On 8 February 2017 in St Petersburg, the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) held its first conference Baltic Sea Science Day in order to discuss with a wider circle of stakeholders of the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda the way forward in the CBSS engagement in transnational facilitation of cooperation in science and research domains.
Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the CBSS Secretariat in her opening remarks invited attendants to actively engage in discussions in order to provide further input in the transnational policy thinking, supporting the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda in line with one of the the CBSS long-term priority “Sustainable and Prosperous Region”. Sustainability and prosperity are inseparable from the assumption of equality, also brought to the spotlight by the CBSS Icelandic Presidency. The CBSS Icelandic Presidency was commended for its leadership in advancing the Baltic Sea Region(BSR)-wide dialogue on the role of gender parity with a reference to the Director General´s Statement in the context of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2017, where Iceland features prominently as the global champion due to its exemplary performance in female political empowerment and facilitated economic participation.
Ambassador Mora´s remarks also served to remind about the CBSS Science Ministerial outcomes enshrined in the Polish CBSS Chair´s conclusions, by noting that the CBSS attempts are directed towards distinguishing niche support solutions for various innovation driving forces in the region, depending on the scale, experience and capacities of a specific set of like-minded actors.
Grigory Dvas, representing the Russian Academy of Science, explained the long-standing ties of the Academy with other Baltic Sea Region countries since a number of foreign academics are members of the Russian Academy of Science. Most notably, Iceland which due to its size and population doesn´t have its own Academy of Science, is also represented in the Russian Academy.
The first part of the conference was dedicated to introduce attendants to the latest developments of the CBSS cornerstone projects – Baltic Science Network and Baltic TRAM. During the panel discussion “Role of Projects in Transnational Policy Shaping” Tadas Juknevičius, representing the Lithuanian Research and Higher Education Monitoring and Analysis Centre (MOSTA), introduced the audience to the existing challenges associated with researcher mobility in the BSR, such as, varied level of research excellence across the BSR, challenges related to finding the best funding scheme which would support the specific needs of a research imitative, a more thorough follow-up on supported research activities should be implemented to take a qualitative stock of the most recent efforts in advancing the research performance of the Balti Sea Region. Maija Sirola, representing the Baltic Science Network´s member BONUS, further elaborated on the diversity of research undertaken in maritime-related domains. It should be noted that the CBSS ties with BONUS aren´t limited solely to the engagement in Baltic Science Network, since thus far the collaborative ties between BONUS and the CBSS have been structured via the CBSS Expert Group on Maritime Policy (EGMP). For example, BONUS took part in the CBSS EGMP meeting in 2010 in Klaipėda.
The Baltic TRAM latest developments regarding the acquisition of a Russian associate organisation, the national research centre “Kurchatov Institute”, were presented by the Project Manager Uwe Sassenberg. Likewise, the presentation on Baltic TRAM entailed elaboration on the CBSS drafted report on smart specialisation and innovation governance in the Baltic Sea Region, which aspires to streamline the international, European, macro-regional and national commitments enshrined in innovation and smart specialisation governance initiatives.
The topicality of CBSS Member States´ cooperation in the domain of analytical facilities was further elaborated during the presentation of Frédéric Le Pimpec, representing the European XFEL, the world´s largest X-ray Free-Electron laser based in Hamburg. The notable facility places Europe on the cutting-edge of photon science among industrialised nations. It also serves as one of the most visible examples how CBSS Member States jointly support globally competitive scientific advancement.
The panel devoted to the cooperation in higher education gathered rectors and representatives to the leading universities of the region “Baltic Sea Region-wide Cooperation in Higher Education”. The Baltic Sea Science Day served for a number of the Baltic Science Network´s members with well-established traditions of transnational engagement, such as the Saint-Petersburg University of Economics (UNECON), the University of Turku, and Baltic Sea Region University Network (BSRUN) to reflect on their engagement in this macro-regional fora. The panel was concluded by an overall agreement that Baltic Sea Region-wide cooperation among universities should be strengthened and is mutually beneficial, since it offers an opportunity for the university staff to benefit from peer expertise, discover new angles of research in a different research setting. Mobility is seen as a general enabler of university competitiveness.
Panel discussion “Regional Science Agendas: Multilateral Cooperation In Tackling Contemporary Challenges” brought a broader discussion on the dynamics of regional science and research cooperation were further discussed by Alexey Ivanov, representing the Barents Euro-Arctic Council´s (BEAC) Russian Chairmanship. Along with the introduction to the Joint Working Group on Education and Research (JWGER), such best practices as Barents PhD School were presented to the audience. The commonalities between the CBSS and BEAC dynamics were identified in the cross-cutting character of the research initiatives, since they hold relevance not only in the context of the mere science and research domains but are also of importance to understanding the climate change and sustainable development patterns of each of the two regions.
On the recent CBSS Polish Presidency´s behalf, Aleksander Dańda, representing the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, elaborated on the challenges faced by Poland in terms of brain drain and lack of diversity of incoming students and researchers, as well as interest in expanding the role of analytical facilities. These reflections form the foundations of the Polish engagement in Baltic Science Network and Baltic TRAM projects. Arik Willner, representing Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) further elaborated on the role of large scale research infrastructures by discussing how DESY advances the so called “second life” of its scientific findings by exporting them to the industrial sector. DESY´s leadership of Baltic TRAM serves as one of the examples how its accelerator facilities are presented to the companies interested in advancing the technological solutions of their provided products.
Cecilia Andrae, representing the Swedish Institute, further elaborated on the enduring collaborative ties between the Baltic Sea Region countries in the domain of business cooperation by introducing wider audiences to the Swedish Institute´s funded Northern European Management Programme which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary and over these years has gathered 54 Russian alumni.
Further options of the CBSS-wide cooperation in the science domain were highlighted during the concluding plenary “Strategic Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region in the Field of Science and Innovation” in the presentation of Gediminas Ramanauskas, representing the European Commission. The existing trends in macro-regional innovation advancement were presented by Tomasz Jałukowicz, Coordinator of the Policy Area Innovation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), showcasing how Baltic TRAM fits in a wider pool of EUSBSR flagships, such as Science Link, BSR Stars and ScanBalt. The conference also served to introduce science and research communities to the new strand of the EUSSBR Policy Area Education, Research and Employability. Anders Bergström, coordinator for Policy Area Education, explained the wide array of responsibilities of the Policy Area Education, encompassing such domains as research, employability, as well as migration being the most recently added thematic component of the Policy Area. The migration dimension in the work of the EUSBSR Policy Area Education serves as a transnationally coordinated response to the challenge faced by Europe.
The panel was concluded by Prof Aleksander Karlik, elaborating on the need to advance further innovation in the transport, radio-electronic and information technology sectors in the Russian North Western District, since they hold relevance not only in the Baltic Sea Region sector but also to the Arctic areas.
Baltic Sea Science Day was concluded by the final remarks of Ambassador Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson, Chairman of the CBSS Committee of Senior Officials, Icelandic Presidency on the upcoming 25th anniversary of the CBSS. The conference served also as an example of the Icelandic commitment to advance science and research cooperation in close partnership with other CBSS Member States, in line with the Kraków Ministerial outcomes.
The CBSS conference Baltic Sea Science Day paved way for further talks on the Baltic Science Network project phase developments prior to the concluding transnational workshop “Researchers‘ mobility in Baltic Sea Region: where do we stand and how to move forward?” which took place on 10 February 2017 in Vilnius.
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