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Middle East Research and Innovation Dialogue

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MERID (Middle East Research and Innovation Dialogue)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2018-06-30

Our societies are facing complex global challenges (i.e. climate change, sustainable development, food security, etc.) which are not limited to a certain country or region and require joint efforts in finding solutions going beyond borders. Research and innovation have been identified by the EU’s strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation (COM(2012)497) as crucial elements of addressing these challenges while strengthening the EU’s research excellence, economic competitiveness and its external relations. Stepping up international cooperation in research and innovation requires increased dialogue between research and innovation actors from both EU and targeted regions.

Bering that in mind, the Middle East Research and Innovation Dialogue (MERID) project proposed a comprehensive action to intensify and encourage EU-Middle East Research and Innovation cooperation through building on previous international cooperation experiences in R&I with Mediterranean and Middle East regions. Furthermore, MERID was the very first step towards systematising support to the policy dialogue and involvement of research communities of Iran and Iraq in the Horizon 2020 programme.

MERID worked towards the consolidation of preconditions for enhanced EU-Middle East R&I cooperation by laying down foundations for future joint research projects and initiatives, as well as establishing optimal framework conditions for international cooperation whilst increasing coordination between policies and programmes.

MERID achieved its set of interrelated objectives, resulting in strategically as well as operationally important outcomes:

• Recommendations for an enhanced EU-Middle East STI Cooperation capitalising on the outcomes of a set of meetings and events involving various stakeholders (policy makers, researchers, NCPs, etc)
• A comprehensive STI policy dialogue framework outlining recommendations to face four major obstacles identified with regard to STI cooperation between the EU and Middle East/Mediterranean Partner Countries
• Bilateral policy dialogue meetings held with policy officials and decision makers in Brussels and selected countries resulting in a set of short-term and immediate recommendations
• Brokerage-venturing events for innovation to create partnerships and critical mass for implementing innovative ideas and strengthen EU-Middle East research networking
• Horizon 2020 info days and training events in Cairo, Naples, Tehran, Barcelona, Beirut and Gaza
• Assistance and coaching one-to-one sessions provided to Middle East researchers and experts on ongoing applications for the Horizon 2020 Programme
• Webinars to present opportunities for research and innovation cooperation under the H2020 Programme
As enhancement of international cooperation requires a holistic approach encompassing a broad range of interventions, MERID presented a set of inter-related objectives, on two complementary levels: strategic and operational.

Strategic objectives, activities and outcomes:

• Promotion of a comprehensive STI policy dialogue framework through
- Setting up pre-conditions for policy dialogue in Iran and Iraq (policy dialogue meetings, workshops, roundtable discussions, interviews, bilateral exchanges, etc.)
- Identifying and agreeing on key obstacles and common priorities/actions in the region (project meetings, regional events, literature review, etc.)
- Transferring mechanisms for formulation of input (bilateral policy dialogue meetings)
- Agreeing on a policy dialogue roadmap

Main outcomes and their potential for exploitation:

• Policy paper - Recommendations for the EU-Middle East cooperation: The report itself addresses targeted ME countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran and Iraq) but it can be also used for planning future cooperation mechanisms by EU experts.
• Practical framework strengthening the enabling factors for STI Cooperation: Recommendations for tackling four main obstacles can be used for going beyond the “performance” of research and into ameliorating the asymmetry between regions
• Bilateral Policy Dialogue meetings: A set of short-term and immediate recommendations to sustain and capitalize on the excitement and eagerness to establish research and academic collaborations

Operational objectives, activities and outcomes

• Building capacity, raising awareness and improving networking opportunities via
- Enhancing intermediary organisations’ capacity (trainings and info days in the Middle East)
- Enhancing research stakeholders’ capacity (individual one-to-one coaching sessions)
- Transferring information for research constituency (trainings, info days and participation in other relevant events)
- Establishing networking and contacts for researchers (brokerage events, web-based matchmaking platform, information webinars)

Main outcomes and their potential for exploitation:

• Training and capacity building material on Horizon 2020: openly accessible for stakeholders
• Coaching programme and online support service: The guidelines for organisation and implementation of coaching sessions, as well as templates are openly available

All project results are available on the project website and were promoted through communication channels/tools set up by MERID (i.e. Facebook page, Twitter, quarterly publications, etc.)
MERID’s results and impact can be summarised in four dimensions:

1. More strategic priority setting for cooperation with the Union’s international partners across the whole of Horizon 2020
- An overall framework built upon extant cooperation/previous initiatives to strengthen what the consortium defines as STI enabling factors
- Recommendations for an enhanced EU-ME STI cooperation addressing the issue in a broader sense including in particular: obstacles to overcome, opportunities for collaboration within H2020, synergies with bilateral cooperation programmes, possibilities for funding especially for capacity building actions
- Bilateral dialogue meetings to understand experiences, assess progress on the framework conditions and identify remaining obstacles at opportunities at the personal, institutional and national/framework levels

2. Stronger cooperation between EU and Middle East researchers
- A comprehensive approach to stimulate interaction concentrating on two fundamental factors through facilitating contact amongst organisations (established in EU and ME/MPCs regions)

3. Establishment of optimal framework conditions for international cooperation
- Building capacity, create awareness and structuring effects on cooperation

4. Increased coordination and synergies between policies and programmes of the Member States, Associated Countries and the Union’s international partners via two main approaches:
- Setting up bilateral and/or multilateral dialogue
- Delivering training and capacity building to local stakeholders and collecting input from the scientific and industrial communities on local needs and agenda

5. Ensuring close synergies with the international dimension of calls launched across Horizon 2020 to enhance the socio-economic impact of Horizon 2020
- MERID project strongly promoted the idea of cooperation between ME/MPCs and Europe as an added value for both regions as scientific communities in both regions (also considering diaspora) can bring knowledge, experience and visions complementary to those of EU scientific communities