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BElgian WAllonia REsearcher FELLOWSHIPS 2

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BEWARE2 (BElgian WAllonia REsearcher FELLOWSHIPS 2)

Berichtszeitraum: 2020-09-01 bis 2022-08-31

BEWARE (BElgium WAllonia REsearch) FELLOWSHIPS 2 (BEWARE2) is the follow-up of two previous very successful programmes called MARSHALL FELLOWSHIPS (project ID 600397) and TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER FELLOWSHIPS (TTF) (project ID 609395), submitted (and managed) by the Service Public de Wallonie (hereafter SPW). BEWARE2 makes a synthesis of these two approaches by promoting bottom-up applied research through a cross-sectorial strategy. Indeed, joint research fellowships will be hosted by both a private company and a public university or a university college or an accredited research centre.

Five calls have been launched from 1/9/2020 till 15/10/2022.

The cofunding allowed for 70 researchers to be hosted but, for reasons explained below, only 32 (10 women and 22 men) were hired.

This cannot be considered as a failure : BEWARE2 was launched at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic was immobilising the planet. Considering this worldwide issue, it is easy to understand that promoting the international mobility of scientists was a real challenge. The literature on this subject is extensive and, for example, SPW, with the support of the Belgian embassy in Canberra, tried for months to bring an Australian researcher to Wallonia, but without success...

In addition to these health issues, there were other difficulties, such as the question of the volatility of researchers. Once the procedure has been launched and a candidate is identified, it takes a few weeks, or even a few months, for this person to actually arrive in Wallonia and start work. These delays can sometimes lead the candidate to reorient his or her career, and suddenly prefer not to come to Wallonia because he or she lands another proposal that is more suitable for him or her.

From an academic point of view, it was mainly universities that hosted BEWARE researchers (26 of the 32 applicants). Two researchers are hosted in a university college and four others in an accredited research centres.

BEWARE 2 has also made it possible to establish lasting and quality collaborations between the universities and new Walloon companies.

The research projects supported by this programme have led to technology transfers and have increased the international visibility of these companies and universities.

The contracts offered to researchers under BEWARE2 met the European criteria, including in terms of salary remuneration. One of the main attractions of this programme for "foreign" scientists wishing to come to Wallonia was the duration of the contracts available : up to 36 months.
In SPW's point of view, this duration was sufficient to carry out (semi-applied) research. A contract duration that also allows the researchers recruited to be 'stabilised'.

The selection procedure started with an application to be sent to SPW. If it met the regulatory requirements, it was sent to all of the programme's academic partners, who were responsible for developing partnerships with Wallonia's economic players. An international peer review was then organised and finally the final decision was taken by a selection committee.

Many criteria were taken into account during this procedure: the profile of the applicant, the academic partner, the nature of the project, the impact of the research on sustainable development, ... and, of course the synergy between partners.

Another point for the host units is the openness that these new quality collaborators bring to the international scene: it is not just brains that arrive in Wallonia. These specialized profiles also arrive with their culture and their network, which is also an added value for all project partners. These contributions of international experience are inspiring, especially in the innovation sector, where problem solving is nourished by new approaches and new technologies.

The international mobility of researchers is a European priority.

(see annex : BEWARE2_MSCA study)

In the context of this study, Belgium is in the top of the European average.

Despite the number of fellows involved, BEWARE2, at this stage, has given complete satisfaction to both the SPW and the project leaders.

After the 5th call, the programme has taken its 'administrative' rythm.
During the reporting period, five calls were launched with, respectively, 10 submitted proposals (call 1), 6 (call 2), 6 (call 3), 15 (call 4) and 9 (call 5).

The evaluation procedure as described in the grant agreement was strictly followed:

- internal evaluation (by one expert) and external evaluation (two experts) with, as far as possible, a gender balance
- selection committee
- validation of the ranking list

(see annex : BEWARE2_infographie1 and infographie2)

To be complete, a BEWARE_Ukraine call, at the request of the European Commission, was launched (2022) but no researcher has been hired despite several expressions of interest.

All calls were published in French and in English on the dedicated website, www.bewarejobs.be as well as on Euraxess, on Facebook and LinkedIn BEWARE accounts.

Furthermore, calls were also spread among SPW's traditional partners:

- French-speaking universities and university colleges
- Walloon research centres and clusters

and also among the six scientific officers and the 10 academic officers based abroad.

(see annex: BEWARE2_poster)

SPW also participated in professional fairs and organised (online) conferences to publicise the BEWARE programme.

At this stage, both the programme and some of the research projects were featured in the press or on television. Some of them have been presented abroad during international conferences.

SPW has been chosen by the Committee of the Regions for a radio report dedicated to the BEWARE programme. This programme has not yet been broadcast.

As foreseen in the agreement between the beneficiaries and SPW, a representative took part in the kick off meetings organized by the BEWARE fellow. This was a great opportunity to meet the researchers and the involved team, not only on a scientific point of view but also on a more "personal" point of view (what are the main issues the researcher is facing (daily life problems).

It is important to note that the programme manager is always available to researchers (not only during the above mentioned meetings).

(see annex : BEWARE2_kickoff)

Beforehand, SPW drew up the agreements between it and the beneficiaries, as well as the grant decrees.

Note that the first BEWARE social event was planned on 23/11/2021 but was cancelled due to the health situation. Another event took place in 5/10/2022 at the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-neuve with representatives of the European Commission, of the MSCA Alumni and BEWARE fellows.

(see annex : BEWARE2_side event + BEWARE2_side event_Herge Museum)

In conclusion, the project has proceeded steadily. The deliverables were introduced on time and corrected, if necessary, at the request of the project officer.
SPW is obviously convinced of the desirability of linking research and economic development, as this is one of its core missions.

BEWARE2 is part of this movement.

It is premature to draw conclusions on the projects in progress as little information can be provided at this stage (the 6 month-reports do mention the good progress of the research).

For the projects submitted during calls 1 and 2, we already note 2 patents and 3 publications in international journals.

More results will be provided in the next report.
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