Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SeeRRI (Building Self-Sustaining Research and Innovation Ecosystems in Europe through Responsible Research and Innovation)
Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31
Innovation is considered 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 – such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, accelerating inequality, the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, and pandemics – 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, but implementation of the policy across European R&I ecosystems is still at an early stage.
At a practical level, RRI as endorsed by the EU emphasizes six policy aspects: public engagement; open access; gender equality; science education; governance; and ethics. 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. It does so in a context rapidly evolving in the same direction, as shown by the European Green Deal (EGD) promoted by the European Commission since November 2019. 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 very concrete manner by working with territorial actors of all kinds, including industry and business, academia, policymakers, and the public. SeeRRI recognizes that different societal groups have different interests and priorities when it comes to R&I and must be brought together to work toward the common goal of building a framework for responsible, sustainable R&I. SeeRRI also acknowledges that since every European region has unique features, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The approach of SeeRRI is to create a general framework (“the SeeRRI framework”) and roadmap that regions can use for guidance while searching for their own, context-specific answers. Three European territories serve as pilot regions for the project: Nordland (Norway), Lower Austria, and B30 (Catalonia, Spain).
Objectives of SeeRRI
The core objectives of SeeRRI can be summarized as follows:
• To develop, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, an RRI-based framework for building self-sustaining territorial research and innovation ecosystems.
• To make sure the framework 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.
1) Mapping of R&I ecosystems and RRI adoption
SeeRRI has used available databases to compile a comprehensive set of information about the actors in the R&I ecosystems of the three pilot territories. The collected data shows, for example, which sectors and types of institutions predominate in the R&I landscape of each territory and how the R&I actors are embedded in national R&I networks. In cooperation with the territories, SeeRRI has also collected data to explore the extent to which RRI principles are already incorporated in current regional policies. Although RRI principles are present to some extent in the policies of all three regions, every region was found to have room for improvement. For example, two RRI dimensions that were found to be underdeveloped in all three regions were ethics and open access.
2) Stakeholder engagement
SeeRRI has compiled a comprehensive list of major R&I stakeholders in each of the pilot territories, and started the process of selecting a subset of particularly relevant stakeholders that will be invited to help develop the SeeRRI framework. Three criteria are used to determine the relevance of a stakeholder to SeeRRI: their power to change the R&I ecosystem, their legitimacy in the eyes of the public and other actors, and the strength of their incentives to change the status quo of the R&I ecosystem.
In order to make stakeholder identification and the co-creation process more manageable, territories have been encouraged to narrow down a specific area of R&I to focus on for the remainder of the project:
• Nordland (Norway): Responsible management of coastal areas.
• Lower Austria: The contribution of the plastics industry to a CO2 neutral economy.
• B30 (Catalonia, Spain): Zero waste.
SeeRRI has been working with the regional governments of the territories to identify major “influencing factors”, e.g. related to culture, technology, or economics, that shape the respective R&I ecosystems. These lists of influencing factors are intended to be used to help stakeholders foresee possible future development directions of the ecosystems and, in turn, to develop the SeeRRI framework.
In an example of a direct outcome of SeeRRI’s efforts to engage actively with stakeholders, RRI has already been officially incorporated into the smart specialization policy of the government of Catalonia.
Although the project is still ongoing and the SeeRRI framework has yet to be fully developed, SeeRRI has already engaged in many dissemination activities, not only to spread the word about the project itself but also to raise awareness of RRI in general. In the course of 2019, SeeRRI consortium members presented SeeRRI (or research related to the project) at conferences in Europe, Asia, and North America. SeeRRI has established a presence on a number of social media outlets including YouTube and Twitter, and a website for the project has been built at www.seerri.eu.
• The creation – in collaboration with stakeholders – of an integrated framework for developing self-sustaining and responsible R&I ecosystems.
• Identification of cross-country and interregional RRI collaboration opportunities among the three pilot territories and the affiliated territories.
• A reorientation of the strategic focus of smart specialization strategy towards circular-economy-driven policy in the pilot territories.
• Implementation of RRI-based policies and initiatives internally in the partner institutions of SeeRRI.
SeeRRI is currently in the process of engaging stakeholders and implementing institutional change initiatives and is on track to achieve the outcomes listed above.
The expected long-term impact of SeeRRI is to promote the use of RRI to tackle societal challenges in Europe, to strengthen the resilience of European innovation ecosystems, and to enhance the competitiveness of the EU in the world.