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International Cooperation Network for Central Asian and South Caucasus countries

Final Report Summary - INCONET CA/SC (International Cooperation Network for Central Asian and South Caucasus countries)


Executive Summary:

The IncoNet CASC project (S&T International Cooperation Network for Central Asian and South Caucasus Countries) was dedicated to the strengthening of the bi-regional S&T cooperation between the EU MS/AC and the aforementioned regions at the East of the Union. The cooperation between the two regions is of particular importance from a political, economic and social development perspectives and Science, Technology and Innovation constitute a privileged field for joint actions due to the significant S&T potential and to the scientific ties that already exist between the two regions.

The project has been implemented by 27 prominent organisations from 15 EU MS/AC and CASC countries, which successfully addressed the planned activities, but also responded on a variable geometry basis to the opportunities arising in countries that highlighted particular interest in working closer with the EU. That was the case of Kazakhstan where the VI Astana Economic Forum, a major event with international visibility, provided the opportunity to organise the exhibition on the theme “EU-KZ: cooperation through innovation”.

The main project objectives were centred on:

1) The support to the bi-regional STI Policy Dialogue among the EU MS/AC and the CASC countries, aiming in particular at the identification of priorities for joint actions, based on analytical evidence, such as: (i) the White Paper on the EU-EECA S&T cooperation (developed under the IncoNet EECA project, but based on input gathered under IncoNet CASC such as the missions to every target country); (ii) the comprehensive confidential report based on the information gathered from interviews with stakeholders during the missions in CASC countries; (iii) the Conclusions resulting from the two Policy Stakeholders Conferences organised in two CASC countries. This set of documents identifies challenges and propose recommendations for strengthening the cooperation of the CASC countries with the EU but also for enhancing their own STI potential.
2) The strengthening of the participation of researchers from the CASC region in FP7 through the implementation of a comprehensive set of actions such as capacity building, information dissemination and networking support.

The project devoted specific attention to Dissemination activities supporting, among others, the extension of the coverage of the Central Information Office and the associated incrEAST web portal to fully emcompass the CASC countries. The CIO will last beyond the end of the project keeping accessible the considerable material produced by the project.

Furthermore, a major dissemination activity took place through the organisation of an exhibition of FP projects and Enterprise Europe Network technologies on the theme "EU-KZ: cooperation through innovation" in the framework of the VI Astana Economic Forum (May 2013), a major event involving more than 12,000 participants. The exhibition was visited by H.E. the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, by Ministers and by other high level officials present at the Forum.

Overall, the project mobilized a very large number of stakeholders in EU and CASC (policy makers, the academic community and the private sector in several cases), thus paving the way for an increasing number of joint actions to address the recommendations of the White Paper, as well as in the context of the forthcoming EU’s Framework Programme Horizon 2020.

Project Context and Objectives:

The project included as major objectives the following:

• To support and facilitate the EU-CASC STI policy dialogue and to mobilize the STI stakeholders in the region. In that sense, two Conferences have been organized: in Astana (May 2011) focusing on “Evaluation approaches in S&T policy making” and in Tbilsi with a focus on “Societal Challenges” (November 2012), as a continuation of the Policy Stakeholders Conferences organized in the framework of the IncoNet EECA project. In addition, missions to interview local STI stakeholders in all the CASC countries have been organized.
• To address other EU policies and their Instruments from which STI cooperation with the region could benefit. Specific attention was given to the ENPI instrument through a dedicated one day session during the PSC in Tbilisi.
• To strengthen the participation of CASC countries in FP7. In that sense, a grant scheme for participation to Brokerage events in the EU was successfully implemented in the target countries. In addition, support activities were implemented for the National Contact/Information Points (NCP/NIP) structures in CA&SC&MD and a number of studies on the development of NCPs/NIPs were prepared.
• To widen (in KG, TJ, TM) and deepen (in KZ, UZ, AR, AZ, GE, MD) the studies initiated within the IncoNET EECA project. A considerable analytical work has been performed on the mapping of key institutes, the mapping of Innovation Policies and SMEs, the monitoring and review of the cooperation activities/patterns and on the ways to improve STI indicators in the target countries.
• To disseminate information, as well as to monitor the quality and sustainability of the planned deliverables and actions.

The whole set of objectives were implemented in close coordination with the IncoNet EECA project (till June 2012) in order to avoid duplications and to maximize the impact of the two projects that were overlapping in terms of geographic coverage/target regions. The coherent implementation of the two projects was strongly facilitated through the single coordination and the common core group of partners (enriched however by a large number of new partners in the target regions).

From September 2013 two new actions dedicated to the STI policy dialogue between the EU and the EaP and CA countries, namely the IncoNet EaP (STI International Cooperation Network for Eastern Partnership Countries) and IncoNet CA (STI International Cooperation Network for Central Asian Countries) will take further the work, building on the results of the IncoNet EECA and IncoNet CASC projects.

Project Results:

3.1. Addressing the bi-regional STI Policy Dialogue

Among the main achievements of the project in support of the EU-CASC bi-regional policy dialogue and priority setting in Science, Technology and Innovation, the following can be mentioned:

1) The participation at the VI Astana Economic Forum (May 2013) in the frame of which the VIII Innovation Congress on “Innovation development of Kazakhstan – way towards knowledge economy” and the exhibition on the "EU-KZ: cooperation through innovation" were co-organised by the project. The VI Astana Economic Forum is an important event in the region that brought together more than 12,000 participants from 132 countries, among which high-level political figures and Nobel laurates.

The VIII Innovation Congress “Innovation development of Kazakhstan – way towards knowledge economy” as part of the Forum, focused on the cooperation in RTDI with the EU and the perspectives for successful participation in Horizon2020, as well as on prospects for joint exploitation of technologies promoted by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

The exhibition on the “EU-KZ: cooperation through innovation” presented 12 Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) technologies in the field of oil, gas, chemistry, engineering, energy and ICT identified by the IncoNet CASC consortium, as well as five FP7 projects that included Kazakh participation. The exhibition was visited by the President of Kazakhstan, Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, by Ministers and by other high level officials at the Forum. Moreover, the EEN technology owners, along thousands of participants, had the opportunity to sign a number of MoUs with Kazakh companies in view of future joint exploitation.

The organization of this major event of the IncoNet CASC project was done in cooperation with the Kazakh National Agency for Technology Development (NATD) and with the support of the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Kazakhstan.

2) Building on the success of the previous years’ Policy Stakeholders Conferences organized in the framework of the IncoNet EECA project, the IncoNet CASC project convened two additional Policy Stakeholders’ Conferences (PSC):

The PSC in Astana, on 26 and 27 May 2011 focused on “Evaluation approaches in S&T policy making: sharing good practices”. The main objective was the presentation of evaluation methods (such as Policy Mix Peer reviews, benchmarking exercises, foresight, etc.) for supporting policy making in S&T, as well as the benefits for the target countries that can arise from the implementation of such approaches.

As a follow-up of the Policy Stakeholders’ Conference that took place in Astana and due to the strong interest expressed by several countries, two Policy Mix Peer review exercises of the national STI systems (in KZ and MD), as well as a pilot benchmarking exercise of research institutes were implemented under the IncoNet EECA project.

The PSC in Tbilisi, on 14 and 15 November 2012 focused on the “EU-SC/CA STI cooperation in addressing societal challenges: Priorities, modalities and synergies of policies and instruments”. The first part of the PSC was dedicated to societal challenges important for the region and relevant for H2020 (Climate Change, Energy and Health). The second part aimed to identify synergies with other EU policies and instruments and in particular with ENPI/DCI, building on the results of the IncoNET EECA project on that field.

3) The organization of missions to interview STI stakeholders and to visit key research institutes in the countries of the region. The aim of the missions was to contact policy makers and other relevant stakeholders, to identify EU- CASC mutual interests and to pave the way for an enhanced participation in the European Research Area and FP7/H2020. The missions included individual interviews and round table discussions with policy-makers and representatives of the research communities and site-visits at key research institutes in the countries of Central Asia and South Caucasus.

The input collected during the interviews has been included in a comprehensive confidential report and constituted also an input for the White Paper on “Opportunities and Challenges in View of Enhancing the EU Cooperation with Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South Caucasus” developed under the IncoNet EECA project (available for downloading at: http://www.increast.eu/ and http://www.inco-eeca.net/).

3.2 Strengthening the participation of researchers from CASC&MD countries in FP7

In order to strengthen the participation of researchers from the targeted countries in FP7 a number of activities have been implemented:

- A grant scheme to support participation of researchers in Brokerage events in the EU that involved a Call and an evaluation process to ensure transparency of the scheme. In total, five countries implemented the action (TJ, TM, UZ, AR and MD). Researchers from the above mentioned countries received support to attend specialized international brokerage events in the thematic areas of Health, Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Biotechnology, Information and Communication Technologies, Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials & New production technologies, Energy, Environment (including Climate change), Transport (including Aeronautics), Socio-economic sciences and Humanities.
- The organization of Info Days in KG, TJ and TM offering a general presentation of the Framework Programme. The Information Days gathered on average more than 80 participants from the target countries.
- A study focusing on insight from successful participations of teams (incl. SMEs) from CASC&MD in FP6 and FP7 projects. This study provided valuable information on the conditions allowing a participation in a successful project.
- A number of training sessions have been conducted by the consortium partners in the CASC countries on the participation rules of FP7 (legal, financial and administrative aspects).

As an outcome of the above actions, stronger networks of experts from the target countries have been initiated and more CASC&MD researchers had the opportunity to present their work and create partnerships and consortia.

3.3 Supporting the FP7 Contact Points in CASC countries

Tailor made activities have been implemented in order to support the work and enhance the capabilities of the NIPs/NCPs in the target countries. In that sense, the project organized a total of three professional tailored trainings with a duration of 2-5 days for NCPs in CASC&MD countries providing specific knowledge on FP7 and NCP work (methodology, instruments and techniques). The NCP trainings conducted in 2012 (Bishkek) and 2013 (Tbilisi) also prepared the NCPs on the forthcoming H2020.

Furthermore, two reports on the development of the NCPs structures in CA and SC/MD were prepared to present the structure and modus operandi of the NCP systems in the respective countries, to highlight the challenges ahead, as well as to make recommendations to the national authorities for strengthening their NCP systems.

3.4 Improving STI indicators

With the objective to improve the STI statistics systems in the target countries but also to establish a network of relevant experts in CA, the project organised two workshops: in Almaty (April 2011) with a co-funding by the Kazakh National Innovation Fund and Tashkent (April 2013). Both events gathered a considerable number of STI experts and representatives of national statistical agencies from all the CA countries.

3.5 Innovation activities

Two workshops on Innovation were organised in the region. The first workshop focused on “Prospects on innovation cooperation between EU and Central Asia” (Tashkent, April 2013) and it gathered a good mix of Innovation stakeholders from both EU MS/AC and CA countries, among which STI policy makers, representatives of local SMEs, research and academic institutes, as well as technology transfer consultants.

The second workshop focused on “Development of Coherent Innovation Policy in South Caucasian Countries and Moldova and Facilitation of Cooperation of SMEs with R&D” (Tbilisi, June 2013) and it addressed in priority the mechanisms of development of Innovation and on potential future opportunities under Horizon 2020 for the SC countries.

In addition, two pilot mapping exercises have been performed, one focusing on Innovation policies, structures, stakeholders and instruments in the CASC&MD countries and the other on innovative SMEs from the countries in focus. The reports from these exercises represent a good basis for further research.

3.6 Studies

A number of studies have been implemented throughout the project’s lifetime, in particular addressing the factors that influence the STI cooperation between the the EU and CA, SC and MD. In that sense, it is worth mentioning: the “Inventory of key research institutes in the region” which provided input for the public database of key research institutes on the IncrEAST portal, the report on “Cooperation patterns” of the CA countries with the EU MS/AC, and the “Annual monitoring reports on the participation of KG, TJ and TM in the FP7”.

All the public deliverables are available on the project’s website: http://inco-casc.net/

3.5 Online Databases

The databases and other related web-based services created under the IncoNet EECA have been constantaly updated and improved throughout the IncoNet CASC project’s lifetime. More specifically:

- The database of the key research institutes: http://www.increast.eu/en/1121.php contains comprehensive information collected and assessed by experts from a number of EU-projects (IncoNet CASC and IncoNet EECA, BILAT-RUS, BILAT-UKR, ERA.NET RUS, BS ERA-Net etc) that can be browsed by country, research area and/or type of organization to obtain optimum results;
- The partner search tool for the scientists interested to participate in international research projects: http://www.st-gateukr.eu/en/577.php.

Potential Impact:

The impact of the project can be assessed at two levels: the policy making level and the operational level, which addressed more directly the scientific community in the CASC&MD countries.

Impact at the policy-making level

The project provided the opportunity to present the dynamic and perspectives of the cooperation in STI between EU-KZ (and EU – Central Asia in general) at the highest possible level.

More specifically, the project co-organized with NATD and the Ministry of Industry and New Techlogies of Kazakstan the exhibition on the theme “EU-KZ cooperation through innovation” in the frame of the VI Astana Economic Forum (AEF, May 2013). The exhibition presented several projects funded by FP6 and FP7 involving research teams from EU and Central Asian countries, among which the IncoNet CASC project, as well as technologies promoted by the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). The exhibition was visited by H.E. the President of Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, Ministers of the Kazakh Government and high-level officials along thousands of participants at the AEF.

Photo (Courtesy of InExCB-Kz): Visit of H.E. the President of Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev at the exhibition “EU-KZ cooperation through innovation”, VI AEF, May 2013.

Photo (Courtesy of InExCB-Kz): Visit of Vice-Premier and Minister of Industry and New Technologies, Mr. Asset Issekeshev at the exhibition “EU-KZ cooperation through innovation”, VI AEF, May 2013.

In parallel to the exhibition, the VIII Innovation Congress “Innovation development of Kazakhstan – way towards knowledge economy” took place involving high-level participants and speakers among which the Head of the EU Delegation in Kazakhstan Mrs. Mrs. Aureleia Bouchez and the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Mr. Alexei Volkov, where the activities and achievements of the IncoNet CASC project have been presented along state-of-the art trends and initiatives to promote Innovation.

Photo (Courtesy of InExCB-Kz): the VIII Innovation Congress “Innovation development of Kazakhstan – way towards knowledge economy”, VI AEF, May 2013.

Last but not least, at the margin of the AEF, a number of 13 MoUs have been signed between the selected Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) technologies and Kazakh entities opening perspectives for joint exploitation.

The Policy Stakeholders Conference (PSC) in Astana, where state-of-the art Evaluation approaches in STI have been presented, triggered the interest and commitment of the national authorities in Kazakhstan and Moldova to implement Policy Mix Peer Reviews of their STI systems. As an outcome of the PSC in Astana, the Policy Mix Peer Review exercises have been organised in Kazakhstan and Moldova in the framework of the “sister project” IncoNet EECA.

The Policy Stakeholders Conference (PSC) in Tbilisi dedicated to Societal Challenges with emphasis on Climate Change, Energy and Health, succeeded in mobilizing stakeholders beyond the STI sector, paving the way for more comprehensive approaches in addressing such Challenges and preparing for a fruitful participation in H2020.

The organization of missions to interview STI stakeholders and to visit key research institutes in the countries of the region. During the missions, important exchanges with the local STI stakeholders took place through individual interviews and round table discussions, preparing thus the ground for the definition of future joint actions.

Impact at the operational level

Several activities addressed directly the scientific communities in the EU and CASC countries since they are the key players for an enhanced STI cooperation in FP7 and beyond. More specifically:

- Researchers from CASC&MD were provided with financial support to participate in match-making and networking events related to FP7 calls through the Grant Scheme for participation in Brokerage Events in the EU implemented by the project.
- The local scientific communities were informed about the opportunities of the Framework Programme through the Info Days organised in the three countries particularly addressed by the project, namely KG, TJ and TM.
- The experts working at the national statistic agencies in the CA countries were involved in a broad learning exchange through the two STI Indicators workshops organised in KZ and UZ.
- The National Contact/Information Points (NCP/NIP) structures in the CASC&MD countries were supported through trainings and other mentoring activities that ensured a higher sustainability of their activities.
- Overall a more intense flow of information and dissemination in the region took place through the extension of the activities of the Central Information Office and through the enlargement of the network of regional correspondents in KG, TJ and TM.

The main dissemination activities and exploitation of results

The IncoNet CASC consortium, which included 27 institutions from 15 different countries, was by itself a permanent mechanism for the dissemination of the activities and knowledge that arose from the project. In parallel to that, a comprehensive set of specific actions addressing the dissemination and exploitation of the results was implemented throughout the duration of the project.

Main dissemination actions

1) Participation at the VI Astana Economic Forum

A major dissemination action took place during the VI Astana Economic Forum (May 2013) in which frame the project co-organised a special stand under the theme “EU-KZ: Cooperation through Innovation” which hosted 12 Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) technologies and 5 FP7 successful projects involving Kazakh participation. The exhibition stand was located at a prominent place in the Forum, next to the main hall and to the VIP room, providing high visibility. A number of high-level officials visited the exhibition, including H.E. the President of Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Vice-Premier-Minister of Industry and New Technologies Mr. Asset Issekeshev, the Head of the EU Delegation in Kazakhstan Mrs. Aureleia Bouchez, as well as members of the Kazakh Parliament and government of Kazakhstan, participants of the AEF and journalists. The event was widely broadcasted by national TV, radio, internet, and newspapers. It should also be mentioned that the Forum brought together more than 12,000 participants from 132 countries.

2) Organisation of dedicated sessions at major European Scientific events

Dedicated sessions were organised in four major European scientific events. More specifically:

- At the ESOF (EuroScience Open Forum) in Turin (July 2010) the project stand offered information about the ongoing activities of the project and especially presented incrEAST as the comprehensive S&T web portal for the region. More than 100 visitors used the opportunity for face-to-face talks to deepen their knowledge about the region and the perspectives for new cooperations.
- At the ICT 2010 "Digitally Driven" in Brussels (September 2010) the IncoNet CASC joined forces with four related projects to promote the research competence of the CASC regions.
- At the BIOTECHNICA in Hanover (October 2011) the session dedicated to the cooperation with the EECA region involved a number of experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan presenting the current state of affaird in Biotechnology in their countries and highlighting opportunities and challenges for international cooperation.

A complete list of the dissemination activities conducted under the IncoNet CASC project is attached as Annex – List of dissemination activites in the IncoNet CASC project.

3) The incrEAST Web Portal and the IncoNet CASC Project Website

A major tool for the dissemination of information was the Web Portal incrEAST (http://www.increast.eu/) which serves as a single point of access to information on S&T-related activities in the CASC region, to joint EU-CASC activities and to STI-related developments at European level targeting the region. The Web portal has become a trusted source of information for many experts with interest in the region. The number of visitors increased to more than 10.000 visitors/month in 2013.

In parallel, the Project’s Website (http://www.inco-casc.net/) has been continuously updated providing information on all activities carried out in the IncoNet CASC and was linked to the web portal in order to avoid redundancies.

4) Extension of the Central Information Office

Under the IncoNet EECA project a Central Information Office (CIO) was established with the scope to gather information on all activities related to STI in the region, on joint activities of EU/MS and EECA and on any STI developments at EU level targeting the region. Under IncoNet CASC, the CIO was extended to fully cover KG, TJ and TM that were only partially addressed by the previous project. This involved among others, the nomination of regional correspondents that continuously provided and disseminated information.

Target groups

The dissemination of information took place at various levels and involved different target groups, including:

- A broad group of policy makers including highest level officials. The project addressed specifically policy makers from the Ministries responsible for Research in the EU MS/AC and CASC countries. Information on the project’s activities has been communicated to them and they have often been invited to attend events such as the VIII Innovation Congress and the “EU-KZ: Innovation through Cooperation” exhibition at the VI Astana Economic Forum, the Policy Stakeholders’ Conferences and the field missions conducted in all the targeted countries. In addition, policy makers from other Ministries have also been addressed by the project e.g. Ministries in charge of the Societal Challenges/ sectoral Ministries, Ministries in charge of ENPI etc.
- A large number of researchers from CASC and EU MS/AC countries attended the PSCs, the Brokerage events and the Information Days.

Future dissemination activities

With regards to the future dissemination measures, the new IncoNet EaP and IncoNet CA projects will build on the achievements of the IncoNet CASC envisaging among others a task for promoting deliverables and results of ongoing and completed projects targeting the region, thus ensuring the visibility of IncoNet CASC results beyond the project lifetime.

List of Websites:

www.inco-casc.net