21st meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Group of Senior Officials in Research and Innovation
Networking reception at the 21st meeting of the Euro-Med GSO in Research and Innovation
The Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission organized on 22 November 2016, in Brussels, the 21st meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Group of Senior Officials (Euro-Med GSO) in Research and Innovation with a view to preparing a Euro-Mediterranean ministerial conference on Research and Innovation, scheduled to take place in Malta, on 3-4 May 2017, under the auspices of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Acknowledging that water, food and migration remain among today's most pressing challenges for the Mediterranean, the agenda of the ministerial will be built around three pillars: "the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA)", "Addressing the root causes of migration through research and innovation" and "R&I for blue jobs and growth in the Mediterranean (BLUEMED)".
The GSO meeting brought together participants from the EU member states, the EU institutions and countries from both shores of the Mediterranean as well as representatives of the Union for the Mediterranean and partners of EU-funded projects with a focus on the Mediterranean, who held a comprehensive discussion around the aforementioned topics.
The participants highlighted the importance of sustainable water, farming and food systems for local and regional development through innovative solutions. What is more, special focus was put on coordinating efforts to collect data across the region to avoid fragmentation and strengthen the ability of the research community to increase their understanding of complex drivers of migration. Finally, the participants reiterated the need to stimulate ‘blue’ jobs and growth in the Mediterranean by unlocking the potential of marine and maritime sectors while seeking more synergies.
Research and Innovation in the Marrakech Climate Chance Conference
The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, organized this month in Marrakech (COP 22), concluded last week with concrete results to put the Paris Agreement on climate change into action. In this context, the European Commission's Research and Innovation Directorate-General (DG RTD) organised two International Cooperation related events to discuss about climate services for Africa and the water-energy-food nexus in the Mediterranean.
During his intervention in the Climate Services session, Patrick Child -Deputy Director-general at DG RTD- stressed the added value of Horizon 2020, the EU's Framework Programme for research and innovation, in building "effective international and multi-stakeholders partnerships to address the climate-related global challenges we face today". Mr. Child also pointed to the important role of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which is now in its preoperational phase and that will deliver a wealth of climate critical information for a variety of users: “Horizon 2020 is open to the world and our investments in climate services are to develop timely solutions for the benefit of everyone around the world and for broader deployment”.
Water, energy and food production are inextricably linked and their nexus increasingly draw the attention of the policy, research and industrial community. Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Mr. Child expressed how “research and innovation are key elements to understand the complex interactions between the natural environment and human activities, to develop effective and sustainable solutions and to inform decision-making across such complexity”. During this second session, special attention was put to the role of PRIMA, the new Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area which focuses on sustainable water management and food production: “with a budget of 400Million Euros over 10 years, PRIMA is expected to boost local businesses and investment opportunities, addressing also unemployment and migration issues in the region and becoming a further vehicle of sustainable growth”.
Both panel discussions were followed by information sessions, highlighting EU-funded research and innovation projects and several initiatives on climate services and the energy-water-food nexus.
Following the European Council in Lisbon in June 1992, the European Union established a new framework for its relations with Mediterranean countries with the aim of forming a new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.
This partnership became a reality at the Barcelona Conference of November 1995 which brought together ministers of foreign affairs from EU Member States and Mediterranean non-member countries.
The partnership is based on political, security, economic, financial, cultural, social and human affairs. This bi-regional cooperation was given new impetus when the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) was launched at the Paris summit in 2008. The relations are focused on on six main areas which include research.
These six axes are:
- Depollution for the Mediterranean
- The security and safety of maritime and land highways
- Civil protection
- Alternative energies
- Higher education and research
- Mediterranean Business development initiative (with a focus on SMEs)
Current EU policy dialogue with the Mediterranean countries is framed within the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), established in 2004 to strengthen relations with southern and eastern neighbours. The ENP was reviewed in 2011 and 2015, to adapt it to changes in the southern Mediterranean region.
Research and innovation policy framework
A Group of Senior Officials (GSO) (Ex Monitoring Committee - MoCo) for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation was created in 1995 within the framework of the Barcelona process to monitor and promote cooperation in research, technology and development.
The EU-Mediterranean GSO, was tasked to make recommendations for the joint-implementation of research policy priorities and is an important bi-regional policy dialogue platform which brings together EU Member States and all Mediterranean partner countries.
The last meeting of the EU-MED GSO took place in Brussels on 23 November 2015 and emphasised the crucial role of innovation as a game-changer in the Mediterranean. It also highlighted the importance of stepping up efforts towards a common Mediterranean research and innovation agenda.
A milestone in the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in research and innovation is the adoption of the Cairo Declaration (2007) 'Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area', at the first ministerial conference on higher education and research.
In May 2011, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission published a joint communication (COM (2011) 303) presenting a new approach to strengthen the partnership between the EU and neighbourhood countries.
For research and innovation, the communication suggests working towards the establishment of a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space (CKIS), which pulls together policy dialogue, national and regional capacity-building, cooperation in research and innovation and increased mobility of researchers.
In this spirit, the Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Research and Innovation was held in Barcelona one year later. It brought together researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and legislators, who stressed the need to tackle urgent societal and economic challenges on both shores of the Mediterranean. Sustainable economic and cultural exchanges based on common research and innovation efforts that benefit citizens were also identified as important activities.
The EU also maintains bilateral research and innovation relations with its Mediterranean partners through Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation agreements. To date, the EU has signed S&T cooperation agreements with Algeria (2013), Egypt (2008), Jordan (2010), Morocco (2005) and Tunisia (2004).
The 5TOI_4EWAS project will focus on targeted open innovation in energy, water and agriculture societal challenges through a balanced innovation-friendly ecosystem in the Southern Mediterranean Neighbourhood (SMN) based on quintuple helix and NEXUS approach. The project will enhance and support regional smart specialisation and development by increasing research capacity, effective mobility of young innovators/researchers and shared knowledge to improve their participation in the EU research area. It will contribute to the establishment of favourable and stable conditions for international cooperation and the set-up of a common knowledge and innovation space of specialisation in the SMN for a real socio-economic impact, based on co-ownership and mutual benefits.
Following the Conference of Barcelona on 2012, ERANETMED responds to the need to develop new ways of sustainable cooperation. Both European and Mediterranean countries will equally participate and benefit from the output and opportunities created by the project. ERANETMED will consider a broad area for research, addressing not only the most important societal challenges of the region, but also actions to enhance innovation through applied research, capacity building, mobility and clustering. Its action will result in concrete co-operation between research programmes, such as networking, definition of strategic scientific activities, research structuring for long-lasting and stable cooperation.
This project builds on the experience of MIRA (an FP7 project Fostering the European Union-Mediterranean Partner Countries (EU-MPC) Innovation and Science & Technology Communities of Practice), but is adapted to the new reality of Euro-Mediterranean policy goals defined in the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Barcelona 2012. It focuses on three societal challenges (energy, high quality affordable food, and scarcity of resources) and aims to tackle policy objectives by creating a dialogue and coordination platform of governmental institutions, research organisations, associations and civil society.