Interview with Florian Gruber, F&E

27. Jun. 2013

Editorial: focus on international reserach cooperations

ZSI’s topical area Research Policy & Development (F&E) is currently working in over 20 international projects: why this focus on international research cooperation?
F&E is the largest area at ZSI and very successful in the support of international cooperations in the context of the 7th EU Research Framework Programme. In the year 2014 the current Framework Programme will be replaced by Horizon 2020, which will create new working conditions: For the first time the programme covers the whole spectrum of science, technology and innovation under a joint roof and is expected to contribute significantly to the realisation of the European Research Area – so far the view on the European context.
The unit F&E strongly deals with the promotion of the co-operation of Europe with non-EU States, with which the European Union wants to start new collaborations in science and research or to deepen existing ones. Such countries from include our direct neighborhood, the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, but also the emerging regions of knowledge in the world such as India, Russia, Southeast Asia, South America. ZSI also runs projects with countries that well established and excellent in research, e.g. Canada.
The background of the increasing importance of the new regions of knowledge is that the dominance of the closed triad of North America - Japan - Europe increasingly has been broken up in recent years. Global awareness grew on the insight that sustainable economic progress can be achieved in particular through the strengthening of research capacities. In the deepening of cooperation with the emerging regions of knowledge the challenges for Europe are different than with its established cooperation partners, where networks already exist and the major players are known.

The world increasingly moves together: How is the golbal networking of the European Research Area supported by projects of ZSI’s unit F&E?
The European Commission has developed special project types for international networking: ERA-NETs, INCO-NETs and BILATs, which act on three levels, namely  on political, programmatic and reseacher level. Our project partners are above all intermediary agencies, such as the CNRS in France, DLR in Germany, or the NSTDA in Thailand. At the heart of all these cooperative efforts are the promotion of international networking of researchers and innovators, the analysis for evidence-based policy making, as well as the increased visibility of the European Research Area in the countries.
Projects lead by ZSI include for example the WBC-INCO.NET project with Western Balkans, the BILAT-UKR*AINA to strengthen the networking between the EU and the Ukraine, as well as INDIGO Policy, the upcoming BILAT with India.

What are the contributions of these international cooperation projects?
ERA.NET is an instrument of the European Commission, whereby European countries jointly develop research funding programmes for the networking with regions outside of Europe. For example in the ERA.NET with India we developed four research promotion tenders in the field of monitoring and evaluation support, two with the Department of Biotechnology and two with the Department of Science and Technology, each with a European consortium of funding.
INCO.NET and BILAT projects focus more on the political level and support networking among government departments, intermediate agencies and researchers. One of the benefits of these efforts is PR for the European Research Area and the European support programmes such as Horizon 2020 in the target countries, another is the acceleration of the personal exchange of players.
The ZSI supports these processes also at an analytical level. An example of this is the study edited by ZSI experts: "Spotlight on: Science and Technology Cooperation Between Southeast Asia and Europe. Analyses and recommendations from the SEA-EU-NET project" (2011). In the focus of this analysis are the internationalization strategies of South-East Asian countries and questions like: What are the potentials, the obstacles and the barriers to research networks between Southeast Asia and Europe? In addition, the F&E team developed scenarios on how future collaborations might look like, which were based on a diverse portfolio of methods of social sciences, such as network analyses or bibliometric analyses.
Another interesting example is the publication: "Korea and Europe - meeting through science. Exploring the opportunities of R&D cooperation with KORANET" (2013). In this volume ZSI experts provide inputs on analytical and policy levels.

What was decisive for the success of the ZSI in the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union?
Decisive for the success was to position ZSI as a competent and reliable partner for local stakeholders in Austria, such as the Ministry of science and research, as well as being internationally well connected. For example, we were coordinators of one of the first horizontal international cooperation projects in the Research Framework Programme, the SEE-ERA.NET with the Western Balkans. Due to the success of these projects, we were able to show: we are locally and internationally well connected!

RTI enfolds research, technology and innovation, three essential components of the current discourse concerning research policies...
In the past years, it became evident that researchers need support for the implementation and exploitation of results. A good example can be found in Singapore, where a focus was developed on "translational research", thus on the translation of research results into economic success. In the programme Horizon 2020 "innovation" has moved to the centre and will concern ZSI in the next few years.

The common challenge in the field of RTD is the rapid change, which must be dealt with on a political level: Which measures support evidence-based policy-making?
Common issues within the projects are developed on the basis of national priorities. One example is a joint funding call with India triggerd by political discussions on the use of water, which can be summarized under the headline "war for water". But aside from political priorities thematic foci can be found out on the basis of co-publications and co-patent analysis. This is another field of expertise of ZSI.
Another important aspect in the support of implementation of international RTD cooperation are questions on "Intellectual Property Rights”, i.e. the analyses of the legal situation regarding intellectual property. On this topic, we are currently working in a number of international projects.
We are also proud being contributers to the development of the “Innovation Union Scoreboard” (IUS), a tool provided by the European Commission, facilitating the of and comparison of national innovation systems at a European level. In this context, we are also involved as one supporting partner with analytical expertise.

All innovations are socially relevant...
The ZSI supports the European internationalisation of RTD. The leading principle for the ZSI is to enable cooperation at eye level for scientists of all regions. In this context, the ZSI topical area F&E has also a focus on evaluation and monitoring.

Mag. Florian Gruber is Head of Research Policy & Development (F&E) at ZSI since 2013. After studying social and cultural anthropology (focus on India, resistance options for subordinate groups), followed  by 14 months as project coordinator at WUS-Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and working in the area of intercultural competencies at the Danube University Krems. Since 2005 Florian Gruber is a research associate at ZSI and already assumed successfully the interim lead of the unit F&E in 2011. The geographical focus of his work includes the Western Balkans, South-Eastern Europe and India.

Tags: foresight, innovation, research cooperation, Southeast Asia, Southeast Europe