[PRESENTATION PA CONF. SEPT. 2023] Challenges of the widening Hallenges of Widening Countries in the Creation and Implementation of European Partnerships (With a Focus on the Western Balkans)

Malwina Gebalska, Coordinator for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Science Center (NCN) & ERA-LEARN, Poland presented the topic above as part of the “Key Highlights and Insights on Instruments and Opportunities for Aligning Priorities” block of the first Plenary Session of the POLICY ANSWERS conference on “Policy Dialogue on Aligning Priorities in the Western Balkans”.

In the European research and innovation landscape, creating and implementing European Partnerships (EPs) is a significant step towards fostering collaboration, innovation, and sustainable growth. However, Widening Countries, such as those in the Western Balkans, encounter unique challenges on this journey.

Challenges Facing Widening Countries

The Western Balkans, like other Widening Countries, aspire to actively engage in European Partnerships, but they face several hurdles:

1. Lack of Personnel: A critical challenge is the scarcity of experienced staff capable of managing and coordinating complex European partnerships effectively. Developing and retaining a talented workforce is crucial to navigate the intricacies of these collaborations.

2. Budgetary Issues: Financial constraints often limit the ability of Widening Countries to participate fully in EPs. Adequate funding is essential for research, innovation, and the successful implementation of partnership projects.

3. Defining National Priorities: Aligning the objectives of EPs with national research and innovation priorities can be a delicate balancing act. Ensuring that partnership goals resonate with the country’s own agenda is paramount for success.

4. Involvement of Stakeholders: The engagement of national and regional stakeholders is vital for the effective execution of EPs. Widening Countries must ensure active participation from both public and private sectors, fostering a collaborative environment.

5. Lack of Success in Calls for Proposals: Many Widening Countries struggle to secure funding through calls for proposals, which are highly competitive. Enhancing proposal writing skills and increasing success rates is a pressing issue.

6. Administrative Complexity: The administrative intricacies of EPs can be overwhelming. Navigating the rules, regulations, and requirements can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, often discouraging potential participants.

National Support for Widening Countries

Recognizing the challenges, it’s heartening to note that there are national instruments in place to support Widening Countries’ participation in EPs:

1. Support and Mentoring: National Contact Points, national research funding organizations, and administrative staff dealing with EU projects offer invaluable support and mentoring for researchers applying for grants in EP calls. This guidance can help navigate the complexities and enhance the quality of proposals.

2. Cohesion Funds: There are plans to leverage cohesion funds to support the participation of Widening Countries in EP calls. This strategic use of resources can significantly boost engagement in collaborative research projects.

3. Monitoring Forums: National organizations participating in EPs have established forums to monitor their countries’ participation. These forums create a space for sharing best practices, addressing challenges, and streamlining efforts for maximum impact.

The Path Forward

With these national instruments and support systems in place, Widening Countries, including those in the Western Balkans, are better equipped to address the challenges and participate more actively in European Partnerships. By strengthening their capacity, securing adequate funding, and enhancing collaboration, these regions can unlock their full potential in the European research and innovation landscape, fostering a brighter, more collaborative future.

The road ahead may still have challenges, but it’s also paved with opportunities for growth, innovation, and shared progress. As these regions continue to navigate the complexities of European Partnerships, they are set to become integral players in shaping the future of research and innovation in Europe and beyond.