Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP6

ERA WESTBALKAN Report Summary

Project ID: 502260
Funded under: FP6-INCO
Country: Austria

Final Report Summary - ERA WESTBALKAN (Opening up the European Research Area to the Western Balkan)

The overall objective of the ERA WESTBALKAN project was to raise the quantity and quality of participation from the Western Balkan Countries (WBC) in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). It is the first time that researchers from the WBC were offered broad opportunities to participate in international projects under FP6.

The WBC partners decided with respect to the national situation and possibilities to set up various National contact point (NCP) systems. Serbia opted for a centralised system where the NCPs are civil servants of the Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection. In FYROM, the NCPs are located at different places (either the Ministry of Science, private consultants or at the university of Skopje).

In BIH, an the NCPs were working in different universities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but in the course of the project, a restructuring process has been started with the idea to centralise the NCPs in one NCP office. The Montenegrin partners chose also a decentralised model, having one NCP working in the governmental agency for research cooperation and the other NCP being civil servant of the Ministry of Science and Education.

The NCPs were selected on the basis of internal criteria and on the basis of the guiding principles for setting up systems of NCPs for FP6.

In total, 15 NCPs were nominated immediately at the start of the project, 6 NCPs in Serbia, 4 in BIH, 3 in FYROM and 2 in Montenegro.

The NCPs are responsible for different thematic priorities in their countries. In some cases, only those thematic priorities are covered where respective research is carried out in the country.

After setting up the NCP system, the experienced partners from the Member States conducted four in-depth training workshops for the new NCPs from WBC. Through presentations, practical exercises and group discussions, topics including FP6 structure, proposal writing and submission, project management, financial and legal issues, partner search possibilities etc. were trained.

Besides FP6 training, the trainers from the Member States instructed the new NCPs in outward tasks of an NCP, such as client consultation, dissemination, information and public relations campaigns and international networking.

The WBC NCPs started from the scratch with hardly any pre-knowledge. In the course of the project run, they increased their expertise and gained experience in their daily NCP work as they have fully operated from the start on.

Now, at the end of the project, the NCPs have made an impressive knowledge leap forward, they are acknowledged information providers for the Framework Programme in their countries' research communities, are very well connected to national Research and technological development (RTD) policy stakeholders and have built a strong network of common support and communication in the region of the Western Balkans.

According to participation figures of WBC researchers before and after the project, a significant rise can be noticed. The awareness campaigns, information workshops and personal consultations carried out by the WBC NCPs have led to a rise in FP6 participation of 500 % in FYROM and 250 % rise in Serbia. Figures in BIH and Montenegro have not been evaluated yet but promise similar results.

In a series of national information workshops, the WBC NCPs gave training on FP6 issues (FP6 in general, project preparation, participation possibilities for WBC, open calls, etc) at universities, faculties, RTD institutions, chambers of commerce etc. for raising awareness on the Framework Programme and for offering their services for the national RTD community. The WBC NCPs received ample support from the Member States partners in preparing the content and presentations for the workshops.

The collaboration here is one more example for the strong commitment of all partners for this project. In total, 9 workshops were organised in BIH and in FYROM, 10 in Serbia and 1 in Montenegro.

The workshops evoked considerable interest and resulted in higher awareness for FP6 and in a rise in the number and quality of project proposals from WBC in the open INCO calls in March 2005 and 2006. Still, the participation in the thematic priorities was lagging behind expectations.

The integration of the WBC into the European Research Area (ERA) affords to fill the gap of the disinformation and ignorance. Until recently, the Western Balkan research landscape has been a white spot on the European RTD map.

The ERA WESTBALKAN project tackled this obstacle by collecting data on the research landscape of Serbia, Montenegro, BIH and FYROM. By means of pre-defined questionnaires, the WBC NCPs intensively collected data either by phone, personal interrogation, email etc. Reluctance on the side of the WBC research community on giving data impeded the data collection process. Trust-building measures and face-to-face consultations were necessary in order to obtain valuable data. Those difficulties also had a positive effect: the NCPs became acquainted with their researchers and future clients and vice versa. Besides the information campaigns, workshops and other awareness-raising measures, it was the data collection activity which proofed to be valuable and important for the NCPs networking and acknowledgment amongst national clients.

Finally, the Slovenian partner compiled the data, which was then processed by the Serbian partner and the coordinator to create an interactive CD-ROM. The CD-ROM titles 'Research in Westbalkans' offers facts and figures to the national RTD situation in the WBC (RTD structure, higher education sector, percentage of Gross domestic product (GDP) for research, funding programmes etc.). Further, the CD-ROM contains all data of the WBC RTD key players, including contact details, field of research, and participation in international projects.

The ERA WESTBALKAN project was the first of its kind for the WBC of Serbia, Montenegro, FYROM, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Initial challenges of adapting to new working cultures, implementing rules and regulations of research projects and growing into the responsibilities of an NCP have been successfully mastered by the WBC partners. The NCPs have become valuable service providers for their national research communities and professional and reliable partners in the European NCP family in the course of the two years of the project.

All partners have contributed with all their efforts, spirit and energy to the success of the ERA WESTBALKAN project. Even further, the consortium has been able to reach more than the mere objectives of the work programme: mutual support, regional cooperation and long lasting networks have been built which bring the WBC closer to the ERA and which enrich the European NCP family with new members.

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Contact

Reinhold GRUBER
Tel.: +43-1-260-13108
Fax: +43-1-260-1316
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