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Transformations to Sustainability

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - T2S (Transformations to Sustainability)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2019-06-30

Since 2004, the NORFACE Network has proven itself as a successful coordinated common action of currently twenty national research funding agencies. NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe) has offered unique opportunities for participating funding agencies by developing common research funding instruments, thus creating opportunities for facilitating and building new networks of research collaboration in the social sciences.

Major achievements up until now have been six transnational initiatives: three rounds of the NORFACE Seminar Series in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the pilot research programme “Re-emergence of Religion as a Social Force in Europe?” (€ M 5,4) in 2006, the transnational research programme “Migration in Europe - Social, Economic, Cultural and policy Dynamics” (€ M 23) in 2008, the “Welfare State Futures” programme (€ M 18), in 2014, the “Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course” programme (€ M 18) in 2017, the “Transformations to Sustainability” programme (€ M 11,6) in 2018, and more recently the “Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age” (€ M 17,6) of which the call is currently running. These programmes have been in line with the ideas of the European Research Area. By strengthening and promoting co-operation amongst member organisations, NORFACE is contributing to the realisation of the European Research Area in the Social Sciences.

Together with the Belmont Forum, NORFACE launched the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) programme to contribute to re-structuring the broad field of sustainability research by placing social science, as well as the humanities, at the heart of interdisciplinary research in a step change in scale and scope for research programming on this topic. Climate change, environmental degradation and resource pressures have created unprecedented situations for societies worldwide. Conventional knowledge and capacity building to tackle the challenges associated with sustainability have had some positive impacts but are ultimately not fully adequate.

Consequently, there is growing attention to the need for more fundamental transformations in the way societies interact with each other and with the natural environment as the basis of sustainability. Societal transformations refer to profound and enduring systemic changes that typically involve social, cultural, technological, political, economic and environmental processes. T2S is a comprehensive and concerted research initiative that can boost research on transformations to sustainability, and catalyse new kinds of solutions to environmental and social challenges.

The aims of the T2S programme are twofold: to develop understanding of and promote research on transformations to sustainability which are of significant social, economic and policy concern throughout the world and of great relevance to both academics and stakeholders; and to build capacity, overcome fragmentation and have a lasting impact on both society and the research landscape by cultivating durable research collaboration across multiple borders, disciplinary boundaries, and with practitioners and societal partners. This includes facilitating the development of new research collaborations with parts of the world which are not often involved in large-scale international research efforts, notably low- and middle-income countries.

The research projects within the T2S programme are funded by thirteen research funding agencies from Brazil, the United States, Japan and Europe, and supported by the European Commission. With over € M 11 of funding, twelve transnational research projects are funded within the programme. The twelve teams with 56 Principal Investigators are undertaking research in transformations to sustainability areas ranging from groundwater, mining, urban areas and land-registration, to the role of migration and intellectual property rights in sustainability transitions. The projects involve researchers from a wide variety of disciplines working together across the globe, from Brazil to Sweden and from Japan to Burkina Faso.
The twelve three-year research projects are conducting theoretically and methodologically innovative research on transformations to sustainability in different locations experiencing pressing socio-ecological challenges. The knowledge produced by the projects will be of relevance to researchers, practitioners and policymakers across a multitude of sectors and will contribute to advancing transformative change around the globe. To enhance the relevance of the knowledge being produced, the project teams integrate stakeholder and community-based partners in the research process.

The activities performed in Period 1 (01-01-2017/01-07-2019) of the Transformations to Sustainability ERA-NET programme cover all actions from the point of launching the Call for Proposals to funding the first months of the research projects. The consortium’s activities in the first reporting period have been coordinated through Work Package ‘Management and administrative coordination of the T2S programme’ (WP2). This WP focuses on the overall project coordination and consortium management, the management of the ERA-NET Cofund Call, evaluation and decision-making process, the monitoring of the progress of the funded projects, and the administrative and financial management of the ERA-NET Cofund obligations to the EC.

Activities to reach the objectives of the T2S programme have been pursued and successfully carried out. The following achievements towards the objectives can be reported:
• Compliance with the 'ethics requirements' set out in WP1 has been ensured (WP1).
• The Call documents were prepared in close cooperation with all beneficiaries, a cooperation strategy to broaden engagement was developed, an online matchmaking tool was developed, and the Call was launched (WP3).
• A robust, fair and effective evaluation and decision-making process took place for the Call to select excellent proposals, and the T2S Board decided on which consortia to invite to submit a full proposal and, in the full proposal stage, on which projects were selected for funding (WP4).
• Contracting arrangements were made with the funded projects, an effective start of the projects was ensured, the projects have been monitored and informed on their reporting duties, the quality and progress of the projects have been guaranteed, and the coherence, efficiency and progress of the programme as a whole has been monitored and ensured (WP5).
• A knowledge exchange and communication strategy was developed, knowledge exchange has been stimulated, the sustainability research community and stakeholders have been informed on the projects and their research, and networking opportunities and other activities where there are common interests across projects have been stimulated and enabled (WP6).
A T2S Knowledge Exchange and Communication strategy has been developed, which aims at increasing awareness of the impact of the funded research beyond academia. The strategy involves various activities aimed at promoting cooperation and collaboration in the T2S programme on producing integrated knowledge on transformations to sustainability, across geographical, disciplinary and sectoral borders; and enhancing the impact of the integrated knowledge emanating from the funded research within the T2S programme.