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Home > Focus > MARIE Webinar Week: A Review

MARIE Webinar Week: A Review

by Redazione FGB [1], 8 October 2021

After more than 4 years in operation, between 7-9 September 2021 the MARIE Interreg project [2] hosted 3 days of seminars, with networking slots and video drops and some light-hearted fun.

Day 1

The topic for the first day was Responsibility and sustainable strategies: Moving Towards S4+ [3].

After taking a voluntary quiz and language lesson about the city of Tampere and its dialect (our virtual host city although the event was held online), moderator Jessica Huntingford of Resolvo [4]called on stage project leader Giulia Bubbolini of CISE [5] (who regular readers will know [6]), who offered an overview of RRI in regional policymaking, with a particular focus on specialization policies.

In presenting the position of the project, Bubbolini explained that policy makers not only benefit from and harvest technicalities and expertise from their own areas, but are at the same time responsible for the wellbeing of their populations.

Before concluding she clarified that the MARIE project had to work with existing policies in RRI rather than propose new strategies, a positioning that she described as leading to the introduction of RRI and its practices into already formed strategies.

Elisabetta Marinelli then presented her work regarding the developments in what she calls the move from smart specialization S3 to S4+, a transformative smart specialization strategy.

Looking through a COVID-19 tinted lens, Marinelli argued that the issue of responsibility runs parallel to that of that of sustainability, what is required is responsible action. In order to do this we have to change how we think about innovation, with a new approach that not only has to be directed towards a sustainable transition, but also understand challenges as opportunities and be aware of the effects of innovation.

After offering several examples of regions that have RRI approaches, the speaker argued that policymakers have to move on from the competition and growth narrative, describing how the region of Catalonia approach lies at at the forefront. She explained the region's approach to capacity building for their vision, alongside public engagement approaches that help stakeholders reflect on strategies through raising participation, offering examples of interventions in towns with older populations and of flexibility in business practices.

The speaker then offered the example of food transition, proposing the need to think about what is required in terms of health, to interact with those on the fringe of the governance, engage with a broader spectrum of stakeholders in order to learn what they are doing, understand that some things are happening that you don't have access to, and to accept failure.

The speaker summarized this as the need to understand how they are experimenting and to participate.

The discussion moved on to the question about whether the language used in such scenarios is too academic, difficulties in measuring impact and the need to develop skills that are not easily found in administrations, before highlighting the need to adapt the commonly used frameworks based on growth and jobs to suit changing scenarios.

Further advice was offered: We have to change the way we look at failure. If you have learned from an approach, you haven't failed; be aware of different timelines; look to see who is partnering and go through civil associations; push for synergy.

Marinelli closed the day with an interesting observation that holds many of these points together: The world has changed through covid, strategies today require rigor and flexibility.

Day 2

Responsibility in Practice: Good examples on how to change funding to support responsibility and sustainability [7].

After a short review of the previous day from Giulia Bubbolini, Shadrack Mkansi of the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) took centre stage.

Mkansi described the science and technology public engagement, education, awareness and communication work carried out by the SAASTA agency.

The speaker offered examples of some of the recent exhibitions, science festivals and international projects that the agency has participated in and its roles within these events and developments. Mkansi then moved on to discuss the scientists' reaction to working alongside the agency, explaining that advantages for such an approach are easy to see and highlight (in particular in terms of infrastructure development, human capacity and engagement) leading to positive and supportive reactions and positions from those involved.

Bafedile Kgwadi (also from SAASTA) then took over the presentation to describe her involvement and experience in the funding of science centres, school debates, mentoring, coaching and finally a photo competition. She described an approach that is based on co-creation within several priority areas, adding that they report to the South African Department of Science and Innovation, informing policy and bringing change.

The third speaker on day 2 was Donia Lasinger of the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF). In her introduction, Lasinger explained that the WWTF is a not for profit regional funding agency, mainly focused on Vienna.

The speaker described the importance of RRI within the agency, introducing the GEECCO project and its focus on awareness raising and the mainstreaming of gender equality. She described the aims as promoting process renewal, openness, open science, gender neutral language use and policy overhaul through what she called a co-change approach.

Lasinger went on to present a series of examples of how the plan is implemented: setting the scene before bringing forward arguments, setting clear goals, the implementation of pilot schemes and consolidation of change within the institutions and stakeholders involved.

She concluded with the following reflections on impacts and lessons learned:
Context is important, as is internal knowledge building
There is a need to provide evidence that change is necessary
The importance of network creation
Signals (such as openness, equality) are important, as is the communication of change
The need to intensify exchange between institutions is paramount.

Day 3

Responsible future: together for recovery and responsible growth: European level synergies: Next Generation, RRI and the 2021-2027 programming period [8].

The third and final day opened with Giulia Bubbolini's review of the previous day. She was then joined in the moderator panel by Jessica Huntingford who introduced the day's main speaker, Ignacio Gonzalez Vazquez, Economic and Policy Analysist at the European Commission Joint Research Centre.

Ignacio Gonzalez Vazquez began by explaining recent planning and funding developments and changes in the EU policy framework with the introduction of Next Generation EU.
The Next Generation EU package aims to promote recovery and resilience and is the largest offered to date. Structured through pillars (two of the largest are the green and digital pillars), performance and milestone based and carried out via national planning, the strategy's aim is wholescale economic transformation.

The speaker described several approaches including working on innovation for sustainability and a smart specialization strategy, before offering a case study example from Portugal that aims to promote the involvement of regional and local government.

A short question and answer session followed before Huntingford introduced an interview between herself and MARIE project finance officer Antoine Duquennoy (Interreg Europe Joint Secretariats).

Duquennoy firstly offered an overview of Interreg Europe, a scheme that has funded 258 projects and included 90% of all European regions, and rather impressively led to 600 policy changes. He then went on to explain changes within the new program which should launch in 2021, with the main take home message that capacity building will be its major priority.

A few words about MARIE followed, which led nicely into Bubbolini taking over with a brief summary of how the project had operated and its aim to Improve existing policy instruments (the project was not allowed to propose new ones) which led to different paths that were all able to capitalize on previous approaches. She closed with a summary of future plans that include the monitoring and integration of recovery funds.

Throughout the series each MARIE partner released videos about their experience within the project, all of which are available here [9], alongside footage of the entire proceedings in real time (one hour per day).

This was an enjoyable and informative seminar series, well interspersed with social events and packed full of great speakers. Congratulations to all those involved and all at the Foundation wish the MARIE project our best in its final closing year.


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Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] https://www.interregeurope.eu/marie/
  3. 3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkbeVu8v790&list=PLlnLd0GZ9Sn_UwA-doWbfyJf0nkzqhg-3&index=9
  4. 4] https://www.resolvo.eu/en/
  5. 5] https://www.ciseonweb.it/
  6. 6] https://www.fondazionebassetti.org/en/focus/2020/06/rosie_project_final_virtual_me.html
  7. 7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQx4-t1gnXI&list=PLlnLd0GZ9Sn_UwA-doWbfyJf0nkzqhg-3&index=10
  8. 8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evm991JItwI&list=PLlnLd0GZ9Sn_UwA-doWbfyJf0nkzqhg-3&index=11
  9. 9] https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlnLd0GZ9Sn_UwA-doWbfyJf0nkzqhg-3
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MARIE Webinar Week: A Review
Articles by:  Redazione FGB
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