Conference Baltic Science Network Placed at the Heart of European Research Debate

What better timing for introducing Brussels-based audiences to the Baltic Science Network than the hectic months ahead of the adoption of Horizon Europe, the next EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Baltic Science Network was placed at the heart of discussions revolving around science excellence, evidence-based policy, smart specialisation and widening participation during the conference “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse”.

BSN Conference: The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse

On 26 November 2018, Baltic Science Network (BSN) and Baltic TRAM in cooperation with ScienceǀBusiness organised a conference “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse”. After the BSN transnational seminar held in Tallinn under the auspices of the Estonian EU Presidency, the Brussels conference was the next milestone of BSN in terms of receiving more high-level vision on its work and prepared researcher mobility and cooperation tools.

Throughout five panels discussions among distinguished speakers, such as Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council, Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) of the European Commission, and Christian Müller, Deputy General Secretary of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Dr. Rolf Greve, Director-General at the  Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Jurgita Petrauskienė, Lithuanian Minister of Education and Science, as well as Robert Feidenhans'l, Chairman of the European XFEL Management Board, offered insights in the macro-regional Dynamics.

Minister Petrauskienė opened the conference held at the Solvay Library in Brussels commending Baltic Science Network for its support towards closer cooperation between EU-13 and EU-15 countries in science and innovation.

During the 1st panel “Horizon Europe: What can the EU science community expect from the next Framework Programme?” Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General of DG RTD, highlighted that while 20% of global R&D and one third of all high-quality scientific publications come from Europe, we fail to transform leadership in science into a leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship. The future EU Framework Programme should be modelled in order to address this trend and offer more opportunities to showcase the tangible benefits delivered by science to the society. One of the most exciting passages in this upcoming work will be Finland’s third EU Presidency period (July 2019 – December 2019). Maive Rute, Deputy Director-General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, encouraged this perspective with remarks that Horizon Europe should be focused on impact – keeping at the centre of its attention the outcome and what it can deliver.

One of the new components of BSN facilitated discussions was a fresh perspective on the brain drain. While during the concluding panel “Turning brain drain into brain circulation in the Baltic Sea Region” discussion the inception of the term “brain drain” in 1950´s was pointed out, the audience was invited to treat this trend not solely from the perspective of its negative connotations. Christian Müller, Deputy General Secretary of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), argued that a temporal brain drain can be a long-term source of fresh expertise obtained by the country from its citizens living, studying or working abroad. Brain drain opens doors to new collaborations thanks to the citizens who during their stay abroad have established valuable working relations with peers in other countries.

As the most vivid example of such developments served the experience of Marco Kirm, Professor at the University of Tartu, who received tertiary education and advanced training in Sweden and Germany, but his further researcher career continues in his native Estonia, where the University of Tartu benefits from the collaborative ties he has established over the years with renowned research centres.

The conference facilitated reflections on research findings prepared during the earlier phases of the project. Namely, Žilvinas Martinaitis, Partner and Research Manager at Visionary Analytics, briefly walked the audience through the main findings of the BSN Working Paper “Study on Research Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region: Existing Networks, Obstacles and Ways Forward”. A recollection of earlier analysis presented during the BSN Riga and Tallinn seminars is kept as an important component not only during the internal, but also external or public debates facilitated by BSN. It is done to ensure that the future work of BSN would be kept in close alignment with its earlier findings and would benefit from complementarities.

The Brussels conference was an inspiring occasion of thought provoking discussions paving the way for the BSN Closing Conference which will be taking placing in Riga on 22 February 2019 (registration open).

Photo album “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse”.

Baltic TRAM overview of the conference.