POLICY BRIEF available in various translations: Co-creating Responsible Research and Innovation activities: Experiences from the Western Balkan

The project WBC-RRI.NET already entailed a series of mapping exercises and co-creation procedures at regional level, taken place during the first half of the project. The participatory and systematic in-depth mapping allowed detecting key regional actors to be engaged, while the regional co-creation addressed the co-design of the regional RRI ‘anchor’ initiatives through a series of regional, participatory, and inclusive co-design workshops.

These procedures and exercises provided the consortium with new experiences, insights, and lessons learned leading to recommendations for the quadruple helix in the region addressing stakeholders in government, research and academia, the private sector and civil society, all covered in this initial policy brief – which is now available in Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian translations!

Download the policy brief from the project website.

Highlighted recommendations include:

Relevance for all QH actors

  • Western Balkan economies do not yet have strong innovation ecosystems, and the relationships, for example between academia and industry, require further improvement, guided by cooperation, mutual learning and clear win-win situations. It is paramount to use available opportunities to build trust and strengthen relationships, and to increase networking between the different sectors. Co-creation activities in projects build skills for productive interaction and self-organisation.
  • Co-creation activities, with proper engagement techniques, can be capitalised for creating networks of stakeholders willing to change eventually (pre-)determined opinions and to develop mutual understanding. This is particularly important on a regional level in the Western Balkans. The desired ‘breadth’ and the ‘depth’ of the emerging networks should be considered, while keeping all stages of engagement transparent and open.
  • Key ingredients are ‘open spaces’ for discussion between quadruple helix stakeholders giving time and space for reflection and exchange, such as communities of practices and targeted working groups. Resources such as time and money as well as human resources need to be adequately allocated. Relevant procedures and outcomes should be openly communicated.
  • QH actors need to jointly support dedicated professionals at the interface of research and innovation, e.g. facilitators of co-design activities and science communicators, build boundary organisations and sustain institutions and structures which are still underdeveloped in the region.
  • Currently, awareness and understanding of co-creation processes are still to be improved in all sectors which are addressed through RRI. WBC-RRI.NET found, for example, that there is still a lack of awareness about the implementation of citizen science initiatives, the curation of open data, development of open educational resources, the governance of ethical issues, etc.

Governmental stakeholders

  • Although it is sometimes easier to focus RRI-related discussions on national level, local and regional (subnational) governments play important roles to embed the principles in the territory and to ensure sustainability. They need to be included in RRI networking and be inspired to develop genuine interests and fully engage. Also, intergovernmental organisations such as the Regional Cooperation Council are key to facilitating the regional approach and identifying the respective priorities (e.g., by supporting working groups related to women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or open science).
  • Governmental stakeholders need to be better prepared to get involved in participatory processes and think outside-of-the-box, reduce administrative and bureaucratic procedures and encourage the implementation of RRI principles, e.g. to promote gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness and participate in mutual learning activities. Legislative and regulative frameworks need to adequately encourage RRI practices, e.g. access and reuse of data and scientific results, address gender-based violence, etc.
  • Different funding and support schemes should carefully include RRI aspects, such as ethics, open standards or gender equality, in the processes of evaluation, selection and monitoring. Initiatives that bring research and innovation closer to citizens should be (financially) supported. Non-academic stakeholders should be systematically involved in decision-making bodies of the research and innovation ecosystem.

Research and academic stakeholders

  • RRI requires the dedicated involvement of universities, research centres, academies of sciences and learned societies, networks of scientists and also independent researchers in order to induce change at the institutional and individual levels.
  • Institutional culture of research performing organisations needs to build on RRI principles, e.g. reinforce academic integrity, ethics, inclusiveness, regular participation in science festivals etc. and encourage networking with all QH stakeholders. Support staff should be available offering practical help e.g. on public engagement, outreach, creation of open resources, involvement of marginalised stakeholders and generally support to fulfil open access or ethical requirements, etc.
  • Research and academic institutions should also open up the access to their infrastructures, providing clear guidelines on how to engage. The development of open science and open access infrastructures also needs a clear division of roles in relation to their maintenance and should build on the opportunities offered by various EU initiatives such as the European Research Infrastructure Consortia (ERIC), the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructure (ESFRI), the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), etc.
  • Professional development schemes, training and knowledge exchange in relation to RRI are important, thus RRI issues and co-creation approaches should be included in curricula as well as continuous education schemes for staff.

Private sector stakeholders

  • The full range of private sector stakeholders should be involved. The relevant industries and private companies of all sizes, i.e. large multi-national organisations as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, should be prepared to get involved in participatory processes. Managers and employees should participate in committees, working groups or round tables as part of a culture to share and in particular to network with unusual cooperation partners.
  • The social dimensions of technological development and innovation need to be systematically considered within the context of a socio-constructionist and human-centred approach to research and innovation. Debates around the concerns of the citizens should be particularly taken into account.
  • Several RRI keys need particular attention of the private sector, e.g. to ensure gender equality in leadership positions, supporting women in business R&D and promoting networks for female entrepreneurs. Ethical procedures and practices also need to be reinforced in business research and innovation.

Civil society stakeholders

  • Civil society organisations such as community groups, labour unions, private charities, foundations, national and transnational non-governmental and non-profit organisations (NGOs and NPOs) should strive to stay informed through scientific expertise, and also use scientific evidence to advocate for their goals. Results of research and innovation activities should also be accessible to individual citizens and civil society stakeholders that have the capacity to bridge this knowledge towards them.
  • CSOs are important stakeholders in terms of mobilising diverse communities and ensuring participation in public panels and debates. Furthermore, systematic communication with them and relationships of trust are relevant to avoid mis- and dis-information and to check facts.
  • CSOs should consider making their data available for scientists to use. Their publications should be available in open repositories and one should consider to publish in journals, co-authoring scientific articles.

Geographical focus:

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