Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - MORE (Mobility for Regional Excellence, MoRE)

PROGRAMME OVERVIEW

Since 2012, Västra Götaland has been ranked as an Innovation Leader by the EU Regional Innovation Scoreboard. The region hosts six universities and strong research and innovation milieus, including research institutes, science parks and global knowledge-intensive companies. In 2014 Region Västra Götaland (VGR) launched the Mobility for Regional Excellence Programme (MoRE) for the transnational mobility of experienced researchers, funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme under Marie Curie Actions/COFUND. The programme was launched as a pilot with the aim to contribute to the general policy objectives in the European Research Area (ERA), as well as a those objectives put forth in Västra Götaland’s development strategy for 2020. The “Strategy for growth and development in Västra Götaland 2014-2020” (VG2020), lays out the groundwork for the creation of an attractive, responsible and internationally competitive knowledge region for women and men. By 2020, the region shall be characterised by good opportunities for education, research and innovation, entrepreneurship and internationally competitive industry. MoRE contributes to fulfillment of these goals through its connection to the thirteen areas which have been identified by Västra Götaland's smart specialisation strategy. MoRE’s goal is not only to promote transnational mobility and the improvement of career development for individual researchers, but is also to be used as tool to strengthen research-driven clusters in Västra Götaland. Furthermore, MoRE was envisioned as a way to stimulate long-term collaboration between the research and innovation milieus in Västra Götaland and abroad and promote triple-helix collaboration across sectors.

MoRE's first Call for proposals closed on September 1, 2014, the second on March 15, 2015 and the third and last on October 4, 2015. The programme received a total 48 applications, of which 20 researchers were selected (eight men and twelve women). However, one female grantee decided to decline the MoRE grant, bringing the total number of MoRE fellows to nineteen. The MoRE programme had intended to co-finance 18 fellowships. However, following the third call, the Regional Development Committee of Region Västra Götaland decided to fund a 19th fellow due to a surplus in allocated funds to the programme. The final ratio between female and male researchers was 58-42%, comfortably hitting the programme's goal. Twelve of the thirteen prioritized innovation intensive areas were targeted in the applications, of which ten areas were covered by granted projects. All six universities situated in Västra Götaland were active in the calls and the ratio of incoming versus outgoing researchers was six to thirteen (31-69%). See attached file for a more thorough breakdown of the applications.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROGRAMME

MoRE was open to researchers of all nationalities and targeted highly experienced researchers (i.e. those who had achieved their PhDs between the years 2000 and 2009) interested in working closely with both academic and non-academic organisations. Applications to the programme were required to be submitted by both a researcher and the research and innovation milieu in Västra Götaland which would employ the researcher during the fellowship period, regardless of the direction of mobility (incoming or outgoing). Eligible research and innovation milieus were defined as universities, research institutes, science parks, or university hospitals, involved in research and innovation within a given area and with an active mutual exchange of approaches to problems, competence, knowledge and technology, particularly with established and/or new companies or the public sector.

Awarded projects, committed to contributing to developing and strengthening the competitiveness and internationalisation of research-driven clusters in Västra Götaland, were carried out within one or more of the thirteen research and innovation intensive areas prioritized by Region Västra Götaland. These thirteen areas are part of the region’s smart specialization strategy, which is a tool to increase Västra Götaland’s global competitiveness through the identification of areas in which the region excels and has clear advantages over other regions. The strategy builds on existing strengths, but also prepares and paves the way for new areas that may arise with shifts in industry or society. The research areas eligible to be covered by the MoRE grant were: Sustainable transport solutions, Life science, Green chemistry, Marine environment and the maritime sector, Urban development, Material sciences, Sustainable production, Information and communication technologies, Energy, Textile/Fashion/Design, Cultural and creative industry, Food production/Green industries and Tourism. Applicants were encouraged to submit intersectoral and interdisciplinary projects, with a bottom-up approach and a strong focus on societal challenges and needs-driven science.

The programme structure was based around four different bodies involved in the administration and development of the programme, as well as the evaluation, selection and prioritization of submitted applications. The Management Team, made up of individuals employed byVGR's regional development department, was responsible for the day to day and long term administration of the programme, while an internal Executive Committee contributed with a formal steering role, providing guidance to the Management Team in all manner of issues. The pool of expert evaluators, international and national individuals with various connections to the research and innovation community in Västra Götaland both within academia and the public and private sectors, were engaged during each call by the Management Team. Their evaluations and scores formed the basis for the selection of successful applicants, which was the responsibility of the Programme Board. The Programme Board was made up of seven men and women from academia, the private sector and the public sector. Each member had professional experience within one or more of the sectors relevant to MoRE, in addition to triple-helix collaboration. In order to prioritise the submitted proposals, the Programme Board took into account not only the merits of the proposals – i.e. their excellence as evaluated by the experts – but all factors of the applications – i.e. gender, area of research, applying milieu, incoming or outgoing mobility – while basing its decisions on. The Programme Board also provided the Management Team with advice, guidance and acted as ambassadors for the programme. The Regional Development Committee of Region Västra Götaland is the governing body which is ultimately responsible for the MoRE programme. The Committee is made up of elected officials serving Västra Götaland, meaning that the awarded projects were officially granted through the established political processes of the region.

Gender equality was at the heart of the programme and taken into consideration at all levels of internal management, in the engagement and allocation of expert evaluators and the Programme Board. The gender balance of researchers funded under the programme was set at 40-60% in order to account for unintended gender bias and was taken into account at all stages of the process. Equality and diversity policies are among the highest priorities of the Regional Development Committee, and as such this aspect was monitored by the elected politicians. The resulting gender balance throughout the programme, which met or exceeded the 40-60 goal was a reflection of this work.

While the first half of the programme was characterized by the high intensity of the submission, evaluation and selection of applications, the majority of the management of the programme during its second half was dedicated to the monitoring of awarded projects, financial administration and planning for the future of MoRE. Early priorities included the set up and implementation of well-functioning structures and processes to ensure efficient management of the programme, as well as effective communication activities to spread information about the programme, its goals and the coming calls for proposals. Later, once the projects had begun, the focus of the Management Team was on the implementation of the projects and the communication of their results, combined with efforts to evaluate the programme’s value and its potential future.

RESULTS

All programme objectives and expected results have been achieved. All calls have been published and all fellows have been appointed, including one more than originally planned. The amount of submitted applications exceeded the expectations, and the gender balance and ratio between outgoing and incoming projects were ideal. The evaluation and selection of researchers was carried out in an open, transparent, merit-based, impartial and equitable way, using both Swedish and international experts. Dissemination activities such as information meetings, workshops, seminars, articles in newsletters, news on the MoRE webpage (www.vgregion.se/more) were concentrated to the first years of the programme to ensure that the knowledge about the programme was well spread, and the Management Team has worked to highlight and promote projects even in the final two years of the programme.

As of 15 February 2018, MoRE officially ended after running for four years. All projects were completed on time, with a high level of satisfaction reported among the fellows. Upwards of 100 peer-reviewed articles were completed by the researchers in connection with their projects, numerous other grants have been applied for and awarded on the basis of MoRE projects, and the collaborations forged and developed during the project periods have continued long after the departure of the fellows. Due to a surplus in allocated funds for the programme, the Regional Development Committee made the decision to fund a 19th researcher. This decision proved to be beneficial for the programme in that it ensured the total number of expected fellow months were completed.

In the spring 2015, before the third Call for proposals, a thorough external review of the programme was conducted by the consulting firm Ramböll. The purpose of this review and analysis was to investigate the need and potential future of a research mobility programme in Västra Götaland. Among other issues, the review looked at how continued investments should be niched and organized in order to reach universities, research institutes, Science Parks and University Hospitals, and to drive the priority issue of researchers' mobility in Västra Götaland in the future. Ramböll concluded that MoRE is perceived to be a complement to other funding systems and that the implementation of MoRE has taken place commendably, but that in terms of the long-term effects for the region, such effects are uncertain and difficult to measure.

MoRE was the only regional researcher exchange programme in Sweden. The target group saw a need for MoRE and, in their interviews with Ramböll, requested further measures in this area, thus showing that the existence of MoRE can be motivated by a clear need. MoRE is perceived as being a complement to traditional research funders, particularly for senior researchers, and stands out for its focus on one-year stays which separates the programme from shorter guest researcher posts and long-term funding programmes. The link to identified priority areas in Västra Götaland makes the programme similarly unique. However, Ramböll concluded that the requirement for close collaboration with trade/industry/society in projects that are approved for funding was not sufficiently operative in practice and needs to be further consolidated.

The Management Team, formed by the Regional Development secretariat, was perceived by the target group to have implemented MoRE commendably, despite limited experience in this field. The flexibility and the support offered during the phases of application, approval and implementation have worked well and were judged to be very professional, as was the Programme Board and expert group. In addition, the programme was seen as refreshingly free of red tape. The structure of the MoRE programme was clear and well underpinned and the target group perceived the 13 areas of research for funding as relevant, though their breadth covers so many areas of research that the boundaries are sometimes unclear. The terms of reference for senior researchers are seen as reasonable, even though the smaller Research and Innovation milieus in Västra Götaland tend to experience greater challenges in meeting this requirement.

In the recent years, changes in research and innovation milieus’ internal processes to promote researcher mobility have had a significant impact on participation in the EU's research programme and has become increasingly important for the internationalisation of the region’s milieus. In a counterfactual scenario, it could be argued that increased internationalisation and mobility would have taken place even without the MoRE programme. At the same time, Ramböll found that there were clear examples of how MoRE has given rise to unexpected effects such as a greater awareness of other funding programmes and reinforced networks for future applications in Horizon 2020, as well as the fact that funding from MoRE has enabled strategic international exchanges for participating milieus from western Sweden. Upon evaluating how research mobility may lead to increased collaboration with the private sector and industry, Ramböll concluded that any future programme developed by Region Västra Götaland must focus more on true triple-helix collaboration, as the current output for researchers skews much more towards the growth and development of networks within academia rather than in society or industry.

MoRE was judged by Ramböll to have great potential for generating positive effects on the relevant priorities outlined in VG2020, but at the same time the programme’s true effects are somewhat uncertain and may be difficult to monitor. These positive and constructive conclusions were taken into account by the Management Team and resulted in the submission of an application to the Horizon 2020 MSCA COFUND call in 2015 for a second mobility programme. Unfortunately the application was not successful, but with the support of the Regional Development Committee, a second application was submitted to the MSCA COFUND call in 2016. This application was successful and the MoRE programme has been followed by the MoRE2020 programme, which began in May 2017. The successful structures, internal and external, built up during the implementation of MoRE have been utilized during the implementation of MoRE2020, allowing for a swift start to the programme and the awarding of seven new fellowships out of 20 planned.

The wider socio-economic impact of the programme was also examined during Ramböll’s analysis. Though a clear connection was not found between mobility and its potential effects on the interaction between research environments/individuals and the surrounding community and long term produces positive effects on regional (or national) competitiveness, Ramböll did note, however, that the transfer of knowledge through research mobility is a particularly important factor in the exploitation of research results and thus mobility can be considered an important ingredient in a well-functioning (regional) innovation system. Approximately one third of MoRE fellows indicated potential further collaboration with the private sector when reporting at the conclusion of their projects. The branches mentioned ranged from pharmaceutical companies, to food producers, local Swedish startups and larger international companies such as Mitsubishi. Furthermore, projects in the healthcare sector will continue to collaborate with the regional healthcare system. As many of the projects have only been completed within the last year, it is difficult to determine what these collaborations will lead to and VGR has already begun its internal review to further investigate this. However, Region Västra Götaland is confident that MoRE fellows and those involved in their projects will be productive and positively affect both the region and its research and innovation milieus.

MoRE Management Team
Lisa Belfrage – lisa.belfrage@vgregion.se, +46 70-082 4341
Anders Gustafsson – anders.u.gustafsson@vgregion.se (paternity leave until September 2018)

MoRE webste
www.vgregion.se/more

Related information

Reported by

VASTRA GOTALANDS LANS LANDSTING
Sweden

Subjects

Life Sciences
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top