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Territorial Responsible Research and Innovation and Smart Specialization

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TetRRIS (Territorial Responsible Research and Innovation and Smart Specialization)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2021-11-30

TetRRIS overarching objective is threefold. First, it aims at supporting four European pilot territories – the Tampere Region in Finland, Karlsruhe Technology Region in Germany, Autonomous Community of Cantabria in Spain, and the Szeged-Timisoara Region in Hungary and Romania – to systematically integrate RRI practices into their territorial innovation systems and development approaches, and thereby embed value-driven transformation. Second, the project promotes mutual learning and interaction between territories, and, thirdly, it develops tools for good practices and policy recommendations that can be used to integrate RRI in the regional development in other European territories.

While there are common challenges across Europe, different territories are faced with specific challenges. Therefore, the project has four economically and socially different territories as pilots to extend learning opportunities across different territories in Europe. The project also sees the adoption of RRI related practices and targets as a systemic challenge, which emphasizes the need of inclusive approach for shared understanding and joint action of various actors and stakeholders.

The project will map and analyze territorial drivers and barriers for change; co-innovate with the stakeholders a desirable approach for the increasing implementation of RRI; organize and support the organization of the pilots; organize opportunities for cross-regional learning and peer support internationally; initiate and support dialogue between different levels of governance to make RRI related practices sustainable; and collect the learnings and experiences into a workbook to be used in other territories and put forward policy recommendations based on the pilots.
To identify opportunities for enhancing collaboration between actors for value-driven transformation and the uptake of RRI thought and practice, each region has mapped territorial actors and assessed patterns of R&D&I interactions. This work improved understanding of regional R&D&I dynamics and provided a firm basis for work, and support identification of the issues to be addressed in embedding RRI in regional pilot contexts. The mapping exercise was systematically performed with the help of an analytical framework, which was designed in the beginning of the project.

One of the starting points of TetRRIS was to put regional actors’ concerns at the centre of research agenda. This fundamental objective was achieved with an intensive interview process in which the pilot regions with the help of research partners carried out stakeholder interviews. Collecting this tacit information was highly important to match the regional pilot actions to regional actors’ questions and challenges that were further elaborated in the first regional workshops in spring-autumn 2021.

The RRI capacity building of local pilot actors has started in the regions but embedding RRI into territorial agendas will largely materialise in the second half of the TetRRIS project. The basis for full exploitation of RRI builds through engaging regional stakeholders that has been the main objective of the first half of the project. The pilot regions and research teams have reached a mutual understanding with regional stakeholders and defined a common agenda of intervention and related activities. The regional intervention plans guiding the local RRI actions are ready for implementation. Good practices, new solutions and key learnings will be documented to give guidance on how to replicate such efforts in subsequent activities and in other regional contexts.

The intervention plans will guide how to further strengthen and deepen RRI-related interest and activities via new pilot actions in each pilot region. These plans build on analysis of the dynamics, challenges and opportunities of each regional innovation ecosystem in terms of responsible research and innovation as well as sustainability. The regional pilots help to develop context specific solutions to overcome identified challenges and strengthen opportunities in collaboration with the regional partners.
The mapping exercise and stakeholder interviews have revealed that RRI as a concept is practically unknown in all the regions. RRI discourses based on and articulated in the terminology formally defined by the European Commission remain rare. Regardless of the unfamiliar concept of RRI, many "de facto RRI" activities are found in each of the regions. These activities include, for example, different types of innovation co-creation practices, engagement and inclusion of stakeholders and the broader public, and promotion of ethics and sustainability. The RRI in businesses resonate in terms such as 'science-industry collaboration', 'corporate social responsibility' and/or 'public stakeholder consultation'. In addition, in this environment an uptake of RRI demand regulatory incentives since being responsible requires additional investments (financial and cognitive).

Based on the interviews and meetings with regional actors, it is acknowledged that it is important to engage closely with the local actors and to identify areas where RRI may make tangible contributions. In this manner, responsible research and innovation becomes interpreted in language and situated in actions the actors are familiar with - thus bridging cognitive gaps and creating space for diverse, locally and contextually based definitions of responsibility to emerge. As in many pilot regions a good bit of de facto RRI is already ongoing, the most promising strategy for pilot actions has been to try to build on ongoing local interests and activities.

The pilot regions are in different phases in their RRI journeys. Some regions need heavy awareness raising activities to plant the seeds of RRI, while other regions focus on integrating RRI into regional activities and strengthening already-existing elements of de-facto RRI to further institutionalise the practice of RRI in the region. Both approaches are needed and important, since change will not happen without people understanding why responsibility and sustainability are important to address in their processes and activities. In fact, envisaged institutional change in the regions focus largely on the public engagement. In this dimension, we already have good results. Moreover, many initiatives, like RRI guidelines and multi-stakeholder workshops and strengthening and improving processes and practices of public engagement by setting up a practitioner network aim to create sustainable change in the local contexts and involved institutions.
tetRRIS poster