The focus of this event was to gather stakeholders from Vojvodina in order to start a discussion regarding the Implementation Plans for the RRI “Anchor” initiatives.
Who attended the event?
Participants in the workshop were invited from different stakeholders in the region, Academia, SME’s, NGO’s and citizen representatives. There were 31 participants present in the workshop including representatives from the University of Novi Sad and Vojvodina ICT Cluster.
What happened at the event?
Introduction to WBC-RRI.NET, prof. Goran Stojanović.
Following the initial greeting of the participants, prof. Goran Stojanović asked everyone to present themselves and the institutions where they are coming from, and briefly presented the workshop agenda. After the introduction of participants, prof. Stojanović started presenting the project summary and objectives.
While Western Balkan countries (WBCs) have demonstrated improved research and innovation (R&I) capacities, there is still progress to be made to meet the rest of the EU on equal terms. The EU-funded WBC-RRI.NET project aims to boost R&I in the WBCs by adopting a sustainable development framework based on responsible research and innovation principles at the local level. This initiative will help enhance R&I planning, including smart specialization strategies in the WBCs, and foster strong socioeconomic development while informing R&I policy and enabling the region to address its needs. At the end of the project, it will have sparked open dialogue, created a regional network, and helped the WBCs to contribute to the goal of a single, borderless European Research Area. Professor Goran Stojanović presented the participants in the project.
After explaining the structure of the project, prof. Stojanović explained challenges, main activities and expected changes with reference to S3 and/or regional policies of the autonomous province of Vojvodina. Public engagement is one of the challenges, and will be addressed as a need to inform citizens on the benefits of the ICT field, while also facing the side effects of the digital gap and the regional brain drain of ICT experts. Activities related to open access will consist of development of a Public Engagement scheme with public events for awareness raising and active engagement of citizens in ICT, and organization of training schemes on ICT (also addressing unemployed females). Expected changes with reference to S3 and/or regional policies are insertion of public engagement features in S3 procedures and reaching valuable results for decision makers in creating policies/frameworks for further dynamic development, and Setting open access to the research work of the ICT and Health/Biomedicine as a funding criterion in the S3 process.
Prof. Stojanović mentioned project deliverables, WBC-RRI.NET mapping toolbox with mapped actors in the regional province of Vojvodina, within quadruple helix category. He also mentioned three working groups, working group 1 – Gender and Ethics, working group 2 – Science education and Public engagement, and working group 3 – Open science and Open access, and introduced the participants with their activities, as well as project website, social media, and the next physical event of all partners in Novi Sad, in April.
Presentation of future scenarios, Dragan Stojiljković UNS
Dragan Stoiljković then presented future scenarios identified within the project. The future scenarios developed by Serbian partners describe the institutional and territorial transformations to be achieved out of the RRI ‘anchor’ initiative in Vojvodina. A current need in Vojvodina is to inform citizens on the benefits of ICT and concurrently face the prominent side-effects of the digital gap. Brain drain is also evident in the territory, thus leading to the need for training on ICT. The future scenarios for Vojvodina region are developed by UNS, VOICT, under supervision of ZSI. Dragan Stoiljković presented key forces and key drivers identified within a workshop. He then presented the four scenarios.
Future scenario 1: Profile and reputation flourish
In the first scenario, in 2024, the profile and skills of staff (human resources) have become better in the region of Vojvodina with reference to both sectors (industrial and academic), thus leading to an ameliorated institutional profile. The ameliorated staff profile has been achieved through the development of a Public Engagement scheme with public events for awareness-raising and active engagement of citizens in ICT, and organization of training schemes on ICT (also addressing unemployed females). Regional stakeholders have fully recognized the importance of increasing cross-sectoral cooperation and employing multidisciplinary approaches. This enables the opening of additional jobs and also brings Vojvodina’s approach closer to European values.
Future scenario 2: Empty cooperation
Second scenario, named “Empty cooperation”, which envisages that in 2024, there is a good cooperation between academia and industry in the region of Vojvodina, but the profile and reputation of institutions and staff members is low. This is a consequence of not investing in developing good career prospects for staff members in both sectors; as a result, the quality of education is also getting low and the knowledge acquired through the educational system is low and out of date. As for the poor quality of the staff employed in companies and in academic institutions, this is a consequence of the brain drain phenomenon; the best experts in the fast-moving technological field have moved abroad. This has resulted in a poor reputation for the different R&I stakeholders, as well as for the R&D companies who are no longer invited in international consortia.
Future scenario 3: Good isolated islands
Good isolated islands envisages that in 2024, there are several individuals in the R&I field in Vojvodina who are eager to develop their own careers, but are not willing to collaborate and establish new networks among the various sectors and fields. Those individuals’ further progress can be achieved by encouraging them to collaborate with individuals from other institutions, sectors, and fields. However, a difficulty experienced in 2024 in Vojvodina is the pay gap that exists between industry and academia; especially in the IT sector there is a considerably higher salary coming from foreign companies. This results in ‘jealousy’, and if this trend continues both sides will be positioned against each other, without aiming to collaborate and exchange knowledge, skills and expertise. In this case, the potential of these individuals not getting engaged in synergies will be gradually lost.
Future scenario 4: Black hole
Black hole is that the profile and reputation of staff and institutions in Vojvodina gradually becomes low; the same holds for the networking and cooperation among them. This dark reality creates a ‘black hole’ in the region and has negative consequences for its further development. The Industry and SMEs, due to political and economic instability, are slowly withdrawing from the market. Higher education institutions (HEIs), due to the repeated lack of cooperation with the industry, are getting their reputation lower; Shanghai ratings are moved 1200 places below, the cooperation with the international partners is decreasing, and less and less students are becoming interested in university careers. Brain drain has never been higher. There are no visiting professors in the region, and the quality of papers has never been worse.
Open discussion and voting on the most objective scenario
Dragan Stoiljković then asked the participants to vote for the scenarios that is most relevant in 2024, and asked participants to indicate which sector do they come from.
Then the participants discussed possible future scenarios. Kristina Petrović asked about scenario 2, can it be explained in more detail, and prof. Stojanović explained about low profile of both industry and academia. Mladen Dumanović talked about big companies, that in the future it would be better focus on small ones and SME’s, and that the cooperation should be more focused on SMEs and academia. Petar Vrgović mentioned that regarding scenarios, it should be voted about what is realistic, and not what we would want. Vladimir Todorović talked about startups, that startups should be in more focus of academia, regarding employment, and not employment in large companies. Education as solution for scenarios, Milan Šolaja talked about education as a solution for scenarios that do not have positive outcomes to industry or academia, and Miroslav Vesković talked about foresight as an important tool to envisage future events. Nebojša Ilić talked about European industry, which is very passive in his opinion, and that industry itself need to foster and increase cooperation with academia. There is a need to change the mentality of the industry, and it is also the European problem.
As the most realistic scenario, the majority of participants voted for Scenario 3: Good isolated islands!