This year’s EERA Summer Strategy Meeting hosted an invitation-only session, under the SUPEERA project, that focused in sharing best practices between non-EERA EU-13 stakeholders and key EERA members.
The European Energy Research Alliance (EERA aisbl) plays an important role in catalysing European energy research within the objectives defined in the SET-Plan. However, the research and innovation gap in Europe remains a pressing challenge. Some Member States, mainly those that joined the EU after 2004, have low, or even inexistent, participation rates in the realization of the SET-Plan Implementation Plans (IPs).
The SUPEERA project foresees to intensify efforts in order to spread excellence and broaden participation in the SET-Plan across Europe. In this context, EERA held a session to share best practices between non-EERA EU-13 stakeholders and key EERA members during its yearly get together.
The meeting, Strengthening your participation in EU Clean Energy Transition, gathered approximately 40 participants affiliated to research centres and universities from several EU-13 countries, such as Croatia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Romania and Poland, among others.
The session was opened by Nils Røkke, EERA President, who stated the relevance of the Alliance for the pan-European Research and Innovation (R&I) landscape and acknowledged the need to join forces in order to achieve a climate-neutral society by 2050 in line with EU long-term objectives. “Of course, different countries have different issues to deal with. Different regions will use different means to achieve the target of the Green Deal, but we need to work together to make the transition as effective as possible. There are many vehicles to accelerate this process, one is the SUPEERA project” Nils Røkke concluded.
Setting the scene: Role of EERA network in the SET-Plan and CET Perspective for EU-13
The first part of the session, under the lead of Ivan Matejak - Coordinator of the SUPEERA project, focused on introducing the SET-Plan, its priorities, key actions and working structure as well as in explaining EERA’s role. It continued by addressing the three alternatives to get involved in the SET-Plan community, namely, harmonizing with the Implementation Plans (IPs), entering the European Technology and Innovation Platforms (ETIPs) or joining the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) network.
However, and given the low participation of EU-13 countries, the question that remains to be answered is how to bring closer research institutions to the SET-Plan. The SUPEERA project sets out to work towards addressing this.
Sharing best practices between EU-13 stakeholders and key EERA members
This section aimed at facilitating the development of long-lasting interactions, collaborations schemes, and partnership arrangements with the identified stakeholders from EU-13 and key EERA members by presenting the most relevant case studies in relation to:
To address this objective, SUPEERA invited BERA (The Belgian Energy Research Alliance), a Belgian umbrella organization that brings together several universities and research centres in the Country. Leen Govaerts, member of EERA Executive Committee and chair of BERA, shared with the participants the added value that being part of EERA has brought to them. Among others, BERA has benefited from the innovation community, seminars and workshops, networking, and partnerships, as well as from EERA being progressively seen as a strategic advisor to the EU. More concretely, and by way of example, BERA is involved in the SET-Plan Key Action 3.2 in the Programme “Positive Energy Districts” (PDE).
From the EU-13 participants’ point of view, FOSS Research Centre for Sustainable Energy - University of Cyprus (UCY), through the intervention of Dr Venizelos Efthymiou, presented best practices that derived from participating in the SET-Plan Implementation Working Groups and in the EERA community. He highlighted that the active involvement of FOSS, including EU funded projects such as PANTERA that aims at enhancing the collaboration in R&I activities in Europe, has been of strategic importance for a country like Cyprus.
Co-creating content for discussion and debate
The session continued with a co-creation activity where the EU-13 participants were given the opportunity to share their own challenges and opportunities in terms of funding, cooperation, infrastructure and technology, as well as other factors not considered at the outset of this initiative.
Each of these categories, together with the feedback gathered, were the starting point for an enriching discussion among the participating stakeholders.
Among the challenges, the participants emphasized the regulatory and administrative burden that obstruct R&I in these countries; the importance on fossil fuels, specially coal, from an economic point of view which represents a challenge in the transition of these regions towards low-carbon economy; and the organization’s infrastructure which does not always match the requests to participate in cutting-edge demonstration projects and that calls for exploring alternatives to share research infrastructure and ways to complement research expertise across RTOs and universities.
As per the opportunities, the discussants underscored the potential benefits that research centres could derived from accessing to co-funding mechanisms of regional, national and European programmes; aligning national R&I agendas with the European agenda to avoid duplication of efforts; embarking on smart specialisation strategies in order to address structural changes in coal intensive regions; and supporting staff exchange to develop knowledge and skills.
In this context, being part of a harmonized community with a set of converging medium and long-term goals, such as EERA Joint Programmes, represents a feasible cooperation alternative as well as an opportunity to streamline national and European R&I agendas while opening a door to give way to most of the mapped out advantages of being part of a research community.
Conclusion and next steps
This widening session, that aimed at sharing best practices between non-EERA EU-13 stakeholders and key EERA members, is a first step towards a stronger engagement of these countries and the mobilization of national public research resources. As such it anticipates the organisation, in the next two years, of a series of dedicated workshops and virtual seminars to facilitate the involvement of the identified non-EERA stakeholders from these countries in the SET-Plan and Clean Energy Transition activities under the hallmark of the EERA network.