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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
Starting in 2015, the European Commission has been working hard with the thematic partnerships helping them to figure out how to go best about initiating and managing interregional thematic S3 partnerships. By preparing this manual, the European Commission is able to document not just the overall methodological journey taken by the thematic partnerships, but also the many good practices observed over the past few years. This manual refers to this combined body of as the thematic S3 approach to interregional partnerships. Qualified partnerships are encouraged to follow this methodology in line with a specific structure (workflow) that takes these new partnerships through a number of steps. This workflow follows an iterative and non-linear process, which can be understood as a dynamic flow of activities that result in living documents and activities that require continuous monitoring and review. This workflow approach is an evolved adaptation of the 4-step approach defined by the Vanguard Initiative. In addition to the 4 steps defined by the Vanguard Initiative, the current approach adds 'Scale-Up' as an additional step. In addition, the approach described in this manual includes a further layer of outcomes expected throughout the overall process. Even if some formalised outcomes are likely to be associated with specific phases, many of these go well beyond the boundaries of any one phase. Chapters of this manual will follow the logic of this 5-phase workflow approach. Chapter 1 is built around the Learn phase with Chapter 2 focusing on the Connect phase. Phases 3, 4 and 5 are not covered in the current version of this methodological manual. Putting in place a solid monitoring and evaluation mechanism (MEM) can prove to be an important tool in the development of every thematic partnership. In addition to being able to assess its own progress or challenges, such a solid MEM helps each partnership validate its earlier decisions and actions while keeping an eye on the overall effectiveness of its governance structure. To help interested partnerships monitor their progress, the S3 Platform proposes a simple yet comprehensive evaluation framework that covers the entire workflow in line with the thematic approach to S3 described in this Manual. Preparation and management of interregional S3 projects may appear challenging at first. However, breaking the task into a series of defined steps and processes (many of which also apply to traditional collaborative projects) can greatly simplify it (see Figure 1). Equally, public authorities in any one region cannot be expected to have all the necessary resources in-house; legal, technical, financial, environmental, and other advisers are frequently used throughout the process. The challenge is to select the right advisers across partner regions and to manage them effectively.