Workshop Explores the Challenges and Opportunities of International Research and Innovation Partnerships
On May 17–18, 2018, HSE Moscow held an international workshop entitled ‘Transnational research and innovation partnerships. Designing international co-operation projects to deliver on economic competitiveness and the grand challenges’.
Organized jointly by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and HSE, the workshop brought together policymakers and practitioners to explore how international partnerships in research and innovation, both bilateral and multi-stakeholder, can be designed to deliver on the research and economic competitiveness agendas of national governments while addressing society's biggest challenges.
In panel discussions, expert presentations and breakout sessions, participants discussed a broad range of topics, including implications for research and policy from the changing landscape for international co-operation; building international research and innovation partnerships; internationalization strategies for universities and public research organizations; good practices in international partnerships; how to engage large firms, SMEs and entrepreneurs in cross-border research and innovation partnerships; and horizontal and vertical policy governance at the international level.
‘International partnership is now more important than ever’, said Dominique Guellec, Head of the Science and Technology Policy Division at the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation. ‘We know that international relations at the moment are going through turbulence…a strong reason for us to emphasize that we need international cooperation in our field’.
This sentiment was shared by Elena Dominguez, Vice-President on International Partnerships at the Spanish National Research Council, who spoke of the need to set up well defined international partnerships with clear objectives.
‘If we look at the international level, we should look for international problems, global problems and global challenges, as we mentioned in the meeting’, she said. ‘This aligns with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A unique opportunity for an international partnership is to focus on these Sustainable Development Goals’.
On the Challenges of International Collaboration
Mario Cervantes, Senior Economist in the OECD’s Science and Technology Policy Division, argues that there is a case for strengthening partnerships because of the digital transformation and the challenges it places on countries that must adapt their economic or science systems, many of which are too far behind already.
‘The main challenge, of course, is that partnerships have to be centred on people at the same time’, he says. ‘How can we make that the main priority? Many examples came today (at the seminar). We heard that you can mainstream the funding, that you open national funding for international cooperation, that you recognize researchers who cooperate internationally in their evaluation and their career progression. I think those are already positive ideas to move forward’.
According to Kai Husso, Chief Planning Officer in the Enterprise and Innovation Department at Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, there are three big challenges for international collaboration. The first is funding and the need to create different kinds of instruments that are funded jointly, rather than individually. The second is the need for platforms for research. The third is a mindset characterized by a lower willingness to collaborate internationally compared to 10-15 years ago, which in Europe he sees as having been largely driven by the economic downturn and recession.
‘Of course, today I see we need, maybe more than ever, international partnerships — between countries, between regions, between universities, between enterprises’, says Husso. ‘So, I guess in the next few years I would like to see for instance European Union investing more money into building up European partnerships, into building up global partnerships, because the role of the EU is very important for the entire globe’.
Variety of International Partnership Cases
While Klaus Schuch, Director of Austria’s Centre for Social Innovation, believes that there are not many strong examples of international cooperation that address the biggest challenges, he does cite the European Commission with Horizon 2020 and its successor, Framework Programme 9, as real trendsetters because they tackle the issue.
‘It’s a supranational level and I think their mission-oriented approach in the next framework programme could be really very stimulating exercise’, he said. For this mission-oriented approach you need multilevel approaches…you need to include different policy fields, and you need to include not only researchers but also companies, civil society organizations, city systems themselves’.
Mario Cervantes concurs that there are not many good examples of international partnership around research infrastructure, but he notes CERN in Russia and CERN in Europe as two that stand out.
‘There are many initiatives for research infrastructure, and we should also think about what we can learn from these projects, how to do partnerships in other areas, like poverty or climate, so we can learn from what we have already done’, he said.
Andreas Hoeschen, Head of the German House of Research and Innovation in Moscow, shared his experience on working on Russian-German cross-border innovation and research cooperation by connecting students, top researchers, policy-makers, and experienced stakeholders from the business community. He also noticed that the workshop would contribute significantly to the international dialogue about building research and innovation partnerships.
On the example of the Netherlands, Herman Kingma, Chair Taskforce Russia, Maastricht University, the Netherlands, demonstrated that it is possible to cooperate around the globe if you understand what the limits and possibilities of other people are and adapt to them. He believes that bottom-up activities are more productive in developing cooperation. ‘Setting international partnership is always about a goal and it starts with people’, he said. He also noticed that to make innovative science we need critical-thinking individuals. ‘That's the very important role of the university — to create these individuals’, he said.
Pranpreya Lundberg, Policy Developer from the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office in Thailand argues that unless initiatives are a result of the the government, universities, and stakeholders working together in a vertical fashion globally, with the same goal and vision, international partnership challenges cannot be overcome. She provided the example of Suranaree University of Technology in Thailand which is developing a programme in partnership with Swedish Chalmers University of Technology that will enable both students and researchers to become much more entrepreneurial by learning from Sweden and applying it to the local context.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service