FIT FORTHEM: Results from the first focus group

On 21st April 2021 representatives from the University of Valencia discussed the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities of research and innovation, as part of the first FIT FORTHEM focus group.

Text: Felix Fajardo, Isabel Mendoza, Mº Dolores Pitarch, UVEG team

The focus group served as a starting point from which to work over the next three years on the strategy related to R&D at the University of Valencia and then for the entire FORTHEM Alliance. The focus group was divided into three parts and was attended by more than 60 participants coming from the business world, public administrations, academia and civil society.

EVENT ORGANIZATION

At the beginning, Dr. Carles Padilla (Vice-rector of Internationalisation and Cooperation of the University of Valencia) and Dr. María Dolores Real (Vice-rector of Innovation and Transfer of the University of Valencia) presented the scopes and opportunities of FORTHEM and FIT FORTHEM projects to all the attendees.

Afterwards, a round table was held with the participation of 5 experts related all stakeholder groups. The business sector was represented by Mr. Miguel Juan (Managing Partner of S2 Grupo) and Ms. Beatriz Llamusí (CEO and co-founder of ATHEx Biotech). The vision of public institutions was provided by Mr. Javier Mateo (Deputy Director of Entrepreneurship at València Activa), while Ms. María José Torres (Head of UVocupació Employment Services at the University of Valencia) and Ms. Ana Sales (Director of the Master in Development Cooperation at the University of Valencia and former Director of the Area of Immigration and International Cooperation of the Red Cross) provided the perspectives of academics and social organisations.

The speakers shared the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities perceived at the University of Valencia with regard to five key issues: the internationalisation of research, open science, the co-creation of knowledge between academia and the business sector and civil society, as well as human resources within the university and the communication of scientific results to society.

The same procedures are adopted by all partner universities of the Alliance to organize focus groups at their institutions throughout April and May 2021.

FIRST RESULTS

After the experts' speeches, the floor was opened to the participants. In addition, all the participants of the focus group were able to make their contributions anonymously through an online form. More than 300 weaknesses, threats, strengths and opportunities were compiled.

The round table and the subsequent debate, together with the contributions made online, have served as inputs for the organizers (FIT FORTHEM WP3) to conduct a SWOT analysis on which to base the diagnosis of the state of research and innovation at the University of Valencia.

The first results indicate that the main weaknesses and threats are the excessive administrative burden and the lack of curricular recognition in some aspects related to science communication, participation in co-creation processes with non-academic agents and/or publication in open science. Other weaknesses and/or threats are the lack of connection and alignment between university research and the demands of companies and the general public; the difficulty of disseminating scientific results in a language accessible to society; the low English level of some of the staff; and the job insecurity in some professions, which can lead to a brain drain to other sectors and/or universities.

With regard to the main existing strengths for Research and Innovation at the University of Valencia, the talent, credibility, commitment, experience, motivation and work capacity of the research, administration and services staff stands out. In addition, the focus group participants also agreed on the growing opportunities that exist in terms of obtaining resources and public funds for the promotion of open science, the internationalisation of research and/or the implementation of co-creation projects between the university and business or civil society. Other opportunities and strengths include society's growing interest in science as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the existence of positive experiences in science dissemination initiatives carried out by the university.

Finally, to conclude the event, Dr. Paz Ruiz (International R&D&I Section of the University of Valencia) gave a brief presentation about the main lines of the Horizon Europe research programme and invited the participants to future specific sessions to continue the conversation on how European funding can mitigate the identified weaknesses and threats.

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