of the project with a view to the selected thematic priorities, i.e. it reviews the fundamental rationale for collaboration between the EU and the GCC, including to what extent there are synergies or complementarities, strengths or weaknesses, risks or opportunities, and in which way research and innovation collaboration between the EU and the GCC can help generate better outcomes. In this it incorporates a specification of a SWOT analysis from which a number of conclusions were drawn. A P. E. S. T. Analysis (P. E. S. T. stands for Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological) was also applied to describe different PEST factors or changes in Health or Smart cities focus areas, in order to identify concrete cooperation opportunities and carve a sustainable strategic niche in these broad areas. Furthermore, a Porter’s Five Forces Analysis was used as a way of assessing the balance of power (strengths and Threats) in the general context of the Smart City and Healthcare domains (market) of the GCC countries; this helped determine some related threats to the development of EU-GCC cooperation in these topics.

This activity was implemented together with Activity 2 (see below) and was addressed primarily to policy makers and national authorities from both the EU and GCC. Joint results were produced which are outlined in the section below.

Activity 2: A Roadmap for the future was sketched out based on the results of the White Paper as well as on the outcomes of the various other project activities. The Roadmap was addressed to decision makers from both regions and provided the following considerations:
To the GCC national authorities:
- To compete in the 21st century, the GCC states should articulate their STI vision and implement strategies and programmes to propel their countries toward diversified and sustained knowledge and innovation-based development.
- The GCC states should maximize their benefits from the large investments they have made in education at all levels, and in ICT and STI, including Research and Development (R&D). This can best be accomplished by creating an enabling environment to invest in knowledge-related sectors. This will require a new emphasis on developing competitive, transparent, productive, and sustainable economies.
- The GCC states should focus the commercialization of research outcomes on areas of strategic importance to them and on providing products, services, and processes, not only to the GCC domestic markets but also to the larger markets of the region and beyond.
- GCC states should coordinate their STI activities and establish Regional Centres of Excellence for issues of strategic importance such as water desalination, environmental issues, and renewable energy. This will avoid duplication of efforts and enhance regional integration.
- GCC states such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates that have set targets to increase R&D expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) should make concerted efforts to meet these targets. Other countries should be encouraged to set and meet realistic targets.
- GCC states should encourage the private sector to invest more in training and capacity building as well as R&D and innovation. There should additionally be more collaboration between universities and research centres and the private sector.
- GCC states should make it easier to do business in their countries, so as to encourage private sector investments, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This will result in technology transfers and spillover effects, leading to knowledge and innovation-based economies.
- GCC states should ensure the availability of adequate early-stage funds including seed, angel, venture capital, and crowd financing to encourage entrepreneurs and innovators to scale up and commercialize their research outcomes and innovative ideas.
- GCC states should further encourage GCC research centres and universities to carry out collaborative research with leading research institutions and universities in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

To the EU side:
- The European Commission should further encourage and support GCC nationals to collaborate with EU countries through H2020 and other research programmes, providing incentives and facilitating the way.
- The European Commission should increase collaborative research and the exchange of scientists, researchers, and professors between EU universities and research centres and GCC research institutions. EU professors, scientists, and researchers should be encouraged to spend part of their sabbaticals in GCC universities and research centres, and vice versa. Such cooperation has already begun; however, it should be continued.
- The European Commission should further encourage and intensify collaboration between EU Laboratories and other research infrastructures and GCC countries, as it does through H2020 programmes.
- The EU private sector should support GCC states by transferring relevant technologies and by building up the skills and competencies of GCC nationals in order to increase the human capital of GCC nationals.
- The EU and GCC states should encourage GCC scientists and researchers to register and patent their proven research outcomes and innovative ideas in the EU Patent Office (EPO) Administration and GCC institutions, so as to benefit from lessons learned and best practices.

The full White Paper and Roadmap can be accessed here:
http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Del4_1-and-4_2_INCONETGCC2_final.pdf

Activity 3: The Continuity Plan of INCONET-GCC2 was prepared. This plan sets out directions and options for future collaboration in research and innovation. In doing so, it takes into account the presence of systemic differences between the EU and the GCC. The former already operates within well-developed regional research and innovation programmes, while the latter has less experience of such collaboration and each country engages in activities primarily on its own.

As a basis for fruitful follow-up collaboration in research and innovation between the EU and the GCC, recommendations were structured in terms of objectives, instruments, and activities, along with modes of action for promoting linking, allocating resources and stimulating governance. These may be summed up as follows:
- Objectives; foster collaboration between researches and research networks, build trust among diverse players, supporting mutual learning strengthening the innovation system.
- Instruments; build a pool of established as well as new instruments, making use of combinations such as online platforms, incentives for multi-stakeholder initiatives, and executive/professional training for decision makers. A diversity of smart initiatives coming from different actors should further be welcomed.
- Activities; facilitate common advocacy for research and innovation, including with a view to building competencies and stewardship, better combinations of basic and applied research, and boosting private sector engagement in research and innovation. Specific examples of recommended activities include: “Olympiads” or development agendas engaging children and young adults; stimulating “grassroots engagement in research on long-term issues; establishing “platforms” for new partnerships; fostering a new generation of start-ups and their growth, and; building joint expert groups and undertaking joint training activities.
- Linking; Put a premium on cross-disciplinary effort and synergies between traditionally separated competencies, for instance by: creating mutually compatible curricula among EU and GCC education and training institutions; Promote a spectrum of individual research exchanges, and; stimulate cross-sectoral mobility.
- Resources; For the follow-up stage: tap into existing programmes and initiatives; develop new specific initiatives with resources earmarked for providing new support, and; catalyse agendas that can attract resources from various players across the two regions. Specific proposals for strategic funding streams include; Coordinated or joint calls by research funding bodies; awareness-building sessions to assist researchers from the two regions to team up in response to specific calls; various other kinds of institutional collaboration around funding.
- Governance; Strengthen innovation systems through strategic collaborative initiatives and for a joint Expert Group, or Advisory body, promoting links to major regional authorities as well as national bodies, and other stakeholders, with the flexibility to receive mandates on demand as well as take new initiatives. Meanwhile various actors should be welcomed to build on the momentum of INCONET-GCC2 by introducing add-on activities and inviting others to join. Examples include PEIE interest in opening for bi-regional engagement to take part on innovative pilot projects, creating a living lab around smart solutions to be incorporated in industrial park development of Oman the Bahrain E-Government Authority’s interest in bi-regional networks in support of entrepreneurship and high-growth start-up activity.

The full Continuity Plan can be accessed here:
http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/INCONET-GCC2_WP4_D4.3.pdf

V) Raise awareness and disseminate information on H2020 as well as the activities of the INCONET-GCC2 project

Activity 1: A series of seven Information Days was implemented in all the countries of the GCC region as well as Yemen. The InfoDays were organised in Kuwait, 06/2014; UAE, 10/2014; Qatar, 10/2014; Yemen, 03/2015; Bahrain, 03/2015; Oman, 04/2015; and Saudi Arabia, 11/2016.

During these open events the local research community and other interested stakeholders were informed on the opportunities that exist for participation in H2020 and received initial training on how to participate in the programme. It should be noted that, where possible, dedicated NCP trainings were implemented at the margins of the Information Days.

Activity 2: Two International Conferences were organised in Oman, 12/2015 and Brussels, 11/2016 with the participation of key R&I stakeholders in order to explore further possibilities for cooperation between the two regions.

The first INCONET-GCC2 International Conference entitled “Collaboration for Innovation - Linking GCC and EU” was held in Muscat, on 7-8 December 2015. The focus of the conference was the presentation of the state of affairs, collaboration opportunities & benefits as well as the barriers to overcome in STI cooperation between GCC-EU, with a focus in Energy/Smart Cities and Healthcare which have been identified as sectors of mutual benefit between the two regions (see annex A for the full programme of the Conference and annex B for bios of the invited speakers and moderators). In order to have a relevant & dynamic event, the speakers’ interventions focused on concrete partnerships in the context of Horizon 2020 and other EU initiatives in R&I. In addition, concrete cooperation opportunities in the aforementioned areas of mutual interest for EU and GCC stakeholders were identified.

The first conference was a success with 143 participants from GCC and EU countries throughout the 2 days. The event was also a success in terms of the high quality of deliberations between high-level stakeholders from both regions. The conference contributed to the development and promotion of relations and exchanges between stakeholders in Energy/Smart cities & Healthcare.

For more information concerning the first conference please visit: http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/news/inconet-gcc2-hosts-international-conference-collaboration-innovation-linking-gcc-eu-muscat-oman/

The 2nd INCONET-GCC2 International Conference entitled “EU-GCC Research & Innovation cooperation: The way forward” was held in Brussels, on 29 November 2016. The purpose of the conference was to bring together key stakeholders from both the EU and GCC countries in order to take stock of the results of the INCONET-GCC2 project, identify opportunities-threats, and explore ways to enhance the future bi-regional R&I cooperation between EU and GCC.

The second conference was a success with 106 participants. The event gathered among others high-level stakeholders from the whole innovation chain (researchers, policy makers, business community/entrepreneurs), from both EU and GCC countries who took part in the deliberations in the framework of the conference.

For more information concerning the second conference please visit: http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/news/inconet-gcc2-hosts-international-conference-eu-gcc-research-innovation-cooperation-way-forward-brussels/

Activity 3: In order to provide pertinent and updated information on the R&I cooperation between EU and GCC and to increase the visibility of the project, a dedicated website for the project was developed http://www.inconet-gcc.eu, in addition to a FB and twitter account/page (@INCONETGCC2). Continuous information updates were posted on all these communication channels.

Additionally, two sets of leaflets and posters were produced. The first set, at the beginning of the project, described the main objectives and targets. The second set was produced towards the end of the project highlighting the main achievements and results. To download this material please visit: http://www.inconet-gcc.eu/publications/

Potential Impact:
The activities implemented in the context of the INCONET-GCC2 project will have a direct positive impact on the cooperation with the targeted countries, at both policy and operational/ implementation levels.

More specifically, at the policy level, the INCONET-GCC2 is expected to: i) increase the knowledge on the R&I landscape in the target region; ii) raise awareness and support for the bi-regional EU-GCC policy dialogue process; iii) provide policy makers with concrete suggestions for further cooperation; and iv) create the necessary environment for key stakeholders from both regions to discuss future cooperation opportunities.

The direct impact of INCONET-GCC2 is that it will contribute to the formulation of an overarching European Commission strategy for the Arab Gulf region through the elaboration of the specific White Paper and Roadmap, as well as through the conclusions of the policy panels that were organised. Such a strategy is vital for policy makers, who need to target their initiatives and measures consistently and based on clear, valid and reliable information.
In addition, INCONET-GCC2 is totally in line with the EC Communication [Brussels, 14.9.2012 COM(2012) 497 final] titled “Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: A strategic approach”. INCONET-GCC2 is a “Science diplomacy” project, which uses international cooperation in research and innovation as an instrument of soft power and a mechanism for improving relations Arab Gulf countries.
INCONET-GCC2 has aimed at the “intensification of international cooperation” activities focused on “engaging with partners outside of Europe on equal terms and in programmes and activities of high mutual interest” as recommended in the FP7 interim evaluation.

At the operational/implementation level the project is expected to: i) increase the participation of R&I stakeholders based in GCC countries and Yemen in H2020, ii) raise awareness of H2020 in the target countries and the opportunities it presents for international collaboration, iii) increase the capacity of key stakeholders in the target countries with regards to engagement with their EU counterparts within the context of H2020 and beyond.

Some of the evident expected impact of INCONET-GCC2 includes:
- to add value to the current shape of human resources in the Arab Gulf Countries by organizing events such as summer schools, thematic workshops, information days and brokerage events and mobility of researchers, which are very important to the training procedure at the first phases to stress the need for mobility and culture exchange; research is a global institution and skills such as mobility, command of foreign languages and culture exchange help greatly in this direction.
- to leverage cooperation among the top research teams on the selected sectors and create a unified approach to training and research, which can be adopted by other institutes and universities as well.
- to invite top rank experts who can offer the researchers at the early stage valuable experience to be used in their future career.
- Specific events planned by the network, such as focused thematic workshops, clustering activities, brainstorming events, as well as more broadly-oriented meetings (policy dialogue workshops, international conferences) bring researchers from the different institutions together enabling them to learn from each other and to exchange ideas.
- R&I institutions will greatly benefit from all the activities of the INCONET-GCC2 network. New links to the other stakeholders and external experts via the networking activities, meetings and other events will facilitate maintaining up-to-date knowledge on the leading-edge research outside each institution.
- All the selected research priorities are extremely important areas from the European industrial perspective. INCONET-GCC2 promotes networking between academic institutions and the industry. This will have a cross-fertilizing effect, bringing the latest research results to the attention of the industrial research and development, and giving motivation and direction to the problem settings of academic research.
- INCONET-GCC2 will have an impact well beyond the contract period by establishing longer term collaborations between the partners, in particular also between industrial and academic partners.
- Involving stakeholders from the Arab Gulf Countries, the EU and Associated Candidate Countries in the activities of the project promotes both scientific and industrial development in these regions and countries.
- INCONET-GCC2 communication portal will be continued after the end of the contract, and will remain an important resource for exchange of information and enhancement of collaboration.

With regards to the wider socio-economic impact and implications, the project could contribute towards: i) Tackling global societal challenges in a coordinated way (e.g. energy efficiency and use of RES), ii) Attracting top research talent from the GCC countries to the EU for research collaborations, and iii) Promoting the EU’s external relations and diplomatic ties with the region through enhanced R&I cooperation.

Furthermore, INCONET-GCC2 could generate employment opportunities, including among young scientists, and help counter forces pushing for scientific brain-drain to foreign universities, institutes and companies. In addition, wider positive economic effect will follow from a range of enhanced knowledge exchanges, and as various processes in innovation and entrepreneurship are put in motion.

Dissemination activities as already mentioned in the previous section included:
- A series of seven Information Days implemented in all the countries of the GCC region as well as Yemen. The InfoDays were organised in Kuwait, 06/2014; UAE, 10/2014; Qatar, 10/2014; Yemen, 03/2015; Bahrain, 03/2015; Oman, 04/2015; and Saudi Arabia, 11/2016. During these open events the local research community and other interested stakeholders were informed on the opportunities that exist for participation in H2020, received initial training on how to participate in the programme, and where presented the main activities and results of INCONET-GCC2.
- Two International Conferences were organised in Oman, 12/2015 and Brussels, 11/2016 with the participation of key R&I stakeholders in order to explore further possibilities for cooperation between the two regions, as well as to get introduced to the INCONET-GCC2 project, its objectives, and its activities.
- A dedicated website for the project was developed http://www.inconet-gcc.eu, in addition to a FB and twitter account/page (@INCONETGCC2). Continuous information updates were posted on all these communication channels.
- Two sets of leaflets and posters were produced. The first set, at the beginning of the project, described the main objectives and targets. The second set was produced towards the end of the project highlighting the main achievements and results. This material was extensively disseminated in all events organised by the project as well as in third party events in which project partners participated.

List of Websites:
Public website: www.inconet-gcc.eu

Contact information

PRAXI Network / FORTH

George Baroutas, INCONET-GCC2 Coordinator
Email: gbaroutas@help-forward.gr

Dimitris Filippidis, INCONET-GCC2 Coordinator
Email: filippidis@help-forward.gr

Related information

Reported by

FOUNDATION FOR RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY HELLAS
Greece
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