POLICY ANSWERS workshop on Research Infrastructures [September 2023, Sarajevo]

Back to back with the POLICY ANSWERS conference and a workshop on Mobility, the POLICY ANSWERS project co-organised a half-day workshop on Research Infrastructures together with the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).

In its ongoing mission to fortify research and innovation policy making in the Western Balkans, the POLICY ANSWERS Project applies a multifaceted approach, focusing also on promoting the importance of Research Infrastructures for the Western Balkans as catalysts for economic growth. The Workshop on Research Infrastructures, jointly organized by the POLICY ANSWERS Project and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), took place on 14 September. The Workshop consisted of two dynamic sessions, featuring nine distinguished panelists who represented diverse domains of Research Infrastructures such as Agri-Food, Social Science, Heath & Biotechnology, Green & Digital and Environment.

Research Infrastructures are proven to have a powerful social and economic impact, helping to solve global challenges, but also to attract the best talents. One of the challenges in the WBs is that outgoing mobility is higher than incoming mobility due to, among other reasons, underdeveloped research infrastructures, lack of first-class research facilities and access to the newest technologies in the Western Balkans, as well as insufficient support for participation of the WBs in existing leading core European Research Infrastructures (ERIC, ESFRI, and other RIs with TNA).

In his introductory keynote speech, Sinisa Marcic (RCC) highlighted in particular results from a mapping and bibliometric analysis done related to research infrastructures. It demonstrated a lack of cooperation among the different facilities and difficulties to adequately support economic growth. Role models and innovation infrastructures have been identified, developed often without official support from the governments and limited access to finance. His presentation detailed the match between the available RIs and the Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) or respective drafts. Those economies currently developing S3s should learn from these. He furthermore highlighted the need for Open Access Policies: the RCC supported 23 RI to get such policies in place, a good practice to be further expanded.

POLICY ANSWERS, for example, with its planned support for young researchers’ mobility towards RI, and the RCC are thus well placed to cooperate and further the discussions with the distinguished panellists.

Both organisers highlight their respective online presence: www.balkaninnovation.com and www.westernbalkans-infohub.eu.

First panel: Promoting Research Infrastructures for Societal Challenges: Progress in the Development of Research Infrastructures in the Western Balkans

RIs can help to improve everything from geopolitical tension, brain drain and limp economic growth. The topic of the first panel was how to deliver this vision for the WB, how to raise awareness among policy makers about the benefits of RI and how to improve the potential funding sources. It was moderated by Sanja Damjanovic, who represented POLICY ANSWERS and GSI Darmstadt.

The six distinguished speakers at the first panel informed about existing facilities and those under development, highlighting the benefits of involving researchers, organisations, and industries from the WB in leading core European RI. The panellists represented a diverse range of institutions, including RI, international NGOs, national authorities, local authorities, and universities.

The esteemed panellists were:

  1. Vesna Bengin: Co-founder of the BioSense Institute in Novi Sad, Serbia, and the coordinator of the H2020 ANTARES project, the only Teaming project awarded in the Western Balkans.
  2. Nenad Celarevic: Regional Business Development Coordinator for Helveras Serbia, renowned for his pivotal role in incorporating the Western Balkans into the ESS ERIC map.
  3. Teodora Ilic: A member of the Minister’s office at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Serbia, actively involved in actions related to the development of BIO4Campus.
  4. Jasmin Ademovic: President of the City Council of the City of Sarajevo, contributing to the development of a Tech4Green High Performance Computing Center.
  5. Dejan Mirakovski: Rector of Goce Delcev University in Stip and co-founder of the AMBICON Lab.
  6. Tarik Zaimovic: Vice-Rector of the University of Sarajevo, actively engaged in the development of the UNSA High-Performance Computing (HPC) System.
First Panel of the Workshop on Research Infrastructures. From left to right: Dejan Mirakovski, Jasmin Ademovic, Teodora Ilic, Nenad Celarevic, Vesna Bengin, Tarik Zaimovic, Sanja Damjanovi

First Panel of the Workshop on Research Infrastructures. From left to right: Dejan Mirakovski, Jasmin Ademovic, Teodora Ilic, Nenad Celarevic, Vesna Bengin, Tarik Zaimovic, Sanja Damjanovic

Second panel: GEANT for the Western Balkans & InfraBooster Initiative opportunity of the Western Balkans

The second panel was dedicated to the presentation by three distinguished speakers concentrating on the GEANT and highlighting the benefits of GEANT for the Western Balkan region, but also presenting a new EIT initiative InfraBooster as a great opportunity for the Western Balkans. This session was moderated by Monika Petrova (RCC).

The esteemed presenters were:

  1. Anastas Michev: GEANT South-Eastern Europe Directors Forum Chair and Coordinator 
  2. Arjan Xhelaj: Director General and Chairman of the General Assembly of RASH – Academic Network of Albania 
  3. Krzysztof Klinewicz: Professor at the University of Warsaw, Poland and EIT Fo

Second Panel of the Workshop on Research Infrastructures. From left to right: Krzysztof Klinewicz, Arjan Xhelaj, Anastas Mishev, Monika Petrova

Concluding remarks

The closing remarks were delivered by Sinisa Marcic (RCC) and Sanja Damjanovic (POLICY ANSWERS and GSI).

Sinisa Marcic emphasised that the Workshop shed light on some very interesting success stories from the region at the level of individual institutions and universities. He pointed out the importance of a digital platform which interconnects Open Access RI. In this regard, the currently ongoing development of such a platform in Serbia could potentially be scaled regionally, or the region could consider joining the EERIS platform in Romania (Engage in the European Research Infrastructures System). He also underlined the need for more efficient utilisation of the existing RI, and the InfraBooster initiative could help build capacities for better management of running RI.

Sanja Damjanovic emphasised the need for more RI in the WB, to slow down or even to revert the brain drain which is a significant challenge in the region. She also pointed out that there is often doubt about whether the WB have the user capacity for RI. She underlined that any RI based on new technologies would immediately attract many high skilled professionals from the WB who have left the region. While human capacity is undoubtedly present, a strategic coordination process is required to improve and optimise access to all potential funding sources for RI, including the IPA funds. There is a potential to synergise with the recently published EC guidelines that aim at putting synergies between Horizon Europe and the EU Cohesion Policy Funds (ERDF), and align their objectives with the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) funds. The strategic and coordination process should also include cohesive and joint efforts to ensure that instruments of facilitating access to world-class RI (ESFRI, ERIC, or TNA infrastructures) become an integral component of the Widening Programme under the upcoming EU Framework Programme (FP10).

A detailed report from the two panels and the slides themselves can be found attached at the bottom of this page.

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