14 Nov 2023
EC and Austrian representatives met for Enhanced Dialogue in Vienna
European Commission (EC) and Austrian representatives met for an Enhanced Dialogue in Vienna on 8 November 2023, the day before the first Austrian ERA Symposium. It was the 10th Enhanced Dialogue the Commission held with a Member State. The event was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and co-chaired by DG Barbara Weitgruber. The EC delegation was led by Marc Lemaître, Director General of DG Research and Innovation, and included amongst others Anna Panagopoulou, Director for ERA and Innovation in DG RTD, Michael Arentoft, Head of Unit for Open Science and Benat Bilbao-Osorio, Deputy Head of Unit for the European Semester and Country Intelligence. Doris Schröcker, Head of Unit for Industrial Research, Innovation and Investment Agendas, participated via video-link.
The Enhanced Dialogue started with a presentation of the Austrian RTI Strategy by a representative of the Austrian Federal Chancellery. The RTI Stategy, which was launched in 2020, is about to enter into its second policy cycle. It is centred around the primary objectives of (1) Becoming an international innovation leader and strengthening Austria as an RTI location, (2) Focussing on effectiveness and excellence, and (3) Focussing on knowledge, talent and skills. The Strategy includes a strong link to ERA and foresees the establishment of National ERA Action Plans on the basis of the respective ERA Policy Agenda.
The first thematic session was dedicated to the “Transformative R&I for implementing the Green and Digital Twin Transition”. The topic was prepared by the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK), led by Director General Henrietta Spyra. DG Spyra explained the strategy underlying this topic, which is supposed to include (1) a whole of government approach, avoiding the “STI-only trap”, (2) developing new solutions with R&I push and pull, and (3) innovation communities. The overview given by DG Spyra was accompanied by presentations by the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the city of Klagenfurt as a participating community in the EU Cities Mission 2030, and the Graz-based innovative company AVL. Doris Schröcker from the EC explained the manifold links of the Austrian strategy to initiatives at EU level and emphasised the highly active role of Austrian actors in this context.
The second thematic session was about "Trust in Science and Democracy", an issue that Austrian Minister Martin Polaschek has declared a high priority for the Ministry for Education, Science and Research. In response to alarming figures regarding science scepticism in Austria according to Eurobarometer data, the “TruSD” 10-point programme was launched in 2022 and a study on the causes of science and democracy scepticism in Austria was commissioned. The results of the study were briefly explained in a highly interesting presentation by one of the co-authors of the study, Erich Griessler from IHS (Institute for Advanced Studies Austria). The Commission presented its views on the topic and the activities already being carried out and being planned at EU level. In the discussion it was highlighted that mistrust in science is closely related to mistrust in democracy and democratic institutions, and that this factor should be considered when designing measures. Although many factors regarding this topic are country-specific and even connected to historical developments, the phenomenon of mistrust in science and democracy is an EU-wide and a global issue. Based on this consideration, it was concluded that the issue should be addressed in the next ERA Policy Agenda.
The final session of the Enhanced Dialogue was held at a working dinner and was dedicated to “The (potential) role of universities in addressing Mission-oriented policies”. The session was prepared and moderated by Christian Naczinsky, Head of Department for EU and OECD Research Policy at the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF). The purpose of the session was (1) to raise awareness of the relevance of EU Missions for Austrian universities, (2) learning from Mission-related incentives for higher education institutions at EU level, and (3) to pave the way for possible incentives in view of the next period of the Performance Agreements (2025 – 2027) between the Austrian universities and BMBWF. Marion Jamard and Slaven Misljencevic from the EC DG Research and Innovation informed the participants about university-related incentives at EU level from the European Commission perspective. Then Prof. Michaela Trippl from the University of Vienna presented the findings of the paper “Rethinking the Role of Universities in Place-Based Innovation Policies for Sustainability Transitions” of which Prof. Trippl is a co-author and which was prepared for the Joint Research Centre, followed by an exchange of ideas of the participants.