Learning from each other: Strategies and priorities in research funding across FORTHEM

On May 4th, 2022 Justine Biettron & Frédéric Debeaufort, from the University of Burgundy, organized a workshop, focusing on the different priorities and strategies for European research funding within the FORTHEM Alliance Universities. This online event was organized within the framework of the FIT FORTHEM project, and aimed at gathering around the table the different actors involved in the partner universities’ strategies for European research funding.

During this 4-hour workshop, 40 participants from within the alliance and 9 experts were able to discuss the different priorities in terms of EU funding within the FORTHEM Alliance. Two newest FORTHEM members, The University of Sibiu and the University of Agder, could officially and actively exchange with the other 7 members of the alliance, and lay ground for future successful collaboration. Recommendations were given by both administrative staff in charge of EU research activities and researchers who have a long and successful experience in EU funding calls.

This workshop was organized with the support of the Bourgogne Franche Comté regional offices dedicated and involved on the European level. Therefore, the organizers want to re-emphasize their profound gratitude and thanks to Joanna Poullaouec, representative of the Bourgogne Franche Comté regional office in Brussels, and Laurent Volle, from the regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, who gave a clear outlook on the region’s role and priorities in terms of European funding, and highlighted the importance of a strong collaboration between the FORTHEM partner universities and the 9 regional institutions in order to boost the alliance’s international and European competitiveness as a whole.

HIGHLIGHTS

Raphael Bretin shared the specific ways EU project office at uB is supporting the scientists in preparing grant proposals and the statistics of EU funding calls prioritized in Excellent Science and collaborative projects, primarily in Earth and Health sciences. He highlighted the need for more effort to be put to stimulate soft sciences, coordination and developing a strategy.

uB’s Christophe Nicolle (Professor and head of the CIAD lab) and Alamin Mansouri (Professor in the ImViA lab) shared experience of applying for European funding on the examples of integRatEd Solutions for POsitive eNergy and reSilient CitiEs and MSCA Doctoral Networks CHANGE (Cultural Heritage Analysis for New Generation)

JGU’s Julia Doré, Head of Unit Research Funding and EU Liaison Officer, explained the role of EU funding regarding programs and disciplines, championing bottom-up calls. ERC, MSCA, Research Infrastructures are intensively supported by officers at JGU with a variety of advisory, administrative and coaching tools. Collaboration with consultancy services is welcome.

Timo Taskinen, Senior Advisor at JYU Research and Innovation Services, shares how important it is to consult the EU funding policy papers to steer policy towards one’s excellence hubs:  JYU has various strongholds in Sports Sciences, IT, Social Sciences and Humanities, Physics.

Giorgio Micale, UNIPA Rector’s Delegate for EU project development, explained the administrative structure and responsibilities for implementation of research strategies, and the setup of the support services. UNIPA is the 26th Italian University in terms of using EU funding, with a sizable amount of regional and national ESF projects, and a strong interest in Societal Challenges calls.

Paz Ruiz, International R&D&I Manager from UVEG, presents the statistics of organizational and project-related issues of this university heavily invested in Excellent Science calls across disciplines and in international cooperation.

Ligita Liepina from University of Latvia discussed the strategy, the research priorities in terms of top areas and challenges, and stats on successful applications – some thanks to incentives from the Baltic bonus fund.

Adrian Florea from ULBS outlined the strategies for better integration in research projects and attracting funding. ULBS SSH disciplines are successful applicants in ERC, but ULBS has extensive collaboration with local industry and is building capacity through international partnerships.

UiA’s Petter Marki, Senior adviser from Division of Research Management, explained the levels and types of researcher support, and how advice to applicants is delivered through, brokerage events, consultancy services and partnering with associations providing workshops and reviews of proposal drafts. 

TAKEAWAY MESSAGES

Consulting firms help in drafting the submission, but it is partners who need to meet to build the consortium around possible impacts and plan strategically the indicators of impact, to make the submission a reality and to ensure that the results are exploited by external stakeholders, so that challenges are solved.

Resources of project offices and national contact points are crucial in the project development phase because the criteria of evaluation need to be considered upfront to ensure success. Advisors need to be flexible and incentivize researchers, when possible, to make more applicants interested in clusters of HE Global Challenges and in consortia.

Good contacts and previous collaboration with the industry help to ensure cofounding for EU projects. The challenge is to identify SMEs and start-ups that can be scaled up and provide them with a range of services: find partners in other regions and countries, advise on IP and legal/financial issues, or provide digital and supply services. Since entrepreneurs and researchers often do not speak the same “professional” language, they need help in “translating” the values of EU projects from trained administrators acting as facilitators and intermediaries

Internal funding programs can cover expenses for staff in the preparation phase. Also internal incentives to decrease teaching, to cover travel costs and consultancy fees usually work, but national and local systems of evaluation also have to recognize the applicants’ and PIs’ efforts

EU grant-related information can be disseminated through mailing lists and personal contacts as well as workshops with consultants, while service and support include legal, financial and personnel advice. It is important to build human resources for research early, with excellent MA and PhD candidates, or expanded personal or institutional networks and consortia. 

SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES ACROSS THE ALLIANCE

The University of Burgundy, and the whole FIT FORTHEM core team would like to thank again all participants and experts who participated to this workshop and created a very successful and interesting place for exchanges of good practices and ideas. The speakers discussed different structuration of supports/offices/services among the alliance, different good practices such as dedicated coaching, or incentives for researchers involved in EU projects. All the inspirations that were shared during this workshop will be very useful to strengthen the FORTHEM partnership in collaborative research projects as well as to boost the institutional transformations for Research & Innovation. This workshop was the first step in what we hope will evolve into fruitful future collaborations between our institutions, and lay the foundation for the upcoming years in terms of networking between experts among our alliance, and in the long term, for institutional transformation.

Text by Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska (UO) and Justine Biettron (uB)

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