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Towards a common Una Europa RESearch and INnovation ecosystem

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Una.Resin (Towards a common Una Europa RESearch and INnovation ecosystem)

Reporting period: 2021-02-01 to 2022-07-31

Una Europa brings together leading European research-intensive universities with global reputation and reach to create a truly inter-university environment, where outstanding research is continuously linked to transnational learning and innovative, critical thinking. The alliance aims to drive forward both the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area by pushing the boundaries of what is feasible in transnational collaboration today. To this end, the Una.Resin project was set up with an objective to develop common strategies and action plans on joint research cooperation, sharing our world-class research infrastructure and resources, and creating a conducive environment in which researchers and staff thrive professionally and develop their full potential. Una Europa partner universities share a joint commitment to building a European University of the Future as an international, value-driven and innovative community of students, researchers and professionals that is open and inclusive. Together, we are contributing to institutional change and preparing our universities for the future.
The first activity was to develop a strategy on how to support joint research projects and innovative ideas. The objective was to map and identify areas of common research interest, complementary strengths and strategic aims across the Una Europa partner universities. In addition, and complementary to the mapping exercise, six workshops were organised at which insights and innovative ideas from the Una Europa community of researchers and research professionals were gathered. The results show that Una Europa partner universities and their research policies are driven by a shared belief in core academic values, notably academic freedom, and common practices that nurture excellence and support for competitive bottom-up funding. The key areas identified for strategic development were supporting multi/interdisciplinarity, scaling research excellence, converging collective strengths and reinforcing the impact the project aims to achieve.

Secondly, we are working towards developing a strategy on sharing our world-class research infrastructures and resources. The activity was to map and identify the research infrastructures and resources of our institutions and develop strategies on how these can be seamlessly shared across the partnership in a barrier-free manner. We focused on two challenges – Cultural Heritage and One Health. The results indicated that Una Europa institutions dispose over a significant number of high-level infrastructures, unique facilities, world-renowned collections and laboratories. One hundred and thirteen (113) of such unique infrastructure were identified for each of the two disciplines of Cultural Heritage and One Health; this list is not even exhaustive. These research infrastructures and resources encompass a wide range of multidisciplinary and multilingual sources and resources, with broad geographical coverage. The results have provided preliminary insights into institutional policies and strategies that govern the management of research infrastructures.

Finally, we are creating an environment that promotes the development and potentials of our researchers and research professional staff. The human capital development frameworks of the member universities were mapped and compared to identify best practices that could be shared. The connections between the human capital development systems and other relevant issues were also captured. Specifically, this is related to issues of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), team science, interdisciplinarity, how businesses work with academia, open science, and citizen science. Three key human capital development indicators were identified - career development, performance assessment and EDI. The outcomes of this mapping experience are informing decisions on supporting early career researchers and other professional staff at the institutional levels.

Collectively, the Una.Resin project is contributing to outcomes that are and have the potential to influence policy changes at the institutional level, towards empowering our universities in their transformation efforts towards Europe’s future vision in the field of research and innovation.
The work and lessons learned on sharing research infrastructure and resources have resulted in, for example, institutional development of ‘Shared Research Facilities’ hub at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh. This hub is enabling researchers to explore core facilities, shared equipment and expertise needed to deliver cutting-edge research. Similarly, inventories of specific research infrastructures at the different universities are being created. We have also taken the first steps in developing formats such as ‘matchmaking events’ within the academic communities and a blueprint for ‘a prototype tool’ to harvest the information on Una Europa research infrastructure and resources from the universities via an online catalogue software.

We have engaged strongly with other European University Alliances and a wider stakeholder group including industry. We are sharing project experiences and outputs, learning best practices from other alliances, and organising joint events such as matchmaking, as we contribute to driving the transformation agenda of the European research and innovation system. In doing so, Una Europa has a voice on strategic issues, such as the future of research management in Europe. Beyond Europe, we are building strategic international collaborations with universities in Africa. The aim is to provide opportunities for bottom-up engagement among researchers. The impact of the Una Europa activities and the networks of the community are global. The project has provided recommendations on research culture and environment, that prioritise excellence, the well-being of our staff, and ensure that EDI are fully integrated in our workplace

The key results expected include the development of the project’s shared research and innovation strategy and its associated roadmaps that will set the overall research and innovation direction of the Alliance. This will lay the foundations for high impact collaborations between the Una Europa universities, other international universities, key non-academic stakeholders and citizens.

The project’s potential impact is threefold and aimed at enabling Una Europa institutions 1) to strengthen multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary research and innovation activities to address global challenges, 2) to increase the internationalisation of university activities, and 3) to progress towards institutional change in areas of transformation needs both within our alliance and the wider European University Initiative. An initial impact from the project outputs is exemplified by the incorporation of the project outcomes into Una Europa’s successful rollout proposal. This is a demonstration of the potential to produce European added value in the area of research. Secondly, the project has opened up new opportunities for Una Europa researchers across the five Focus Areas (Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, European and the World, Sustainability, Cultural Heritage, and One Health) to collaborate in a way that supports the alliance’s vision on strengthening business - academia cooperation and engagement with the broader stakeholders including citizens.
Project Steering Committtee Meeting