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NETWATCH - Development of a Central Information Platform on Transnational R&D Programme Collaboration

Periodic Report Summary 4 - NETWATCH OPERATIONAL PHASE (NETWATCH - Development of a Central Information Platform on Transnational R&D Programme Collaboration)

Project Context and Objectives:
In the context of increasing political support for enhanced cooperation in research between European countries, the achievement of European Research Area (ERA) is a central element in making Europe “the world’s leading knowledge-based economy”. This has been given further impetus with the publication of the 2012 Communication: “a reinforced European Research Area partnership for excellence and growth.”

Central to the ERA concept is the idea that the EU should overcome the fragmentation of national research efforts and systems, which prevents Europe from achieving its full research and innovation potential. ERA aims to create the necessary conditions to increase the impact of European research efforts by strengthening the coherence of research activities and policies conducted in Europe.

Since its launch in 2002, the ERA-NET scheme has aimed to support the realisation of ERA by improving the coordination and mutual opening up of national and regional research activities and policies. Long-term cooperation between national programmes is envisaged to lead to joint programmes.

The first of the two core objectives of NETWATCH is the creation of a central information platform on European transnational Research and Technological Development programme cooperation. Through NETWATCH, the European Commission supports policy makers in EU Member States, RTD programme managers, national researchers, and the Commission's own research services by providing relevant information and analysis to assess the efficiency and impact of transnational RTD programme cooperation.

Working in ever closer cooperation with the ERALEARN consortium of national funding agencies, the second objective of NETWATCH is to facilitate mutual learning among programme actors. The ERALEARN participants have significant experience in ERA-NETs, enabling the identification of good examples and recommended procedures for the implementation of ERA-NETs and other related instruments.

More specifically, NETWATCH:
• Provides first-hand information on national programmes involved in ERA-NETs and analyses transnational cooperation;
• compares examples of transnational RTD programme cooperation;
• assesses the relevance of those instruments for the realisation of the European Research Area; and
• contributes to the ongoing implementation of Joint Programming in the EU, with the progressive extension of the coverage of NETWATCH to Joint programming Initiatives.

These activities are based on the collection of relevant data on ERA-NETs and ERA-NET Plus launched during FP6 and FP7, in operation from the end of 2010 onwards. Article 185s, self-sustaining former ERA-NETs are also included, followed by Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs).
NETWATCH organises and structures descriptive information on network. It also provides analytical work, mapping, assessing and monitoring transnational RTD research programme collaboration within Europe.

The information comes mainly from the coordinators and also the participants of the ERA-NETs, complemented by a network of experts on ERA-NETs and transnational RTD programme cooperation, as well as information held by DG RTD.

NETWATCH information and analyses are publicly available through the web-based platform http://netwatch.jrc.ec.europa.eu. This is aimed at four main groups of RTD policy and programme actors, providing targeted information and analysis:
• National RTD programme actors (managers, agencies);
• National RTD policy makers;
• EU policy makers, (especially within the European Commission, but also within other EU Institutions); and
• European researchers.
Project Results:
With the completion of all planned deliverables, work has addressed all the main elements of the project: collection of information; design of the web-platform; development of analytical perspectives; and provision of strategic and policy inputs.

Following the preparation of an information collection strategy, specifying the requirements and structure for information collection, in close coordination with the design of the web-site, information collection and subsequent updating has continued, in cooperation with network coordinators.

Over the lifetime of the project, six systematic updating exercises have been carried out. There was an appropriate and progressive shift to yearly update exercises.

Ongoing technical refinement has led to improvements in the data model, in terms of more accurate and up to date coverage of information on networks, joint calls and participant organisations. Continued improvements in system functionality and user friendliness have enabled coordinators to more readily change/update their information whenever necessary.

The original plan for the design of the web platform was revised, with most of the development of the web interface carried out by IPTS rather than by subcontractors. However, due to unanticipated technical complexity and personnel issues this first phase of the work took longer than previously anticipated.

Subsequent significant improvements to the functionality of the platform occurred as a consequence of the migration of the platform to the liferay platform. This was partially accomplished with subcontractor support. New features for the 'Learning Platform' and the online forum were fully implemented after testing with ERA-LEARN and NETWATCH core users. Refinement of functionality and maintenance, centred mainly on the resolution of bugs has been ongoing until the end of the project.

An analytical framework was developed and implemented to better understand transnational R&D programme collaboration and its contribution to the ERA. The framework has focused on ERA-NETs launched under FP6 and FP7, and has drawn on discussion with stakeholders. Outputs have included five reports providing a mapping and monitoring of the European research collaboration landscape, and work on impact assessment, set out in two reports.
Contributions have also been made to the ongoing policy debate on transnational R&D collaboration and Joint Programming at European level. Four NETWATCH policy briefs have been prepared over the course of the project, combining the policy context with findings of the analysis with he needs of DG RTD and the advice of the Advisory Board, namely:
1. ERA-NETs and the Realisation of ERA: Increasing coordination and reducing fragmentation (July 2011);
2. Challenges in transnational research programming: the role of NETWATCH (July 2012);
3. Added value of transnational research programming: lessons from longstanding programme collaboration in Europe (May 2013); and
4. Measuring progress in transnational coordination of research programming in Europe (April 2014).
In addition to the formal deliverables, other traceable policy impacts of NETWATCH analytical work are set out below. Also, a number of scientific contributions, journal articles and conference presentations, have explicitly drawn on NETWATCH.
Potential Impact:
The main anticipated impacts of NETWATCH have ben on its users in the research funding and research performing communities. It provides a significant enhancement of the availability and quality of information and analysis on transnational R&D programme cooperation and other transnational joint activities. NETWATCH provides a comprehensive picture of the transnational European R&D landscape and its trends.

More specifically the specific impacts of NETWATCH centre the provision of support to:
• European researchers in finding useful information on joint calls and research priorities at European level for transnational collaboration.
• National RTD programme managers and owners in finding best practice documents, factual information and analysis of Joint Programming.
• Policy makers on EU and EC level in finding evidence-based assessments of the effects of the monitored Joint Programming activities for the European Research Area.
• European programme owners and managers in creating a "network community".

A number of traceable policy impacts of NETWATCH. These include:
• Citations of NEWATCH in policy documents:
- Commission staff working document SEC (2010) 481 final (p5) “Research joint programming initiative on agriculture, food security and climate change: motivations and state of play of research at European level” accompanying Commission recommendation on the JPI "agriculture, food security and climate change."
- Report of the High Level Group on “Joint Programming in research 2008-2010 and beyond” (p58) to the European Council, November 29 2010 meeting of the European Council.
• Presentations of NETWATCH at:
- ‘ERA-NETs on Stage” events in Brussels in 2009 and 2010, and Annual Joint Programming events in 2011 and 2013;
- ERAC by JRC-IPTS and DG RTD on ERAWATCH and NETWATCH at the June 2010 meeting, Santiago, and 3rd meeting of the ERAC Working Group on the European Semester and on ERA Monitoring, October 2013, Brussels;
- NET-HERITAGE meeting March 2010 and ERA-NET Cultural Heritage, Madrid, 2011;
- The Groupe de Programmation Conjointe (GPC) of the European Council, May 2011, Brussels and GPC/ESF/EUROHORCS joint meeting on Framework Conditions for Joint Programming, Madrid, May 2010;
- Meetings of JPIs to Co-Work in Vienna, September 2012, and Madrid, February 2014.
- ERA-NET Co-Fund event with around 400 participants from ERA-NETs, JPIs and the GPC, January 2014, Brussels.
List of Websites:
http://netwatch.jrc.ec.europa.eu