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Supporting the ERA-NET Learning Platform: expanding application of the ERA-NET toolbox to a broader trans-national coordination community

Final Report Summary - ERA-LEARN 2 (Supporting the ERA-NET Learning Platform: expanding application of the ERA-NET toolbox to a broader trans-national coordination community)

Executive Summary:
ERA-LEARN 2 supported the implementation of streamlined mechanisms and increased mutual learning within the wider ERA-NET community. Useful input was provided towards the analysis and possible future development of the ERA-NET scheme. ERA-LEARN 2 highlighted the synergies between ERA-NETs and other forms of national and regional research programme coordination and facilitated high-level analysis of policy related issues in the context of programme coordination and cooperation.

In particular, ERA-LEARN 2 was able to:
• extend the online toolbox to further facilitate aligning and harmonising the structures and procedures needed for efficient and simplified joint call implementation
• upgrade the functionality of the toolbox to provide tools for analysis of the ERA-NET implementation
• enable and provide guidance for a self-assessment of ERA-NET outcome
• provide guidance in setting up sustainable structures for call implementation
• investigate the potential for mergers or the creation of larger management structures for facilitating a cost-efficient administration especially helping organisations with multiple ERA-NET commitments
• investigate routes to identification of themes and specific topics for ERA-NETs
• facilitate a discussion on user expectations for the development and future implementation of the ERA-NET scheme and complementary trans-national cooperation
• provided the basis for a future platform by assessing user needs and expectations which will be implemented from 2015
• develop a framework for monitoring and impact assessment of P2P networks including the funded project level

ERA-LEARN 2 thus helped establish a creative forum for the exchange of experiences, good practices and ideas and for discussing the development of the ERA-NET instrument in the context of possible methods of transnational programme coordination.

Project Context and Objectives:
ERA-LEARN 2 catalysed the learning process and helped to reduce wasteful use of resources. It provided tools for analysis and communication formats suitable for supporting future developments of transnational programme coordination.

The ERA-NET community was supported in investigating:
• what has been learned and achieved by existing networks
• if expectations have been met
• which positive effects have been observed by participating organisations or countries

ERA-LEARN 2 supported the implementation of streamlined mechanisms and increased mutual learning within the wider ERA-NET community. Useful input was provided towards the analysis and possible future development of the ERA-NET scheme. ERA-LEARN 2 highlighted the synergies between ERA-NETs and other forms of national and regional research programme coordination and facilitate high-level analysis of policy related issues in the context of programme coordination and cooperation.

ERA-LEARN 2 successfully performed the following task:
- The online toolbox was updated, revised and extended.
- Several events and workshops were prepared and organised, focusing in particular on the experiences of Member States and Associated Countries with the ERA-NET instrument and the review of the existing ERA-NET instrument as the Commission proposal for Horizon 2020 foresees a modified and simplified ERA-NET instrument. Training workshops on the implementation of joint calls were also held.
- Concerning HORIZON 2020 a new section called “Public-Public-Partnerships under Horizon 2020” (P2P in H2020) was implemented on the ERA-LEARN/NETWATCH portal, providing the P2P community with practical information on implementing the new ERA-NET Cofund initiatives. The P2P section is divided into three parts:
“H2020 calls for P2Ps” shows a complete list of current (Work Programme 2014/2015) HORIZON 2020 topics for ERA-NET Cofund as well as Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) supporting Public-Public-Partnerships.
“ERA-NET Cofund under H2020: background information” provides details on the implementation of the ERA-NET Cofund instrument including a description of eligible activities.
“Practical documentation” contains a number of H2020 documents together with some practical guidance to support the implementation of ERA-NET Cofund initiatives, including a table comparing FP7 ERA-NET (Plus) with H2020 ERA-NET Cofund, a summary presentation on “ERA-NET Cofund in Horizon 2020”, Guidelines for Independent Observers as well as some practical details on EU Cofund financial principles and template for Consortium Agreements specifically for ERA-NET Cofund.
- ERA-LEARN assessed user needs and expectations related to a web-based platform through a qualitative stakeholder consultation. The results showed that the provision of coherent advice such as good practice guidelines and information support services become increasingly important. These findings were exploited to outline specifications of a future platform, to be implemented from 2015. The main current and potential future stakeholders for the ERA-LEARN/NETWATCH system and their need for information, learning materials, central or joint IT tools, events and virtual communication were identified
- Furthermore ERA-LEARN 2 explored options for a monitoring and impact assessment framework for P2P networks and, for the first time, to consider how this can be extended to the level of the projects that are co-funded from Joint Calls. A framework for monitoring and impact assessment of P2P networks including the funded project level was developed.

Project Results:
ERA-LEARN 2 reflected the major challenges that had been started in ERA-LEARN 1 and that needed to be continued for the benefit of the existing ERA-NET Community. On the online toolbox the compilation of guidelines and recommended material was updated regularly and completed on the basis of feedback and fresh input provided by the users of the instrument. Additional sections and new functionalities were created.

Scenarios about the sustainable future of the joint call process and management structure were elaborated, including benchmarks for comparisons to other models of transnational cooperation. Based on a structured analysis across a subset of the existing ERA-NETs, additional success factors for the optimisation of benefits through ERA-NET calls were identified. Besides quality, cost is also a constant issue in the ERA-NET community and efforts were undertaken to assess the volume and background, culminating in a cost/benefit analysis for ERA-NET calls. Optimising benefits and minimising cost is also the major boundary condition for the development of scenarios about the organisational structures for the sustainable execution of Joint Calls after the EC ends its financial support to the existing ERA-NETs.

ERA-LEARN 2 focused on key ERA-NET trends such as the shift from an FP6 bottom-up approach to FP7 top-down selection of topics and the new approach in HORIZON 2020 as well as the variation in mobilisation of funding and number of projects across existing ERA-NETs. Forward-looking activities was included to investigate positioning of the ERA-NET scheme within the context of other instruments and the potential for mergers or the creation of larger management structures within the ERA-NET model itself. ERA-LEARN 2 activities were a first step towards better coordination of the multitude of options or instruments available at European level, providing a new level of understanding to the potential users of these instruments and a confidence to the instrument providers in terms of coherence.

ERA-LEARN 2 was concerned with future options for the web platform that supports both ERA-LEARN and NETWATCH. The current system had been developed, and was managed, within the scope of the NETWATCH project. A fundamental review of the current system was carried out and compared with the future needs of the potential users. From this, strategic options for the future web platform were developed and the best solution for both projects was defined through a joint scoping workshop with NETWATCH.

All activities exploited the large range of expertise available in the partner organisations through dedicated personnel contributing to the ERA-LEARN 2 activities. In addition, the network of ERA-NET Coordinators was systematically addressed to explore specific matters of relevance and informed about results during targeted workshops and conferences. ERA-LEARN 2 assured the exchange with stakeholders – practitioners and policy makers for transnational European cooperation. In order to achieve the best quality and therefore maximum acceptance of the final results, a series of feedback loops were implemented in most activities, starting with internal assessments of draft results within the participating organisations.
External advice and feedback was assured through consultations with an advisory board including committed organisations including TAFTIE members, the NETWATCH team, ERA-NET coordinators as well as EC services.
The main results can be summarized as follows:
- The toolbox were updated and extended. It now covers the following sections:
Mapping tools for participating programmes
Manual and tools for call implementation Everything you need to launch and implement a joint call
IPR information Suggestions for applicants to joint calls
Tools for internal review of ERA-NET participation How to position ERA-NET participation in your organisation
Smart Coordination
Cost-Benefit Analysis of Calls
- Reports from events and workshops, including presentations and other information, have been made available to the ERA-NET and JPI communities via the NETWATCH portal.
- The review of user needs was carried out through an iterative process involving both internal and external stakeholders. The analysis of feedback from 75 stakeholders was reported as the lead article in the ERA-LEARN Newsletter in October 2012.
- A section on “Public-Public-Partnership under Horizon 2020” (P2P in H2020) was implemented on the ERA-LEARN/NETWATCH platform.
- Report describing the monitoring and assessment framework and associated data and information collection options was prepared.
- 6 Newsletters were distributed, 4 Training workshops and 3 conferences were organised.
- The basis for an future platform was provided by assessing user needs and expectations.

Potential Impact:
ERA-LEARN 2 was able to prepare useful input in view of the possible future evolution of the ERA-NET scheme as well as to provide a further opportunity to share experiences among the main stakeholders engaged in designing and deploying the broad structures and functions for the coordination of national research programmes.

The main expected impact of the project was to provide Member States with a clear and coherent policy response on the possible future evolution of the ERA-NET scheme, and to outline a well-founded, reliable and structured solution on the best way to address this issue.

In doing so, ERA-LEARN 2 specifically addressed issues such as methodological approaches to analysis of ERA-NETs and alternative means of implementing the ERA-NET principles. In this context it reviewed e.g. project outcome assessment, cost-benefit ratios and other success factors and it highlighted existing synergies between the ERA-NET instrument and other forms of national and regional research programme coordination.

The set of guidelines and recommended actions delivered by the ERA-LEARN 2 activities had a lasting impact on the streamlining of procedures for transnational cooperation. For example, a series of case studies in the coordination and mutual opening of national and regional research programmes clearly demonstrated the potential for selection of the appropriate tool for a certain topic or initiative.

Continuing the focus of the ERA-LEARN 1 project on durable cooperation, the ERA-LEARN 2 activities exploited the practical experience of programme owners and programme managers obtained from already implemented initiatives. This strategy helped eliminate wasteful use of resources in activities that do not meet the expected standard or do not fit with defined priorities.

ERA-LEARN 2 improved the coordination of national and regional programmes and further reduced the fragmentation of the European funding landscape fully in line with the ideas of the European Research Area. ERA-LEARN 2 contributed to (and build on) the initiatives launched by the European Commission for mutual learning and exchange of good practice, as well as the creation of a central information platform on European transnational programme cooperation in Research and Technological Development.

The exchange of information and good practice at national and EU levels had an impact on the design of future programmes and helped to optimise the scope of these programmes across Europe. This was particularly helpful for new players in these efforts, such as newly created agencies in (New) Member States. The ERA-NET end-users i.e. the European R&D community also benefited from improved procedures.

Furthermore ERA-LEARN 2 broadened to benefit the actors in other instruments such as the Joint Technology Initiatives and Joint Programming.

ERA-LEARN 2 thus helped establish a creative forum for the exchange of experiences, good practices and ideas and for discussing the development of the ERA-NET instrument in the context of possible methods of transnational programme coordination.

Additionally ERA-LEARN 2 provided the frame for a future platform based on a review of user needs and expectations and an assessment of options concerning the technical specification and implementation for a most appropriate web portal.

List of Websites:
Project public website:
http://www.era-learn.eu

Contact
Dr Roland Brandenburg
Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)
1090 Vienna, Austria
roland.brandenburg@ffg.at