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EPICUR Research Agenda - Shaping European Society in Transition

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EPICUR-Research (EPICUR Research Agenda - Shaping European Society in Transition)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-06-30

Started in January 2021, the EU-funded EPICUR-Research project expands the Alliance’s areas of interest to research, innovation, and interaction with society. The European Partnership for an Innovative Campus Unifying Regions (EPICUR) has the ambitions to collectively develop new ways of connecting researchers and stakeholders outside academia, sharing research infrastructures and resources, shaping and assessing academic careers, and defining mission-driven research questions relevant to the society.
The overarching objective of EPICUR-Research is to develop a common research and innovation strategy for EPICUR. To achieve this, the EPICUR team undertakes pilot activities aiming to enable the academic community of the Alliance and beyond to dialogue and to propose innovative ways to tackle the so-called EPIChallenges. These represent the pressing global societal needs to respond (through adaptation or mitigation) to the continuously changing environmental, social, and economic conditions. The pre-defined set of EPIChallenges for this pilot project are “Sustainability Research”, “Mobility, Migration, Identity”, and “Public Health”.
With more than 39,000 young researchers in more than 150 disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields, EPICUR-Research aims to strengthen the role and position of early career researchers (ECRs) and foster the advancement of their academic careers by facilitating virtual, blended, and hybrid mobility opportunities as well as by initiating bottom-up collaborative processes and building new networks for researchers in all their career stages, thereby forming a new kind of research community that crosses disciplinary borders and opens universities to their communities.
The mobility of researchers within the Alliance aims to contribute to EPICUR’s general objectives of strengthening and connecting European regions, their stakeholders, their entrepreneurial ecosystems and regional networks in which students, educators, researchers, mentors, investors, leaders, and experts from industry, civil society and non-governmental organisations are brought together as a unique and valuable resource for knowledge and innovation.
EPICUR-Research is coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and structured in six work packages (WP) to achieve an efficient realization of the project´s objectives. Each WP is led by an EPICUR partner university. Work packages 1, 2, 3, and 4 constitute the roadmap designed for delivering the EPICUR research strategy. Work packages 5 and 6 support and provide the required structures for project management, communication, dissemination, and exploitation.
EPICUR acknowledges the importance of considering the needs and wishes of ECRs, as they are at the heart of EPICUR-Research activities. Thus, the newly established EPICUR ECR Board, consisting of early career researchers representing EPICUR member universities, has a consulting (and steering) role in the Horizon 2020 project and work with the WP leaders for the benefit and effectiveness of the activities.
During the first half of the project, EPICUR has advanced towards many areas of this long-term strategy and can be proud of several important achievements.
Based on the collection of data with identified key performance indicators (third-party funding, scientific awards, partnerships, publications, and further research outputs) and on multiple exchanges at institutional level concerning local research strategies as well as data on the European Research Area, the WP1 team explores the existing collaborations between EPICUR universities and common priorities, bringing together the pressing research and innovation issues and the academic community so as to lay the foundations for the common research agenda (WP1). Based on our complementary strengths, EPICUR will formulate a new set of future EPIChallenges that will be addressed together.
EPICUR-Research supports and engage ECRs from across the Alliance and beyond with the following formats developed throughout the past months:EPICamps and EPICradles to deepen networks with other researchers as well as to advance challenge-based ideas and develop collaborative projects. So far, five EPICamps took place between October 2021 and April 2022, focusing on two (out of three) EPIChallenges.
To contribute to the improvement of sustainable research careers in the context of the European Research Area, the EPICUR-Research team has developed frameworks for the assessment (EPIQAssess) and gamification (EPIGame) of researchers within the Alliance, which will be integrated in the design of the EPICommunity (WP2).EPICommunity is designed to serve as a registry, allowing for an easy discovery of high-quality research profiles. It will help ECRs raise the visibility of their scientific achievements and skill sets as well as to find team members from other EPICUR universities for joint research projects.
The EPICUR-Research team is also exploring its potential and making recommendations to facilitate access and increase sharing of research infrastructures across the Alliance as well as to encourage the formation of transdisciplinary research teams capable of providing solutions to grand challenges in dialogue with business, academic partners, and civil society (WP3). The open research format EPICluster will serve as a test bet. An EPICluster is a collaborative project fostering international cooperation among researchers and non-academic professionals so as to address scientific and societal challenges, and designed to support early career researchers in putting their new research ideas into action. It is open to groups of at least five people who will receive a budget of up to €150,000 to get their project off the ground. The call will be launched in November 2022.
Furthermore, EPICUR seeks to establish sustainable, intelligent, and meaningful connections with engaging peer alliances, relevant H2020 and Horizon Europe projects as well as regional European networks (WP4). To this end, EPICUR is developing an action plan that serves as a base for informed decision-making on criteria for testing network-to-network collaboration, primarily in dissemination activities on collaborative research formats.
The project roadmap unfolds on several levels of collaborations and dialogue between researchers, between academia and society, between academia and businesses and also between other networks and projects. It is intended to provide networking opportunities facilitated by the EPICommunity platform as well as to share resources such as skills development courses and mobility opportunities. EPICUR-Research emphasises the importance of providing young researchers with the tools needed to advance their academic careers and helping them increase their visibility in the academic environment and beyond.
Through diverse actions, EPICUR-Research is developing connectivity with the ecosystem and non-academic actors involved in research and innovation with the aim of eventually building a “Europe region”. Building relationships with our peer alliances will furthermore facilitate the preparation of common policy recommendations so as to shape the universities of the future. In this fashion, EPICUR-Research expects to have a significant impact on the careers of researchers, the institutional transition of universities as well as the systemic change of European research and education spaces.
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