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RESEARCH AND INNOVATION AGENDA WITH AND FOR SOCIETY: Leveraging digital innovation for a greener and healthier Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENLIGHT RISE (RESEARCH AND INNOVATION AGENDA WITH AND FOR SOCIETY: Leveraging digital innovation for a greener and healthier Europe)

Reporting period: 2021-09-01 to 2023-02-28

The ENLIGHT Research and Innovation agenda with and for SocIety (RISE) project aims at establishing the foundations and initiating the implementation of a common research and innovation (R&I) agenda within the ENLIGHT Alliance.
ENLIGHT unites 9 universities that strive to transform the way in which we address global societal challenges by developing new models and methodologies for education and research adapted to the complex sustainability issues that cities and communities face today. It focuses on five flagship challenges: Health & Well-being; Climate change; Energy & Circular economy; Digital Revolution; Equity.
ENLIGHT RISE supports ENLIGHT in its R&I dimension, to deploy a comprehensive joint transformation agenda, in synergy with the educational component and in partnership with the surrounding 9 ecosystems.
The ambition is to become more competitive and innovative together, leveraging and synergizing our respective strengths and capitalising on our innovation potential and partnerships with our surrounding ecosystems to jointly promote a greener, healthier, more equitable and sustainable Europe.
- Objective 1: optimize our resources, jointly seeking for external funding and establishing a longer-term business model for our joint R&I actions
- Objective 2: identify our strongest research synergies with the highest joint innovation potential, in relation with our flagship societal challenges
- Objective 3: enable the sharing of and optimize capacity of digital research infrastructures, while benchmarking and optimizing the societal impact of digital innovation / artificial intelligence (DI/AI) on our flagship challenges
- Objective 4: reinforce cooperation and co-creation with the business sector to boost innovation and contribute to the economy
- Objective 5: reinforce cooperation and co-creation with the civil society and foster genuine engagement of civil society actors
- Objective 6: mainstream and incentivize open science practices and public engagement, while identifying and analysing hurdles
- Objective 7: improve the attractiveness of researchers’ careers, innovating on our career assessment schemes and promoting career development, and inclusive leadership
- Objective 8: develop methods to promote a culture of impact within our universities and formalize methods towards an impact-driven R&I agenda.
During the first reporting period, the project was carried out in line with the work plan towards the achievement of its objectives.

To achieve objective 1, WP1 set up a joint Research and Innovation Support Group to support the ENLIGHT community in developing joint R&I project proposals; prepared a service offer to provide to the ENLIGHT research community and based on a benchmark report, organised two workshops on Research Support Offices’ good practices. The plans for the digital matching tool to help connect ENLIGHT researchers to each other and to relevant funding opportunities was laid out.

In relation to objective 2, WP2 realised a scientific and technological mapping of ENLIGHT universities to identify possible synergies and research fields of collaboration. A R&I Observatory was set up. It combines the information of the mapping with the individual expertise of each partner university. It also disseminates our outcomes usable for policy making on R&I. In parallel, we launched five thematic pilot focus groups that work towards joint research collaborations on our flagship areas and launched two calls for early career researchers (ECR) R&I Mobility Awards as incentive to start-up or further elaborate research collaborations.

To seek objective 3, WP3 mapped the landscape of digital research infrastructures (DRI) within the Alliance as well as the one of Digital Innovation and Artificial intelligence (DI/AI) policies (existing initiatives, tools and methods). A series of workshops took place to raise awareness about infrastructural resources and their use and to increase readiness in the DI/AI area. A roadmap to sharing and connecting DRI within the Alliance was also produced and 3 case studies are in progress.

Concerning objective 4, the existing industrial partners of the 9 alliance members were mapped. To set up an ENLIGHT RISE Innovation Network of academy industry collaborators, WP5 first targeted the industry partners aligned with the flagship Health & Well-being identified in the mapping exercise and invited them to attend the 2023 Academic Industry Meeting day (AIMday) for a first networking meeting.

Objective 5 was advanced thanks to an inventory of civil society engagement activities and structures currently in place within ENLIGHT. Three webinar workshops for ENLIGHT universities representatives involved in public engagement with research took place and led to the production of a mentoring plan for mutual learning and collaboration in genuine engagement of civil society in R&I.

To improve the Open Science (OS) practices within ENLIGHT (objective 6), a mapping of OS activities across the network was created whose code and data are accessible under open licenses. An ENLIGHT OS Award was launched to raise awareness and to test a reward and recognition instrument. Several actions are underway: an OS Toolkit with guidance and references to self-learning resources; ENLIGHT joint OS principles to establish a shared OS culture and a network of OS Ambassadors to promote the OS culture.

Regarding objective 7, two areas of work have been identified: support for the development of early researchers' careers and benchmark of assessment systems of researchers and innovative practices. Thus, a networking event was organised to bring together ECRs from the alliance. A Research Assessment Working Group (RAWG) was set up to discuss the current trends and developments in assessment and explore the (potential) implications of a systemic change for each university and the whole Alliance. It organised a workshop on “The evaluation of research and researchers”.

Targeting objective 8, ENLIGHT RISE realised an impact development landscape of each partner to identify potential opportunities and barriers toward the establishment of an impact-culture within the alliance. An Impact repository containing experiences, reference and literature on impact best practices was launched and an impact self-assessment toolkit has been designed. A call for impact awards was launched to foster a culture of impact within the alliance.
ENLIGHT RISE is also leading a new thematic subgroup on impact within FOREU2 with the objective to build a community of all alliances around impact.
During the second half, ENLIGHT RISE will continue the activities enabling institutional transformation of ENLIGHT universities in its R&I priority domains. More ENLIGHT R&I projects on the 5 flagship domains will emerge, involving our surrounding ecosystems. In parallel, our community will reflect on the future and sustainability of the tools, networks created under ENLIGHT RISE in relation to the education component as part of the ENLIGHT 2.0 strategy.
Through this pilot phase, ENLIGHT RISE strives to have impact on our 9 ecosystems and beyond by increasing our joint R&I capacity on key societal challenges; by reinforcing our capacity to attract research talents and make them grow; by spreading a culture of impact, open science, citizen engagement and innovation among research support staff, researchers, learners and policy makers.
ENLIGHT RISE Project board meeting - Ghent - April 2023