The Launch of Horizon Europe and the Forum of European Researchers in China
On the 24 and 25 June the European Research and Innovation Days China were held at the European Delegation in Beijing. The two-day celebration of European research and scientists was organized by the delegation with EURAXESS China in close partnership with the European Associations of National Scientific Diasporas in China and the embassies of EU Member States. The event was facilitated by the Europe-China Partnership Facility.
The highlights of the activity include the launch of Horizon Europe and the Forum for European Researchers in China. All in all, there were 24 separate meetings organized around national scientific diaspora networks, virtual workshop with panellists in Europe, on-site workshop organized around career roles and thematic groups, as well as three large joint sessions introducing and launching Horizon Europe and a keynote session presenting a new IPR brochure for European Researchers in China.
Horizon Europe is the ninth R&I framework programme of the European Union that replaced Horizon 2020 this year and will cover all main areas of EU-funded research over the next seven years. It is one of the biggest sources of research funding in the world with a budget of €95.5 billion and is organized around missions that aim at tackling climate change, helps to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth.
Formal Launch in China
The first day of the European Research and Innovation Days China was dedicated to the launch of Horizon Europe. Philippe Vialatte, Minister Counsellor and the head of the S&T section of the EU Delegation, marked this transition by introducing the main achievements of Horizon 2020 and Chinese participation in the programme. Vojko Bratina, Science Attaché at the EU Delegation, also introduced the European Commission’s new global approach to research and innovation that is of particular interest to researchers in China.
The participants also participated in a remote way in the virtual European Research and Innovation Days that were taking place online from Brussels at the same time. Five parallel groups participated in the five channels of the session on ““A Global Approach to R&I: combining forces for bigger impact” that started with a plenary session lead by EU Commissioner for Innovation Research Culture Education Youth and Sport Mariya Gabriel.
The first day of the event finished with a formal dinner reception in the courtyard of the EU Delegation where participants in the Forum for European Researchers in China, Science Counsellors from European Embassies in Beijing, and Chinese guests from local research institutions. The Ambassador of the European Union in China Nicolas Chapuis, formally launched Horizon Europe in China with a speech where he said that “international cooperation in research and innovation is essential for tackling global challenges” and that “to strengthen cooperation in research and innovation under the guiding principles of openness, reciprocity and a level playing field, the EU and China have engaged in discussions of a joint roadmap for future cooperation in Research and Innovation, based on agreed framework conditions.”
Forum for European Researchers in China
The 2nd day of the European Research and Innovation Days China was dedicated to the Forum for European Researchers in China. Around 100 researchers from 15 different European countries and based all over China came together for workshops and networking. The activity was a follow-up of the first Forum for European Researchers that was held at the EU Delegation in September 2019 where a similar number of researchers came together to identify the main challenges facing European researchers’ mobility in China and give policy feedback that was used in the work on the Joint EU-China R&I Roadmap.
On the occasion of the 2019 meeting EURAXESS China also called together the first meeting of European National Scientists Networks in China to discuss the future of networking between European Researchers in China. The result was to put together a working group called PERC (Platform for European Researchers Networks in China) that has met quarterly since then. The concept behind this second edition of the Forum was created together with PERC and describes a community of European Researchers in China that are organized vertically through their national diaspora networks and horizontally in European thematic networks. It was also decided that a good task for this community to start a work on a Guide for European Researchers in China.
National Meetings of European Researchers
In the spirit of the aforementioned plan the different national networks of European researchers and EU member state embassies and related organizations decided to organize a set of parallel meetings taking place in the afternoon before the start of the European Research and Innovation Days.
All in all, six different member states held such meetings on Thursday 24 June, covering 85% of the total participants of the Forum.
- The Association of Spanish Researchers in China, RICE, held a national meeting in two sessions at the Spanish embassy in Beijing – one for the members of the association and second session that included a dialogue with embassy representatives.
- The Association of Italian Scholars in China, AAIIC, also held their national meeting – bringing together members of the association in the Italian café Da Giuliano in Sanlitun Beijing in the morning and the moving to a formal meeting where they met with the science representative of the Italian embassy in Beijing and representatives of the EU Delegation.
- The German Embassy in Beijing in collaboration with the DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Centre, also organized a meeting for German researchers in China in the afternoon bringing together researchers able to attend in person in Beijing and other German researchers attending online in a hybrid meeting discussing the implication of the 14th five-year plan on the collaboration in science.
- The French embassy also organized a meeting for around 30 French researchers at the French embassy connected to their annual event for French researchers in China.
- Besides the big four member states there were also lunch meetings organized at the Embassy of Poland and the Embassy of Belgium in Beijing where researchers from these countries had an opportunity to meet with the Ambassador and science representatives of those countries.
All the national meetings included a session where the participants had an opportunity to give feedback on common challenges facing European researchers in China which were used to inform the discussion in the workshop on similar topic during the Forum for European Researchers in China. In addition, for those researchers not from the aforementioned 6 countries EURAXESS China organized a special seventh meeting at the EU Delegation where the same issues were discussed.
Workshop for a Guide for European Researchers in China
The Forum for European Researchers in China started bright and early on the Friday 25 June, the second day of the European Research and Innovation Days China, with a special morning workshop to collect best practices for a Guide for European Researchers in China. Instead of focusing on identifying the challenging once more or discussing what needs to be changed, the goal of the workshop was rather to use the work from the forum in 2019 and the national meetings the day before and start to collect the participant’s personal experience with finding individual solutions that helped the overcome these common challenges.
As these challenges are often uniquely related to the researcher’s position in China the workshop was organized around 6 parallel groups of researchers at different career stages or serving in different organizational roles. A special group for PhD students and another one for post-Docs covered the issues facing early career researchers. For those later in their career there was a group for Principal Investigators on the one hand, and two groups for academic professors – one in the field of Natural Science and another for professors in the field of Social Sciences and Humanities. Finally, there was also a group for research related professional and researchers engaged in administration or management of research projects.
The 6 groups delivered over 120 individual recommendations and examples of best practices. EURAXESS China, in collaboration with PERC, will use this input to start the work on a Guide for European Researchers in China in the coming months with the goal of having it ready for publication before the next Forum.
Presentation on IPR Brochure
After the lunch break all the different groups were brought back together for a joint session. The European Delegation in China has been preparing a special brochure on IPR issues for European Researchers in China. The information package was prepared by Vidon IP Law Group China, and Mr Séverin Mélès representing them introduced the brochure and the many examples of situations that European Researchers in China need to be aware of in relations to IPR. Mr Mélès was accompanied by the IPR Counsellor of the EU Delegation, and together they responded to questions from the audience. The presentation was well received by the participants and lead to lively discussion amongst those present.
The six groups in question were:
- Thematic group #1: Physics, Chemistry, Aerospace, Material Science
- Thematic group #2: Engineering, Tech, Data & Computer Science
- Thematic group #3: Social Sciences and the Humanities
- Thematic group #4: Environmental Sciences
- Thematic group #5: Economics, Politics, Business and Law
- Thematic group #6: Biology and Medical Sciences
Each of the thematic groups were in a hybrid format and included participants attending online in addition to those that participated in person. Each of the group was led by volunteer facilitators from the participating group of researchers – one to guide the discussion in the room and one to represent the online participants.
All 6 groups showed interest in using these groups to establish thematic networks, setting up online discussion groups and organize together future thematic activities. This work has already started and is in line with the original concept of PERC to connect the national networks of European researchers in China with cross-European thematic networks.
The European Research and Innovation Days in China 2021 come after a long preparation phase delayed by the repercussions of a global pandemic. The whole endeavour was an even more ambitious version of the Forum of European Researchers in China in 2019, with even more workshops and dimensions that made the organization complicated lead to several concrete results achieved. Horizon Europe was introduced to researchers based in China and the calls of its Work Programme for 2021-2022 were introduced in a thematic network for European researchers in different fields of research were established.
While all of that is very important, we should not forget the inherit benefit of bringing together like-minded people to the begin with. Participants expressed a great satisfaction with the event after it passed and in particular praised the opportunity to meet new colleagues, forge new connections and friendships. What happens during the coffee breaks and on the peripheries of a conference like this is often where the real magic happens.
We are already looking forward to the next Forum for European Researchers in China!