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Research support for smaller European nations

By enhancing research exchanges between smaller and larger EU countries, one enterprising initiative has helped spur innovation and expand the European Research Area (ERA).

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While Europe's larger countries enjoy formidable research capabilities and opportunities, its smaller nations could benefit from increased EU support in developing their research potential. The EU-funded project 'Policies for research and innovation in small Member States to advance the European Research Area' (ERA-PRISM) looked at helping research in European countries with a population under 2.5 million. EU countries involved in the initiative were Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia, joined from outside the EU by Iceland. Aiming to strengthen these smaller nations' roles in the ERA, the project set up the ERA-PRISM Network to enhance exchange and know-how transfer with larger EU countries. The main project objective was to develop and improve the use of research and innovation (R&I) indicators in order to compare and enhance relevant policies in the target countries. This involved collecting and processing R&I data, surveying policymakers on how they use these indicators and conducting policy dialogue workshops. It also involved estimating the numbers of publications and patents that emerge from each small country. Another major project task included improving public procurement to stimulate research and development. The project looked at how governments obtained goods and services with taxpayer money to enhance innovation, and how this could be effectively achieved in smaller nations. Equally important was the drive to achieve balance within research funding systems – an objective that required a comparative analysis of the funding frameworks for R&I in small countries. The project team identified gaps in funding frameworks and explored joint policy coordination with larger countries to improve funding activities. Overall, the project has enabled smaller countries to learn from the more established ones in R&I. This move has also enhanced bilateral cooperation and strengthened traditional research ties (e.g. Cyprus with Greece, Latvia with Lithuania, Luxembourg with France and Germany). ERA-PRISM has also outlined a series of cooperative and strategic actions, including new approaches to policy design and implementation, which will also encourage R&I. Lastly, the project disseminated its research results through dynamic meetings in participating countries, as well as through presentations in conferences and policy forums. It has already begun to encourage governments in these small nations to enhance their research capabilities and has supported the ERA in exciting new ways. The best in R&I emerging from small European countries is yet to come.

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28 July 2020