Introducing RRI principles to enhance regional innovation policies, including RIS3

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Introducing RRI principles to enhance regional innovation policies, including RIS3

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of the Triple Helix Association (THA) Summit was virtual. In the framework the THA Summit, TeRRItoria organised a workshop “Introducing RRI principles to enhance regional innovation policies, including RIS3” that was focused on the role of Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) as a facilitator to enhance citizen participation and societal impact on local and regional research and innovation planning in Europe. During the event, some practical examples were provided to the audience from three European projects: TeRRItoria, SeeRRI and RRI2SCALE.  

The moderator of the session, Dr Ildiko Ipolyi, Science Officer at the European Science Foundation and Project Coordinator of TeRRItoria, introduced the workshop and subsequently gave the floor to Mr Nikos Zaharis, Director of South East European Research Centre who presented TeRRItoria. Nikos explained the challenges that TeRRItoria is tackling: the broad transitional process that is affecting contemporary European societies, and the usual criticism towards Regional R&D planning and the RIS3 process that highlights the need for a reliable concept of responsibility. Mr Zaharis also illustrated the objectives of the project and its 5 Transformative Experiments currently being carried out. Lastly, he pointed out that European society should rely on 4 areas of RRI: 

  1. Open Access/Open Science (including Open Data and Open Innovation in given regions);  
  1. Ethics and Gender Equality (to build citizens’ trust and so that all available human potential is realised); 
  1. Public Engagement and Science Education (multiply the R&I capacity of a region); 
  1. Governance (increase citizens’ engagement). 

Next, Dr. Nhien Nguyen, Senior Researcher at Nordland Research Institute, Associate Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology illustrated the SeeRRI project which aims to develop a responsible regional strategy together with a portfolio of cooperation partners from both the private and public sectors. SeeRRI plans to find a new way for all actors to collaborate in research and innovation activities based on a responsible mindset. The SeeRRI framework is built based on 3 pilot territories: Nordland (Norway); Lower Austria, and B-30 (Spain). Nhien explained how SeeRRI’s regions are applying four RRI dimenions:

  1. Anticipation – Applying foresight process; 
  1. Reflexibility – Forming future scenarios by being reflexive, and by learning & sharing.  
  1. Responsivenes – Strategies are formed by responding to societal needs (represented by the stakeholders) & the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 
  1. Inclusiveness – By engaging quadruple-helix stakeholders in the planning process.  

A concrete example coming from a territory involved in the project was then showcased. Dr. Tatiana Fernández, Head of Economic Promotion at the Government of Catalonia’s Ministry of the Vicepresidency and of the Economy and Finance illustrated the example of B-30. B-30 has two partners: the Catalan Government and the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Responsible R&I ecosystem in Catalonia are characterised by their commitment to society and to the transition towards more sustainable and inclusive development pathways. By building a pilot project which aims to co-design and test visions, methodologies and tool relevant for B-30’s territory and the RIS3CAT, the project partners are trying to reply to the question “How can RIS3 promote more R&I ecosystem in their territory?”

The B30 Pilot case is illustrated in the picture below: 

The lessons learnt by this pilot case are:  

  • Changing the focus from sectors and technologies towards challenges that matter to society; 
  • Integrating the 4 RRI dimensions by encouraging RRI-informed, transformative, shared agendas towards more sustainable and inclusive pathways.  
  • Articulating transformative entrepreneurial discovery processes, combining top-down and bottom-up approaches and reinforcing the engagement of quadruple helix stakeholders.  

The last speaker of the event was Dr. Margarita Angelidou, Manager of Territorial R&I Projects at Q-Plan International who presented the RRI2SCALE project. It seeks to embed and consolidate RRI governance structures in selected pilot regions across Europe: Kriti (Greece), Galicia (Spain), Overijssel (Netherlands) and Vestland (Norway). The final purpose is institutional transformation in Research and Innovation in the fields of smart cities, smart energy, and smart transportation.

The project strives not only for sustainable, inclusive and ethical R&I policies, but it also links RRI with regional competitiveness. As such, RRI2SCALE assists the regional authorities of pilot sites to address the so-called “Regional Dilemma”: how to create democratic governance in R&I while at the same time increasing levels of innovation at regional scale. To achieve this, RRI2SCALE attempts to map and understand the regions engaged, how RRI elements are currently incorporated into their ecosystems, and how much space for improvement exists. Moreover, the project deploys a dedicated stakeholder engagement strategy, with clear sequential steps, and leverages co-creation techniques to bring together a vast variety of R&I actors with ordinary citizens.

RRI2SCALE is facing an important challenge: how can regional authorities develop and implement successful policies that promote sustainable development and economic growth in their territory and advance inclusiveness and quality of life for their citizens. This is a regional dilemma.

In the framework of the mapping strategy, the project launched four large-scale citizen surveys. Around 2 000 citizens participated for each region (in total almost 8 000 people). The aim of the survey was to identify ordinary citizens’ perceptions of three overarching thematic sections:

  1. What are the priority areas in future regional development strategies? 
  1. What are the potential trade-offs between regional innovation and societal challenges? 
  1. What is the level of public trust in local institutions and how can it be increased? 

Results shed light on how Responsible Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS3s) can become more socially inclusive and participatory.  

The workshop “Introducing RRI principles to enhance regional innovation policies, including RIS3” was a success since 38 participants discussed the role of RRI as a facilitator to enhance citizen participation in local and regional-level research and innovation planning.

The entire event may be viewed online at any time by simply following this link.

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