Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SeeRRI (Building Self-Sustaining Research and Innovation Ecosystems in Europe through Responsible Research and Innovation)
Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-10-31
Innovation is an engine of economic growth and societal progress. The European Union has consistently been promoting research and innovation (R&I) activities in its member states, including at the regional level through “smart specialisation” strategies (RIS3). However, if innovation is going to help resolve the many existential challenges humanity faces today, it is critical that R&I activities are aligned with the values, needs, and expectations of society. The EU policy of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) seeks to foster such an alignment. SeeRRI addresses the challenge of integrating RRI into smart specialisation strategies at the regional level, with the goal of ensuring that regional R&I activities contribute to the UN Agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) supported by the EU. In 2020, the timeliness of the challenge has been further underscored by the Covid-19 pandemic, as collective efforts at the EU level are now being mobilized to make sure the EU will emerge from the Covid-19 crisis on a path toward sustainable well-being for all in a healthy biosphere.
The approach taken by SeeRRI
SeeRRI tackles the problem of how to integrate RRI into regional policy in a concrete manner by working with territorial actors of all kinds, including industry and business, academia, policymakers, and the public. SeeRRI acknowledges that since every European region has unique features, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of how to facilitate responsible and sustainable R&I. The approach of SeeRRI is to create a general framework (“the SeeRRI process model for responsible regional planning”) and an implementation pathway that regions can use to find their own, context-specific strategy.
The pilot regions
Three European territories serve as pilot regions for the project: Nordland (Norway), Lower Austria, and B30 (Catalonia, Spain).
• B30 is the main industrial hub for innovation, research, and entrepreneurship in Catalonia, which is undergoing a transition toward a circular economy. The specific challenge for B30 is to find a governance model that encourages regional stakeholders to work together to develop and implement solutions for achieving waste-free economic development in the region.
• In Lower Austria, SeeRRI focuses on the plastics industry, which has been contributing significantly to medical technology, healthcare, construction, mobility, infrastructure, etc., but struggles with a negative public image. The challenge for the plastics industry in Lower Austria is to help achieve a CO2-neutral economy by contributing to new designs of research, development, and innovation.
• Nordland is home to just 4.5% of Norway’s population but contains 25% of the country’s coastline, hence marine industries are of vital importance to the region. The core challenge of Nordland is “responsible coastal management”: to manage conflicting interests in coastal development and strike a balance between creating incentives for industry and protecting the environment.
The core objectives of SeeRRI are:
• To develop, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, an RRI-based model for building self-sustaining territorial research and innovation ecosystems.
• To make sure the model mentioned above is implemented in the regional policies of the three pilot territories.
• To share lessons learned and propose governance strategies for innovation best practices in a variety of regional contexts not limited to the three pilot territories.
• To implement RRI principles internally in the twelve member organizations of SeeRRI itself.
SeeRRI has compiled a comprehensive set of information about the R&I ecosystems of the pilot territories. In addition, data has been collected to explore the extent to which RRI principles are already incorporated in current regional policies and to identify areas where RRI adoption is lacking. Meanwhile, SeeRRI has also developed a conceptual framework for helping policymakers employ RRI in territorial contexts.
2) Stakeholder engagement and co-creation for responsible regional development
Stakeholder engagement has comprised a number of activities in SeeRRI. First, in each of the three pilot territories, SeeRRI compiled a list of major R&I actors and invited a representative subset of these to a series of workshops. At the workshops, foresight methodology was used to identify possible future scenarios for each territory. These scenarios then formed the basis for developing a shared agenda and a governance model for working towards a shared regional vision.
The lessons learned in this process led to the creation of the “SeeRRI process model for responsible regional planning” and the “SeeRRI implementation pathway”, which are guidelines that can be used by other regions in the future.
3) Institutional change at the partner level
SeeRRI has also been working with RRI within the member organizations of the SeeRRI consortium itself. Every member organization has implemented internal institutional changes and developed an action plan for complying as fully as possible with the principles of RRI. These initiatives strengthen the legitimacy of SeeRRI partners in advocating for the adoption of RRI principles by other actors in the R&I ecosystem. Most partners have given priority to institutional changes related to public engagement.
4) Transnational learning and dissemination
SeeRRI has organized a series of events focused on transnational learning, i.e. exchanging RRI-related insights and experiences across countries and regions, inside the consortium as well as with external partners. SeeRRI has also engaged in a wide range of activities to spread the word about the project itself and raise awareness of RRI. The project has established a presence on social media outlets such as YouTube and Twitter and built a website at www.seerri.eu. SeeRRI consortium members have presented the project at conferences in Europe, Asia, and North America as well as at numerous online events.
Cutting across the activities above, SeeRRI has been continuously engaged in evaluation work to verify the impact of the project’s activities and the validity of the SeeRRI model.
• The creation – in collaboration with stakeholders – of an integrated framework (“the SeeRRI process model for responsible regional planning”) and an implementation pathway that regions can use to develop self-sustaining and responsible R&I ecosystems. These tools support regions in their twin transition towards green growth and digitalization.
• A reorientation of the strategic focus of smart specialisation strategy towards RRI and circular economy and sustainability (“smart specialisation strategy for sustainability”, or S4) in the pilot territories. In an example of a direct outcome of SeeRRI’s efforts to engage regional stakeholders, RRI has already been officially incorporated into the smart specialisation policy of the government of Catalonia.
• Implementation of RRI institutional change internally in every partner institution of SeeRRI.
In terms of long-term impact, SeeRRI's efforts at dissemination, stakeholder awareness raising, and tool-building are expected to lead to wider adoption of RRI as a means of tackling societal challenges and strengthening the resilience of innovation ecosystems in Europe.