National alignment event in Italy: an initiative that deserves a follow-up

Paola Clerici Maestosi, the JPI Urban Europe Vice-Chair for alignment, has developed a format for starting into alignment on national level. She gives us an insight into the process and first results of a national workshop involving national and regional research and funding programs, structural funds and EC funding to promote RD&I for sustainable urban development.

What was the goal of this event?

“In the context of the JPI Urban Europe EXPAND project, work package on Alignment, ENEA developed a format for a national dialogue and coordination process to identify potential for national alignment. This first national event was based on the idea to identify national interests for aligning urban related RD&I programmes and promote collaboration on national and transnational level involving the whole Italian Research, Development and Innovation system for urban areas. The aim was to illustrate JPI Urban Europe’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and to identify opportunities offered by the funding chain. The event was attended by a broad spectrum of delegates from ministries and agencies that were considered of strategic importance for such an alignment”.
The workshop allowed to identify common interests, additional stakeholders to be involved and first joint activities. The participants decided to develop a White Paper that could set the scene of future collaboration.“

In what way is Italy involved in the alignment operation?

“Joint Programming is a European cooperation mechanism between Member States and Associated countries, designed to remedy the imbalances between the European and global scope of current challenges and the national or regional nature of the tools we have in resolving these problems.
The importance of this trans-national collaboration is largely underlined by the Italian PNR 2015-2020 [Italy’s National Research Programme], which attributes to the Joint Programming (JP) process a decisive role in achieving the synergy of national research programs. The PNR emphasizes in particular the importance of a European level alignment path, which must represent for Italy the opportunity to address and resolve the fragmentation of the national regulation and financing system.
Italy is currently present in all of the 10 Joint Programming Initiatives launched under the 7th Framework Program and Horizon 2020. JPI Urban Europe is one of them and the Ministry of University and Research MIUR is actively participating, together with the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development ENEA in this joint initiative.”

Is there a specific focus on alignment issues in Italy?

“There is an awareness of the central importance of urban areas as a privileged place of decisive challenges for sustainability, in terms of demographic transformation, climate and environmental change, social cohesion and energy instances in the broad sense.
The ERA’s Italian Roadmap (ERI) emphasizes the need to promote a European Research Area that is really strong and competitive. One of the 6 priorities in this roadmap is the coordination between national programmes and European programmes.
The ERI also refers to the need to define a governance structure for co-ordinating Italian participation in the Joint Programming Process and in general at the various ‘European tables’ in order to bring priorities and the abilities expressed by the Italian system. In particular, MIUR plays a leading role in aligning joint programming initiatives with a specific focus on regional and transregional alignment in the broad sense with the aim of identifying best practices. The ECSEL [Electronics Components and Systems for European Leadership] Joint Technology Initiative is a good example of the convergence of national funds and structural funds for funding research and innovation calls.”

You are vice Chair of the JPI Urban Europe Governing board and responsible for alignment, how is this intertwined in the activities of JPI Urban Europe?

In the JPI Urban Europe ‘BOOST’ programme an alignment strategy was developed. This programme ran from 2013 – 2016. Within the follow-up of this programme ‘EXPAND’ we take next steps towards concrete alignment actions based upon bottom-up interests of our stakeholders. Our stakeholders platform Agora will contribute to get an insight in the specific interests.”

What were the main output and conclusions of this national workshop?

“I can sum that up in five points:

  1. The theme of synergies between national research and funding programs, the Structural Funds and EC funding to promote RD&I in urban areas is a matter of concern.
  2. New national stakeholders need to be involved in the second national consultation as they could be key player together with the FAs already consulted.
  3. It is appropriate for Italy to give physical limits to the urban dimension and therefore refer to Level 1 and Tier 2 areas, although it cannot be excluded from the Italian national document on urban policy.
  4. It is important to share the available documentations; for this reason, ENEA has established a platform to share documents and create a common repository.
  5. There is the need to define a path to identify potential solutions at national level.”

How will the results be implemented and taken further?

“This workshop is, in fact, the first step in a process planned until the end of 2019 and through which a common system of convergence between Member States and EC agencies could be identified as a combination of content, political will, operational tools, to be applied to the various areas affecting the urban sphere.
Today, more than ever, there is a need to put in place national initiatives and instruments in order to present a unified Italian position on urban issues of major interest to the European scenario as in other areas considered strategic for our country .
This has been the first national event; others will follow hopefully in other JPI Urban Europe partner countries.”

The Italian National Consultation
The Italian National Consultation to align national research and funding programs, structural funds and EC funding to promote RD&I in urban areas took place 28/03/2017 as part of the project of Coordination and Support Action of the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe EXPAND – Enhancing co-creation in JPI Urban Europe through widening Member State and stakeholder participation (H2020 Widespread).
Represented Ministries and Agencies:

  • MIUR Ministry of University and Research;
  • MISE Ministry of Economic Development;
  • MINAMB Ministry of Environment;
  • MIT Ministry of Transport;
  • Social Cohesion Agency;
  • Presidency – Regional Affair;
  • Emilia Romagna Region;
  • Toscana Region;
  • Confindustria;
  • ASTER Emilia Romagna
  • Bologna Metropolitan City
  • Bari Metropolitan City

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