Thursday, May 10, 2012

Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Innovation Ecosystem (EMIES)

1) Introduction:
The simultaneous and historic unfolding of the Arab Spring across the southern rim of the Mediterranean see and the acute economic crisis on its northern shores, prompted the Euro-Mediterranean community, under the leadership of the EC, to take stock of their collaboration, learn from their experience and renew their cooperation for a mutually beneficial partnership.
The Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Research and Innovation is the venue chosen to initiate this new venture and collectively conceive its agenda.  In fact, Session 9, for which this concept paper is written, is meant to dwell on the important issues of research and innovation and was originally titled “Building competence for Research and Innovation: Governance, human capital and research infrastructure.” This session, along with its companion concept paper, are to address the following three issues:
1.      Enhancing Research and Innovation policies in the Mediterranean region (S&T Governance, institutional reforms…)
2.      Human resources, training and mobility including Diaspora
3.      Research and innovation infrastructures

2) State of play:
“I want Europe to emerge stronger from the economic and financial crisis.” Declared José M. Barroso in the preface of Europe 2020 [1].
He added “It’s about more jobs and better lives …The capability to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, to find the path to create new jobs and to offer a sense of direction to our societies.”
He further recalled “The commission is proposing five measurable EU targets for 2020 that will steer the process and be translated into national targets: for employment; for research and innovation; for climate change and energy; for education; and for combating poverty.”
Almost concurrently, the leaderless, and ideologiless, Arab Spring, sprang from Tunisia, spreading quickly to the neighboring countries and beyond inspiring, entre autres, “Occupy Wall Street” [2] and echoing the same universal claims of freedom and dignity and demanding further political participation, and inclusive sustainable growth capable of providing jobs, and better lives.
These simultaneous unfolding events of the Arab Spring across the southern shores of mare nostrum, and the unprecedented crisis on its northern ones, behooves  mare mater nostra, as affectionately called by some [5], and its siblings to rise to the challenge of this wake up call, and reconquer its centrality in this globalized world as the cradle of our future.
This common pressing and historic context that comes to exacerbate the already recognized global challenges, such as climate change, energy and water shortages, infectious diseases and food security to name a few, calls on the EU and the Southern Mediterranean countries, to jointly set ambitious goals for the Euro-Mediterranean region, and commit to synergistically respond to the aspiration of their present and future generations, through a new partnership paradigm, that goes beyond conventional cooperation.
As a matter of fact, the advanced Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the field of energy is most telling in this regard. Indeed, the two sides of the Mediterranean are highly dependent on each other when it comes to energy supply, and they will be more so during the gradual implementation of the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP) by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) as a strategic macro-regional renewable energy programme under the Barcelona Process [9].
The implementation of this trans-national project will require the full engagement of the UfM member countries, the European Commission (EC), universities and research institutions, interested NGOs in the Mediterranean space, as well as public and private financial institutions, and the requisite difficult negotiations, and complex coordination crowned with the fitting diplomacy.
The regional and the planetary importance of this undertaking, due regards its guaranteed environmental benefits, sizable economic impacts, multiple technological opportunities, and unprecedented social benefits are well acknowledged. However, recognizing the required collective efforts to efficiently implement, and swiftly bring to effective production the different components of the MSP, behooves us to boldly rethink and thus restructure our cooperation programs, and usher a collectively beneficial partnership paradigm capable of realizing the aspirations of our people, and securing a peaceful and prosperous common Euro-Mediterranean destiny.
“If we act together, then we can fight back and come out of the crisis stronger. We have the tools and the new ambition. Now we need to make it happen.” Concluded Barroso.
2.1) Policy Framework:
The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, or the so called Barcelona Process, was inaugurated in November 1995, and established a wide spectrum of political, economic and social cooperation between the EU’s Member States (MS) and the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC).
The Barcelona Process provided the two partners with a unique and ambitious framework where they could endeavour together towards a Mediterranean space of security, economic development and sociocultural exchanges. This partnership was implemented through Association Agreements (AA) between the EU and the MPC, and a dedicated assistance programme (MEDA) [3].
Several evaluations of this partnership agree that “the Barcelona Process has missed its main objective: to respond to the hope of reinforcing the Euro-Arab dialogue and overcoming the differences between north and south of the basin … As a bureaucratic process it has not been a platform for projects and dreams. The initial ambition has slowly faded away.” [4]
While most of the authors agree on the relative failure of the Barcelona Process, they don’t concur on the nature of the underlying causes. In fact, three distinct factors were proposed to explain the obvious outcome: (i) financial, (ii) managerial and (iii) commercial.
The financial argument claims that not only the allocated budget was below expectation, but a very low percentage of it, e.g. less than 30% for MEDA I, was actually executed. In addition, only one project targeting innovation (EUMEDIS) was funded for about 1% of the total budget [3].
The managerial hindrances expressed itself on both sides. Underdeveloped administrative and bureaucratic capacities on the MPC side, due regards the European cooperation requirements, and a frail acculturation from the EU side [3].
The commercial dimension, i.e., the Free Trade Area, occulted the fundamental premise of the construction of the Euro-Mediterranean project, by denying to the Mediterranean space its Geo-political, Geo-economical and euro-strategic dimensions [5].
The enlargement of the EU and the ramping globalization, along with the above diagnosis, prompted the emergence of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) since 2003, along with its European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI). This new policy framework constituted a marked quantitative and qualitative step in the North-South Mediterranean cooperation, but fell short from incarnating the above mentioned strategic dimension [5].
The summer of 2008 saw the Barcelona Process evolve into the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). This initiative aims at providing both shores of the Mediterranean with a framework, a strategy and means of action, allowing them to apprehend hand-in-hand the common challenges of globalization [5].
The unfolding of the Arab Spring impelled the EU to recognize the importance of this historic event and acknowledge its lasting and profound transformational consequences for the Euro-Mediterranean people, the world and the EU in particular [6,7]. A new response to a changing neighbourhood [7] and its companion communication [6], open the possibilities towards a prospective project of a Euro-Mediterranean New Deal [5], whose objectives, modus operandi and road map are advocated by the Euro-Mediterranean community.
2.2) Institutional Framework:
The Monitoring Committee (MoCo) was set up by the EC in the framework of the Barcelona Process, to promote the development of a Euro-Mediterranean space for Science and Technology by stimulating and monitoring RTD cooperation. To achieve this goal, MoCo proposes, among others, action plans to extend the European Research Area (ERA) to the whole region. It is composed of high-level officials representing RTD Ministers from MS and MPC. It is co-chaired by a representative of the country holding the presidency of the EU and a co-chair from the Southern shores.
Since 2001, and during its 8th meeting in Stockholm, MoCo focused its activities on two goals [3]: (a) Opening the ERA to the MPC, and (b) Establishing links and synergies with the MEDA programme. Given that the MEDA programme didn’t include RTD activities, the inaction of the latter goal required the intervention of the Foreign Ministers, during their December 2003, Naples conference, by strongly encouraging the insertion of an RTD component in every priority sector. Moreover, “the Ministers underlined that Research and Technology Development (RTD) is an important tool for the economic stability and growth of all countries around the Mediterranean. They agreed that the opening of the European Research Area to all Mediterranean Partners can strengthen regional integration in the short term and can contribute to sustainable growth, high-value-added job creation, and the promotion of competitive economies in the region.”
The Cairo Declaration ambitiously titled “Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area,” is a inter-ministerial agreement signed in June 2007 in Cairo. As its title indicates, it stipulates (i) creating a Euromed Higher Education System, and working (ii) towards the creation of a Euromed Research Area.
The Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Enterprise [8] attempts to make of the Euro-Mediterranean region a vast area of free trade and economic prosperity. Among its actions one finds:
  1. Tailoring universities curricula to the needs of innovative companies,
  2. Promoting links between higher education, research and industry,
  3. Ensuring the rapid development of knowledge-based services in MPC,
  4. Strengthening MPC companies participation in national, European and international technology programmes,
  5. Encouraging MPC companies participation in international R&D projects,
2.3) Relevant programmes/projects/actions:
The EU-MPC S&T cooperation is covered by a plethora of instruments. Among such instrument, we list the following:
  1. The Tempus, Erasmus Mundus and Marie Curie programmes
  2. The Framework program,
  3. The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework program (CIP)
  4. The Euro-Mediterranean Industrial Cooperation program
  5. The ENPI Regional Indicative Program for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership
  6. The ENPI Cross-Border Cooperation program (CBC)
  7. The Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) program
  8. The Twinning Instrument
  9. The IncoNet Mediterranean Innovation and Research Coordination Action (MIRA)
  10. The EUROMEDCONNECT project
  11. The Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP)
A quick look at the above list reveals important information about the structure of the intended systemic nature of the EU-MPC RTD cooperation. In fact, just the eleven components listed above span the quasi totality of what might become a Regional Innovation System (RIS). Unfortunately, many barriers prevented the emergence of a coherent research and innovation dynamics capable of contributing even further to growth and thus more well being. In this context, the following main three barriers are provided:
  1. The absence of a globally harmonizing and coherent framework,
  2. The lack of “soft” use of knowledge, and
  3. High-Tech/Public Organizations bias.
3) Definition of the main elements for a medium to long term agenda of Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation in Research and Innovation:

3.1) From the “What?” to the “How?”

Now, the pressing and strategic Question is NOT as much “What?” but rather and necessarily “How?” For, as well known and as augmented above, plenty is being done and much money and energy are being spent to achieve the collectively desired goals, but the willed outcomes and the expected impacts are far from what is hoped-for! Is the framework experiencing a systemic failure?
Nowadays, and more than ever before, it is acknowledged that innovation contributes to the enhancement of living standards. Furthermore, it is attested that the process of innovation requires a viable “Innovation System” (IS). This system could be geographical (supranational, national, sub-national) or technological. It is composed of all subsystems that constitute its innovation capacity, such as firms, universities and research centres, the educational system, the financial institutions, regulatory bodies and others. It is important to note that the innovation process is complex and is systemic in nature.
Europe 2020, and Horizon 2020, belong to the same lineage of more than a decade old Lisbon, and its companion knowledge-oriented strategies (CEC 2000). In fact, the EC aimed and still aiming at closing competitive gaps between Europe and the United States and Japan by building an innovation oriented strategy around the concept of a European Research area (ERA).
It is worth mentioning, that among the main motivations behind the ERA concept is the coordination of research and innovation policies with the complementary EU guidelines and national ones. According to the EC, the ERA concept was and remains the adequate means to (i) mobilize further funding, (ii) create appropriate environments to stimulate research and exploit results, and (iii) consolidate activities and pool resources.
3.2) Euro-Mediterranean Innovation Eco-System (EMIES)

Innovation wasn’t included in the Barcelona process. However it is a priority in Europe 2020, Horizon 2020 and in A Partnership for Democratic and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean. These strategies are meant to build the Innovation Union with, among others their Southern neighbors, by learning from past experiences, good practices within and outside of the EU, and providing remedies to already identified hindrances.
Indeed, these strategies propose “novel” measures to achieve better governance and simpler procedures, further cooperation and more efficiency. As a matter of fact [6] claims that “the regional situation demands that the positive elements of the Barcelona process, together with those of the Union for the Mediterranean be integrated in a new approach.” Moreover “…UfM needs to reform to fully realise its potential. It needs to work more as a catalyst bringing States, International Financial Institutions and the private sector together around concrete projects generating jobs, innovation and growth that are badly needed in the region. …The High Representative and the Commission are ready to play a bigger role in the Union for the Mediterranean in line with the Lisbon Treaty.”
To simultaneously respond to the above aspirations and eliminate the identified barriers, it is proposed to progressively restructure the cooperation framework between key Euro-Mediterranean institutional actors, strategic projects along the lines of the EU flagship initiatives, by progressively moving away from the ERA concept the Euro-Mediterranean Innovation Eco-System (EMIES) one.
The key idea behind EMIES is to map the Euro-Mediterranean innovation space in three types of innovation sub-regions: (1) National Innovation Systems (NIS), (2) Regional networks of NISs, resulting in Regional Innovation Systems (RIS), and (3) integration of the different NIS/RISs into the EMIES.
A similar, albeit less elaborate idea was actually proposed [3]. It is also striking to discover that the full fledged RIS concept has been introduced and managed by DG REGIO since the early 90s and provides a valuable experimental phase to build on. The RIS project evolved into today’s Regional Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialization (RIS3), by transiting through the Eastern countries RIS. In addition, DG REGIO published recently a report in relation to the Structural and Cohesion Funds where the key findings and recommendations corroborate with those in this paper, but again, fails to pursue/recommend an overarching IS framework.
The three levels EMIES framework has a triadic advantage set: (a) reducing the variety of the difficulties thus eliminating the barriers, (b) integrating geographically close NISs, and (c) streamlining the policies and governance systems. In addition, it will give rise to much needed new complementarities and synergies between its different components, especially countries and regions.
While the above scheme allows some degree of simplification dealing with innovation over a vast geographic area and diverse socioeconomic contexts, it requires a certain degree of decentralization be it on the institutional and/or financial levels. The regionalization, decentralization dichotomy need to take into consideration the “apparent trade-off between the use of resources for the diffusion of knowledge in the peripheral parts of the continental economy (widening) of for generating new knowledge in the core countries (deepening). … This may serve the twin objectives of encouraging learning in the peripheral areas and advancing knowledge in the core areas.” [9]
3.3) A Three Phases medium to long term agenda
Phase I (2012-14): Further convergence while preparing the future:
1.      On the EC level:
                                i.            Initiate work on supranational EMIES by building on past EC experiences, e.g., DR REGIO, the US Innovation System, and available literature,
                              ii.            Identify and map the EU RISs, existing and potential ones, and identify best practices, and potential causes of failures for future policies design and streamlining,
                            iii.            Align, as much as possible, ERA’s and others ongoing programs and project with EMIES especially its three spatial levels, i.e., national, regional and Eu-Med,
  1. On the MPC level:
                                i.            Benchmark the National Innovation Systems (NIS) of the North African countries, and help identify new promising industry/service niches,
                              ii.             Identify R&D priorities, missing policies, and S&T policies/managerial capacity building in coherence with (i) and the new framework,
                            iii.            Accelerate the convergence of MPCs to ERA and the European Higher Education Area, especially the Bologna process, with emphasis on educational and R&D institutional governance and autonomy, e.g., universities,
Phase II (2015-17): North African ISs and EU RISs emergence:
  1. On the EC level:
                                i.            Facilitate the emergence of the identified EU RISs,
                              ii.            Assist in creating the North African IS (NAIS), while consolidating the North African NISs.
                            iii.            Finalise the blue print needed for the launching of EMIES,
  1. On the MPC level:
                                i.            Implement the needed changes to facilitate the emergence of their NISs,
                              ii.            Initiate the needed transformation to adopt the identified industry/services niches,
                            iii.            Actively contribute, with the remaining North African countries and the assistance of EC, to the creation and emergence of the NAIS.
Phase III (2018-20): Viable operation of EMIES:
  1. On the EC level:
                                i.            Progressively launch EMIES,
                              ii.            Evaluate, monitor and adjust the NISs and RISs to better fit EMIES,
                            iii.            Revisit EMIES blue print such as the vision and strategies, along with the related programs and project to sustain the new framework and enhance its viability.
  1. On the MPC level:
                                i.            Run effectively their NISs in coherence with NAIS,
                              ii.            Contribute effectively to NAIS and insure the coherence with EMIES,
                            iii.            Fully engage via their respective NISs and NAIS, and participate in the governing bodies to sustain and enhance the viability of EMIES.
4) The Recommendations:
After a rich and constructive exchange, all the participants of Session 9, agreed to make the following recommendations:
4.1) Most important issues to focus on:
       Innovation in all sectors and themes, such as SHS, is much needed for prosperity and well being,
       Capacity building: new ways of educating towards a non traditional way of thinking,
       Large Euro-Med R&I projects as a means to achieve prosperity via cooperation.
4.2) Main challenges to be addressed:
       Equal partnership and common long-term targets with emphasis on inter/intra-regional cooperation,
       Implication of the private sector and NGOs at all levels and needed activities,
       Suitable and simple governance framework, to facilitate the emergence of the needed synergies and enhance the efficiency of the Euro-Med activities.
4.3) Priorities for action – key next steps:
       Call for the follow-up of the Cairo conference with the involvement of the private sector,
       Harmonize/align the overall legislative framework especially the IPR one,
       Initiate progressively a suitable governance framework and action plan to enhance innovation at the national, regional and Euro-Med levels for the well being of the Euro-Med community and humanity as a whole.
5) References:
[1]   Europe 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM (2010) 2020, Brussels, 3.3.2010,
[2]   What Occupy Wall Street demands of our leaders, The Washington Post,
[3]   Pasimeni, Paolo et al., Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Innovation Space: Some lessons and policy queries, The Concord Seminar, ITPS, Seville, October 2007.
[4]   Moisseron, Jean-Yves, Le partenariat euro-méditerranéen: l’échec d’une ambition régionale. Pesses Universitaires de Grenoble, Grenoble, 2005.
[5]   Ayari, C., Prologue: Réflexions sur le projet d’un “New Deal” Méditerranéen, La Méditerranée pour l’Union Méditerranéenne, Université de Tunis El Manar, Avril 2008.
[6]   A Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean, COM (2011) 200 final, Brussels, 8.3.2011.
[7]   A new response to a changing neighborhood, COM (2011) 303 final, Brussels 25.5.2011.
[9]   Archibugi, D., et al., Is Europe becoming the most dynamic knowledge economy in the world, JCMS 2005, Vol. 43, pp. 433-59