At the Right Place and Time: A4L Trigger Event in Latvia Sparks Discussions on Shaping Future Framework Programme

LAS meeting on ZOOM

The Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (LIOS), a key player in Latvia’s scientific landscape and a proud member of the Alliance4Life (A4L) consortium initiated a discussion on scientific community’s opinion in shaping the new European Union (EU) Framework Program.

On January 16, 2024, a panel discussion was held at the Senate meeting of the Latvian Academy of Sciences (LAS) chaired by Prof. Tatjana Koķe. The attendees included members of the LAS Senate, Deputy State Secretary for Higher Education, Science, Space, and Innovation at the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) Jānis Paiders, MoES Science Sector Adviser in Brussels Aleksandrs Mārtiņš Blūms, member of the Expert group on the interim evaluation of “Horizon Europe”, Vice-Rector for Science of RSU Agrita Kiopa, the coordinator of the “Horizon 2020” Teaming program project BBCE Prof. Jānis Ločs, and representatives of LIOS.

Opening the discussion, Osvalds Pugovičs, Deputy Director of LIOS, provided an overview of A4L’s contribution to science policy and institutional governance improvement. Prof. Maija Dambrova (LIOS), a full member of the LAS, presented A4L’s policy paper on the efficiency of WIDESPREAD measures and recommendations for strategic planning for the last phase (2025-2027) of the “Horizon Europe” program and the future Framework Program (2028-2034). The recommendations drew on A4L participants’ experience with EU programs available to Widening region countries—Twinning, Teaming, and ERAChair projects.

“The goal of the A4L is not to wait for help but to find strength within ourselves, share best practices, express the views of progressive scientific organizations to policymakers, and be heard both at the national and EU levels,” emphasized Prof. Maija Dambrova.

A4L highlighted the positive impact of participating in Widening programs – expanded collaboration networks, improved project applications, enhanced administrative efficiency, promoted researcher mobility, and increased institutions’ ability to attract foreign scientists.

As main challenges for further Widening development in Central and Eastern European countries, as identified by A4L, include difficulties in recruiting researchers due to salary disparities, a lack of resources for sustaining research, insufficient international visibility of regional institutions, and inconsistencies in competition calls at European and national levels. A4L advocated for a larger portion of resources to be allocated to research activities in Widening projects, suggesting that the implementation period of Twinning programs is too short for excellent results.

To address these challenges, A4L has prepared several recommendations, urging a shift from promoting excellence to empowering excellence. This involves making research organizations from Widening region countries research and innovation leaders, improving existing programs to support research and innovation directly, and recognizing established Centers of Excellence.

Coordination between the European Commission (EC) and national governments is crucial. A4L suggested strategic coordination in creating new Centers of Excellence, ensuring sustainability, and involving existing Centers of Excellence in EU research policy development processes.

It is recommended to improve coordination of project calls to leverage synergies between EC and national funding support mechanisms. A4L encouraged the widening of the practice of “Seal of Excellence” by supporting, at the national level, high-rated EU project applications that did not receive funding. The need for national research and innovation reforms, researcher career models, internationally open working environments, targeted infrastructure investments, support for outstanding research, and the promotion of existing Centers of Excellence were also emphasized.

Maija Dambrova at LAS meting

Starting the panel discussion, Prof. Maija Dambrova addressed the audience: “Will there be a Widening program in the new Framework Program, and what will it be like? Since the Framework Program is still under development, this is our opportunity to express our opinion. By discussing with each other, we can create our proposals and ensure that they reach policymakers!”

The participants positively acknowledged A4L’s role in shaping science policy and commended LIOS for initiating a significant discussion for Latvian science.

Prof. Jānis Ločs emphasized the potential of Teaming projects in achieving excellence over a 7-year implementation period. He advocated for the continuation and improvement of both the Teaming and Twinning programs, with increased funding for research activities to boost partner interest.

Full member of the LAS, Prof. Andris Šternbergs (coordinator of “Horizon 2020” Teaming project CAMART²) stressed the importance of a good reputation to enter the European and global scientific area:

“We need to come to these programs with our ideas, show that we are at very good the level and can work as equal partners. We need to come in these programs with good infrastructure and established researcher career models.” Prof. Šternbergs emphasized the importance of EraNet projects and COST actions to initiate new collaborations, partly preparing the ground for successful Widening partnerships.

Prof. Šternbergs proposed not limiting consortiums of Teaming projects only to initially selected European partners but providing the opportunity to attract new partners, including from developed third countries.

Agrita Kiopa highlighted the alignment of A4L’s recommendations with those compiled from Latvia’s best research organizations:

“What A4L has compiled and formulated expresses the views of many of our colleagues. I will encourage the expert group to invite A4L to one of the discussions.” Among other things, Dr. Kiopa emphasized the importance of addressing candidates for European Parliament on their position about science policy and shape of the next Framework Program.

Jānis Paiders acknowledged A4L’s regular communication of vital science and innovation issues to the Ministry of Education and Science. Paiders said:

“The Widening program is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education and Science because in this program, Latvia has shown the best results, and it also highlights the potential of our research organizations.”

In conclusion, the panel participants recognized A4L’s recommendations for mobilizing the Latvian scientific community to actively participate in shaping the new Framework Program. Strengthening this commitment, Jānis Paiders informed that the ministry will soon organize a working group for the formulation of Latvia’s opinion on the 10th Framework Program and invited the audience to participate in its work.

About A4L

Alliance4Life brings together 12 progressive leading Central and Eastern European scientific institutions, whose common mission is to strengthen scientific excellence across Europe, improve scientific performance, and contribute to the health and quality of life of European citizens. Alliance4Life participants: Latvia – LIOS; Czech Republic – Masaryk University/CEITEC and International Clinical Research Center; Slovakia – Biomedical Research Center of the Slovak Academy of Sciences; Poland – Medical University of Lodz; Croatia – School of Medicine – University of Zagreb; Estonia – University of Tartu; Lithuania – Vilnius University – Faculty of Medicine; Slovenia – University of Ljubljana; Hungary – Semmelweis University; Bulgaria – Medical University Sofia; Romania – University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Carol Davila” Bucharest.