Building structure in cross-sectoral collaborations

By SalM on October 22, 2020 in News

Institutional structure is crucial to the success of a cross-sectoral collaboration. Building such a structure is an on-going and complex process and not a one-time exercise.

The experiences from the RiConfigure Social Labs and Dialogue Days suggest a list of structural elements that partners in a collaboration should attend to in order to make it thrive:

  1. The financial framework – financial resources and their distribution naturally affects the nature of collaborations. Partners should be aware that their financial contributions are closely related to (often tacit) power structures, which manifests themselves in agenda setting, decision power and inclusion/exclusion from the collaboration. Moreover, civil society often lack financial resources, which is why external funding that is often stable and equally distributed is a powerful means to achieve a successful quadruple helix collaboration.
  2. Collaboration constellation – the order in which partners enter into the collaboration is central to its structure. Partners should be aware that the initiating actor often has a decisive impact on the structure of the collaboration and that civil society is often the last one to enter leaving its actors with a more peripheral role.
  3. Legal and governance frameworks – clear guidelines support collaboration. These might include non-disclosure agreements, letters of intent and written workplans but also agreements with external actors such as funding agencies or governance boards. However, partners should be aware that familiarity with these types of agreement varies. They might especially be new to civil society actors.
  4. Common vision and shared goals – these should be ensured to help overcoming collaboration barriers. Common vision and shared goals both apply to the concrete collaboration working toward a certain value output, but it also implies wider goals such as national R&I strategies or the UN SDGs. Idealist perspectives might also motivate collaboration.
  5. Regular reflection – cross-sectoral collaboration is complex involving a variety of people, cultures, practices, geographical distances etc. Consequently, partners should prioritize regular reflection in order to help aligning goals, building trust, fostering transparency, and overcoming communication barriers and power gaps.

In addition to this, participants of the RiConfigure Dialogue provided the following recommendations for policy that could ease the efforts of building structure:

  1. Increase funding for inclusive collaboration that allows adaptation and experimentation as well as support- and training structures.
  2. Raise awareness of collaborative innovation and challenge the dominance of ‘business orientation’.
  3. Support collaborative efforts as opposed to stakeholder engagement.
  4. Pluralize the understanding of civil society, establishing a continuum from civil society organizations to less privileged publics.

How many institutional changes have Horizon2020 RRI projects yet achieved?

By SalM on October 22, 2020 in News

Niamh Delaney and Raluca Iagher developed a report on Institutional changes towards responsible research and innovation: Achievements in Horizon 2020 and recommendations on the way forward. This document reports on the Horizon 2020 Science with and for Society (SwafS), Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) project portfolio results.

We need science education for all, gender equality in our organisations, ethics and integrity embedded in research, communication we can trust, open science and ultimately place citizens at the core to ensure excellent Research and Innovation to tackle the challenges of today for a better future. Europe can only thrive by matching the immense potential of science with the values, needs, and aspirations of society. Horizon Europe must strengthen efforts to tap into the vast potential citizens have to offer and ensure effective cooperation between science and society.

Executive Summary

Research and innovation are essential to finding solutions to the pressing challenges we face. It requires opening up the research and innovation system to the participation and collective intelligence of society, embedding high integrity and ethics standards, raising interest in science, and supporting Europe’s brightest minds engage in scientific careers. Put simply, Europe cannot thrive without ensuring the best possible match between the immense potential achievements science has to offer and the needs, values and aspirations of citizens.

Institutional changes towards responsible research and innovation

The objective of this report is to convey the achievements of the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) projects funded under the Science with and for Society (hereinafter referred to as SwafS) part of Horizon 2020. Its purpose is to serve as input for the preparation of the Horizon Europe programme implementation.

Overview of SwafS Implementation in Horizon 2020

A budget of EUR 462 million was earmarked for SwafS in Horizon 2020. Close to 2,000 proposals submitted in response to the annual calls for proposals, convey strong interest in SwafS matters. The annual evaluations are deemed to be highly robust. So far, they resulted in 150 funded projects and close to 50 more projects are expected to stem from the final calls under Horizon 2020. Since the start of this Framework Programme, REA Unit B.5 manages the projects. SwafS projects are typically composed of large consortia with an average of 11 partners and tend to run for around 3 years.

Institutional Changes towards Responsible Research and Innovation

The Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach supported by the European Commission since 2011 encourages societal actors to work together during the whole research and innovation (R&I) process to better align R&I and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society. RRI topics have been geared towards establishing institutional changes in higher education institutes, research funding and performing organisations, industry, SMEs, as well as local and regional authorities, opening them up to closer co-operation with citizens and civil society. After analysing where organisations stand in terms of existing RRI practices, projects drafted action plans to support the implementation of institutional changes intended to last beyond the lifetime of project funding.

Projects focused on implementing institutional changes in research funding and performing organisations, higher education institutions, as well as research and technology organisations in terms of their governance systems related, for instance, to ethics, open science, citizen engagement and gender equality. Industry-focused projects produced practical tools and highlighted promising practices to enable the development of innovative products and services that directly address societal needs while contributing to environmental and economic sustainability. The territorial portfolio of projects supports around 10 per cent of all EU regions to develop more open and collaborative approaches to society by taking a Responsible Research and Innovation approach. Many of the projects from across this portfolio have taken disciplinary or sectoral approaches (e.g. focused on marine research institutes, the biosciences, or deindustrialising regions), suggesting that drawing on common links can foster productive environments for conceptualisation and implementation of institutional changes.

Furthermore, RRI projects produced an array of invaluable resources for organisations intending to implement RRI practices. Embedding RRI and implementing structural changes in the European R&I landscape requires building a strong evidence base, disseminating tools and practices, supporting networks of practitioners, and effectively 6 monitoring progress towards goals. For instance, FP7’s MoRRI project implemented the first RRI monitoring system in Europe and its successor Supper_MoRRI, supported by SwafS, builds on this work. The portfolio of RRI projects as a whole is marked by a high level of global collaboration, helping influence the development of policies at national level and raising the EU’s profile as a global R&I actor. The ‘Pathways declaration’ emerging from one of the projects, signed by more than 13 projects, called for RRI to remain a central objective in EU R&I and for the EU to continue to pursue its leading role in this effort.

Concluding remarks

Since 2014, the projects funded under ‘Science with and for Society’ contributed to its primary aims set out in the EU Regulation establishing Horizon 2020, notably to effectively build cooperation between science and society, recruit new talent for science and pair scientific excellence with social awareness and responsibility.1 One of the key ways of working towards these three SwafS objectives, and ensuring impact, is the implementation of institutional changes2 in beneficiaries reflected in the SwafS Key Performance Indicator: ‘Percentage of research organisations funded implementing actions to promote Responsible Research and Innovation, and number of institutional change measures adopted as a result’. 3

The results of a sample of twelve RRI projects revealed that almost 250 individual institutional change actions are implemented or in the process of being implemented by this part of the SwafS portfolio.4 Added to this, is the pioneer of institutional changes, the Gender Equality Plans (GEPs), with 130 institutions (78%) having implemented or in the process of implementing a GEP.

SwafS will well and truly surpass its target of 100 institutional changes in beneficiaries by the end of Horizon 2020. Consequently, SwafS stakeholders are in an excellent position to take a leading role in supporting other entities envisaging institutional transformation.

In conclusion, inclusiveness on all levels underpins SwafS. RRI dimensions (gender, open access, science education, ethics and public engagement), must be part of how research and innovation is realised in all domains as well as its implications for governance. Horizon Europe needs to leverage SwafS know-how and tap into the vast potential citizens and society have to offer and continue to ensure effective cooperation between science and society. 1 Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon 2020 2 An institutional change is a change (with meaningful impact) in terms of how a beneficiary governs or structures itself in relation to any of the RRI dimensions (public engagement, open access, gender, ethics, science education), and lasts beyond the lifetime of project funding. 3 Horizon 2020 indicators 4

This data collection exercise did not cover projects dedicated to gender equality, ethics, or open access/open data, which, to various degrees, focus also on institutional changes.

Read the whole report here.