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SOCIETAL CHALLENGES - Europe In A Changing World - Inclusive, Innovative And Reflective Societies


SOCIETAL CHALLENGES - Europe In A Changing World - Inclusive, Innovative And Reflective Societies

Specific objective

The specific objective is to foster a greater understanding of Europe, provide solutions and support inclusive, innovative and reflective European societies in a context of unprecedented transformations and growing global interdependencies.
Europe is confronted with major socio-economic challenges which significantly affect its common future. These include growing economic and cultural interdependencies, ageing and demographic change, social exclusion and poverty, integration and disintegration, inequalities and migration flows, a growing digital divide, fostering a culture of innovation and creativity in society and enterprises, and a decreasing sense of trust in democratic institutions and between citizens within and across borders. These challenges are enormous and they call for a common European approach, based upon shared scientific knowledge that social sciences and humanities, among others, can provide.
Significant inequalities persist in the Union both across countries and within them. In 2011 the Human Development Index, an aggregate measure of progress in health, education and income, scores the Member States between 0,771 and 0,910, thus reflecting considerable divergences between countries. Significant gender inequalities also persist: for instance, the gender pay gap in the Union remains at an average of 17,8 % in favour of men. In 2011, one in every six Union citizens (around 80 million people) was at risk of poverty. Over the past two decades the poverty of young adults and families with children has risen. The youth unemployment rate is above 20 %. 150 million Europeans (some 25 %) have never used the internet and may never get sufficient digital literacy. Political apathy and polarisation in elections has also risen, reflecting citizens' faltering trust in current political systems.
These figures suggest that some social groups and communities are persistently left out of social and economic development and/or democratic politics. These inequalities do not only stifle societal development but hamper the economies in the Union and reduce the research and innovation capacities within and across countries.
A central challenge in addressing these inequalities will be the fostering of settings in which European, national and ethnic identities can coexist and be mutually enriching.
Moreover, the number of Europeans aged over 65 is expected to rise significantly by 42 % from 87 million in 2010 to 124 million in 2030. This presents a major challenge for the economy, society and the sustainability of public finances.
Europe's productivity and economic growth rates have been relatively decreasing for four decades. Furthermore, its share of the global knowledge production and its innovation performance lead compared to key emerging economies such as Brazil and China are declining fast. Although Europe has a strong research base, it needs to make this base a powerful asset for innovative goods and services.
It is well-known that Europe needs to invest more in science and innovation and that it will also have to coordinate these investments better than in the past. Since the financial crisis many economic and social inequalities in Europe have been aggravated even further, and the return of pre-crisis rates of economic growth seems a long way off for most of the Union. The current crisis also suggests that it is challenging to find solutions to crises that reflect the heterogeneity of Member States and their interests.
These challenges must be tackled together and in innovative and multi-disciplinary ways because they interact in complex and often unexpected ways. Innovation may lead to weakening inclusiveness, as can be seen, for instance, in the phenomena of digital divide or labour market segmentation. Social innovation and social trust are sometimes difficult to reconcile in policies, for instance in socially depressed areas in large cities in Europe. Besides, the conjunction of innovation and citizens' evolving demands also lead policymakers and economic and social actors to find new answers that ignore established boundaries between sectors, activities, goods or services. Phenomena such as the growth of Internet, of the financial systems, of the ageing economy and of the ecological society abundantly show how it is necessary to think and respond to these issues across their dimensions of inclusiveness and innovation at the same time.
The in-built complexity of these challenges and the evolutions of demands thus make it essential to develop innovative research and new smart technologies, processes and methods, social innovation mechanisms, coordinated actions and policies that will anticipate or influence major evolutions for Europe. It calls for a renewed understanding of determinants of innovation. In addition, it calls for understanding the underlying trends and impacts within these challenges and rediscovering or reinventing successful forms of solidarity, behaviour, coordination and creativity that make Europe distinctive in terms of inclusive, innovative and reflective societies compared to other regions of the world.
It also requires a more strategic approach to cooperation with third countries, based on a deeper understanding of the Union's past and its current and future role as a global player.

Rationale and Union added value

These challenges go beyond national borders and thus call for more complex comparative analyses to develop a base upon which national and European policies can be better understood. Such comparative analyses should address mobility (of people, goods, services and capital but also of competences, knowledge and ideas) and forms of institutional cooperation, intercultural interactions and international cooperation. If these challenges are not better understood and anticipated, forces of globalisation also push European countries to compete with each other rather than cooperate, thus accentuating differences in Europe rather than commonalities and a right balance between cooperation and competition. Addressing such critical issues, including socio-economic challenges, only at national level, carries the danger of inefficient use of resources, externalisation of problems to other European and non-European countries and the accentuation of social, economic and political tensions that may directly affect the aims of the Treaties regarding its values, in particular Title I of the Treaty on European Union.
In order to understand, analyse and build inclusive, innovative and reflective societies, Europe requires a response which unfolds the potential of shared ideas for the European future to create new knowledge, technologies and capabilities. The concept of inclusive societies acknowledges the diversity in culture, regions and socio-economic settings as a European strength. Turning European diversity into a source of innovation and development is needed. Such endeavour will help Europe tackle its challenges not only internally but also as a global player on the international scene. This, in turn, will also help Member States benefit from experiences elsewhere and allow them to better define their own specific actions corresponding to their respective contexts.
Fostering new modes of cooperation between countries within the Union and worldwide, as well as across relevant research and innovation communities, will therefore be a central task under this societal challenge. Supporting social and technological innovation processes, encouraging smart and participatory public administration, as well as informing and promoting evidence-based policy making will be systematically pursued in order to enhance the relevance of all these activities for policymakers, social and economic actors, and citizens. Research and innovation will be a precondition for the competitiveness of European businesses and services with particular attention to sustainability, advancing education, increasing employment, and reducing poverty.
Union funding under this challenge will thus support the development, implementation and adaptation of key Union policies, notably the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. It will interface, as and when appropriate, with Joint Programming Initiatives, including "Cultural Heritage", "More Years, Better Lives" and "Urban Europe", and coordination with the JRC direct actions will be pursued.

Broad lines of activities

Inclusive societies

The aim is to gain a greater understanding of the societal changes in Europe and their impact on social cohesion, and to analyse and develop social, economic and political inclusion and positive inter-cultural dynamics in Europe and with international partners, through cutting-edge science and interdisciplinarity, technological advances and organisational innovations. The main challenges to be tackled concerning European models for social cohesion and well-being are, inter alia, migration, integration, demographic change, the ageing society and disability, education and lifelong learning, as well as the reduction of poverty and social exclusion taking into account the different regional and cultural characteristics.
Social sciences and humanities research plays a leading role here as it explores changes over time and space and enables exploration of imagined futures. Europe has a huge shared history of both co-operation and conflict. Its dynamic cultural interactions provide inspiration and opportunities. Research is needed to understand identity and belonging across communities, regions and nations. Research will support policymakers in designing policies that foster employment, combat poverty and prevent the development of various forms of divisions, conflict and political and social exclusion, discrimination and inequalities, such as gender and intergenerational inequalities, discrimination due to disability or ethnic origin, or digital or innovation divides, in European societies and in other regions of the world. It shall in particular feed into the implementation and the adaptation of the Europe 2020 strategy and the broad external action of the Union.
The focus of activities shall be to understand and foster or implement:
(a) the mechanisms to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth;
(b) trusted organisations, practices, services and policies that are necessary to build resilient, inclusive, participatory, open and creative societies in Europe, in particular taking into account migration, integration and demographic change;
(c) Europe's role as a global actor, notably regarding human rights and global justice;
(d) the promotion of sustainable and inclusive environments through innovative spatial and urban planning and design.

Innovative societies

The aim is to foster the development of innovative societies and policies in Europe through the engagement of citizens, civil society organisations, enterprises and users in research and innovation and the promotion of coordinated research and innovation policies in the context of globalisation and the need to promote the highest ethical standards. Particular support will be provided for the development of the ERA and the development of framework conditions for innovation.
Cultural and societal knowledge is a major source of creativity and innovation, including business, public sector and social innovation. In many cases social and user-led innovations also precede the development of innovative technologies, services and economic processes. The creative industries are a major resource to tackle societal challenges and for competitiveness. As interrelations between social and technological innovation are complex, and rarely linear, further research, including cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary research, is needed into the development of all types of innovation and activities funded to encourage its effective development into the future.
The focus of activities shall be to:
(a) strengthen the evidence base and support for the flagship initiative "Innovation Union" and ERA;
(b) explore new forms of innovation, with special emphasis on social innovation and creativity, and understand how all forms of innovation are developed, succeed or fail;
(c) make use of the innovative, creative and productive potential of all generations;
(d) promote coherent and effective cooperation with third countries.

Reflective societies - cultural heritage and European identity

The aim is to contribute to an understanding of Europe's intellectual basis – its history and the many European and non-European influences – as an inspiration for our lives today. Europe is characterized by a variety of different peoples (including minorities and indigenous people), traditions and regional and national identities as well as by different levels of economic and societal development. Migration and mobility, the media, industry and transport contribute to the diversity of views and lifestyles. This diversity and its opportunities should be recognized and considered.
European collections in libraries, including digital ones, archives, museums, galleries and other public institutions have a wealth of rich, untapped documentation and objects for study. These archival resources, together with intangible heritage, represent the history of individual Member States but also the collective heritage of a Union that has emerged through time. Such materials should be made accessible, also through new technologies, to researchers and citizens to enable a look to the future through the archive of the past. Accessibility and preservation of cultural heritage in these forms is needed for the vitality of the living engagements within and across European cultures now and contributes to sustainable economic growth.
The focus of activities shall be to:
(a) study European heritage, memory, identity, integration and cultural interaction and translation, including its representations in cultural and scientific collections, archives and museums, to better inform and understand the present by richer interpretations of the past;
(b) research into European countries' and regions' history, literature, art, philosophy and religions and how these have informed contemporary European diversity;
(c) research on Europe's role in the world, on the mutual influence and ties between the regions of the world, and a view from outside on European cultures.