- The Union for the Mediterranean launches a new initiative with the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), for universities, research centres and policymakers to share best practices and boost career opportunities in the Mediterranean region.
- The new initiative seeks to improve the nexus between research, innovation and employability as key tools for relaunching sustainable and resilient economies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis..
5 and 19 May 2020. Despite young people in the Southern Mediterranean being the most educated generation ever, graduates in the region still experience the highest level of unemployment, at 25% according to the United Nations Development Programme. To help galvanise innovation in the region, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), with the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), is launching an initiative for universities, research centres and policymakers to share best practices in order to boost the career opportunities of researchers and students.
To kick-off the initiative, two steering committee meetings took place on 5 and 19 May to collect examples of best practices to improve the employability of students and prepare the economy for digitalisation. In the framework of the initiative, two pilot national training sessions (in Tunisia and Jordan) focusing on how to implement innovation and employability tools will also be carried out. This year, a regional seminar will take place, where high-level stakeholders from the Euro-Mediterranean region will be invited to exchange on best practices and network in order to inspire next steps.
In the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, the first UfM digital innovation-employability nexus meeting entitled, How to promote employability and digitalisation? was held online on 5 May 2020 and enjoyed the participation of international organisations, regional partners, innovation initiatives, university networks, and higher education institutions. The UfM Secretary General, Nasser Kamel, urged the participants to work closely together: “This global crisis will take a huge toll on our region, but this is a time for renewed efforts and now more than ever we need to work together and be creative in addressing these new challenges”.
The second meeting on 19 May under the title How to promote entrepreneurship and start-up creation in Research and Innovation focused on how to incentivise entrepreneurship and start-up creation, by exploring how to leverage existing policy tools and best practices and discussing how to create business opportunities out of challenges to benefit society. Itaf Ben Abdallah, Senior Advisor for Higher Education and Research, said “Universities, research centres and the private sector need to create new partnerships promoting entrepreneurship and digital innovation to ensure a sustainable economic recovery in the Mediterranean.”
Building on the contributions received from international organisations, development banks, innovation centres, universities and other stakeholders, the UfM Secretariat is currently developing new trainings and organising a regional seminar. According to Giuseppe Provenzano, UfM Expert for Research and Innovation, “Sharing the best practices that combine educational and research needs with the requirements of business is a way to ensure that the economic growth of the region will be based more and more on its best and reliable asset: its youth.”
Through an initial digital consultation and the sessions of the steering committee, more than 120 initiatives on innovation and employability were identified in the region, contributing to an initial mapping of ongoing actions supporting the careers of Mediterranean students and researchers. However, the need to increase communication flows and identify space for synergies remains more important than ever in order to reconstruct innovative and resilient economies in the Mediterranean, improve the employability of students and researchers, connect innovation to business, and build more synergies between academia and the private sector.