Between 24-26 September, the European Commission Directorate-General for Research & Innovation run an event in Brussels, titled “European Research and Innovation Days”. This was a large scale event, with about 3900 participants, which served several purposes. With Horizon 2020 approaching to its end and Horizon Europe starting in about a year an a half, it provided an opportunity to have a large scale conversation about the changes in the direction of research that the new programme brings (with a move from silos of research areas to missions) and also to co-design and think about different aspects of research. The event was held in the Kanal Centre Pompidou in Brussels, which is an old Citroen garage and is a huge industrial space that still bears the signs of its previous use. The conference covered topics from the role of philanthropic foundations in shaping research directions, to the focus on support for SMEs. The general attendance in the conference was from research-focused organisations – both public and private. I hardly heard voices coming from civil society organisations that are outside the “research ecosystem”. Another aspect of the conference was to introduce the missions to the research community so they can start preparing to the new framework, while also getting feedback and comments from participants about the ways that they are shaping up. Sessions included reporters and online space for comments so the feedback could be gathered and shared by the commission staff. It was also an opportunity to share and celebrate research results.
Within the EU budget, research is something like 11% of the total budget. This is a significant sum (€13 billion), but it is an area that needs to continue and make the case to justify the investment. The EU R&I Days provided also the forum to highlight the wider policy issues of research investment – from balancing between excellence in research, with its inherent inequalities between countries in the strength of their science and engineering, versus efforts for widening involvement in science and considering the wider European Research Area (which goes well beyond the boundaries of the EU).
As part of the conference, I presented in two sessions, one dedicated to the pilar of “excellent science” and that was organised by the European Research Council with awardees at different stages of their careers and from different research area, as to highlight the value of scientists led research titled “Empowering scientists to dream the future – the ERC“, and the second was dedicated to “the promise of citizen science“. Interestingly, the first session was organised as a showcase without a dialogue – there were four presentations, without any space for Q&A. In contrast, the citizen science session included 30 minutes for dialogue and comments from the audience.
The ERC session included an address from the president of the ERC, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, and then a series of talks from an astrophysicist who was part of the Event Horizon effort to capture an image of a black hole; a plant scientist who work on genetically modifying plants to withstand drought (and raise the issue of making them politically acceptable to be used in Europe); and an Aerospace engineer who work on space debris. Our panel was a well-thought mix of gender balance, disciplines (natural science, social science, and engineering), countries and types of ERC grants (starting, consolidator, and advanced). You can watch the recording of the session here https://innodays.cdn01.rambla.be/player/?item_id=Wgx4p7 – my talk is at 24:20.
Following the talk, I gave a short interview which is below.
The second session included Rosa Arias who leads the D-Noses project, Carole Paleco who work with me on the DITOs project, and myself. The session covered how citizen science can contribute to research and to other societal aspects. You can see the session here https://innodays.cdn01.rambla.be/player/?item_id=AQzLb4 my talk is at 21:30 and my slides are below
Other interesting sessions that are worth watching are: