- Research and Innovation Ministers from the 42 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) met for the first time to discuss ways to promote scientific cooperation on climate change, renewable energy and health.
- They endorsed a ministerial declaration that seeks to exploit the potential of research and innovation to increase the resilience of the Euro-Mediterranean region against environmental, food security and socioeconomic challenges, as well as to promote science diplomacy.
Paris, 27 June 2022. The Ministerial Conference on research and innovation (R&I) of the Union for the Mediterranean was held to promote international cooperation on science and knowledge in the region. Under the co-presidency of the European Union, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Jordan, Minister Haifaa Najjar and in the presence of Nasser Kamel, UfM Secretary General, the conference was hosted by Sylvie Retailleau, Minister for Higher Education and Research of France, on behalf of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The conference is the first research and innovation Ministerial meeting under the umbrella of the UfM.
Looking ahead to the ongoing and future challenges of the region, ministers adopted a ministerial declaration that paves the way for further strengthening scientific cooperation, fostering linkages on research, innovation and skills as well as supporting capacity building, coordination and joint actions, including on sustainable development and employability.
Ministers acknowledged three new research and innovation (R&I) roadmaps on climate change, renewable energies, and health. They will act as a catalyst for future cooperation. Swift action is needed and an Implementation Plan, elaborated by the UfM Regional Platform on Research and Innovation, will transform the jointly agreed priorities into specific actions, reviewing its progress while fostering synergies with existing instruments. Ensuring that the agreed roadmaps are implemented is crucial for the desired outcomes in the region, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. The roadmaps aim to engage actors at large in the region (NGOs, scientific institutions, researchers, networks of Universities and citizens, the private sector and decision makers), as well as international organizations, financial institutions and donors.
Minister for Higher Education and Research of France, Sylvie Retailleau, declared that “This very first Research and Innovation Ministers meeting under the umbrella of the UfM comes at a very timely moment. Today, we take political important steps forward in levelling up R&I cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region on climate change, renewable energy and health. This is a very clear message in favour of a R&I cooperation based on common fundamental principles and values in order to support more resilient societies in our shared space .”
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel said,“Today we took another important step in strengthening the strategic partnership between the EU and its partners in the Southern Neighbourhood, that we committed to in the 2021 New Agenda for the Mediterranean and the Global Approach to Research and Innovation. One thing is clear. The future lies in working together, building closer ties and finding innovative solutions to the shared climate, energy and health challenges. This is and will continue to be at the heart of our partnership and supported by Horizon Europe to respond to the three research and innovation roadmaps”.
Acting Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Haifaa Najjar, declared that “Timely action is needed to harness the benefits of research and innovation cooperation in the Mediterranean region and embark on ambitious reforms to sustain our resources and ensure economic growth. I believe that the new research and innovation declaration would back our communities’ efforts and needs in pursuing effective cooperation”.
UfM Secretary General Nasser Kamel declared that: “The scale of the current global challenges and their impact on our fragile regional ecosystem call for us to leverage the potential of research and innovation in finding new solutions to the climate crisis and transforming our energy and health systems. The UfM has always promoted the positive spirit of partnership in scientific cooperation, which is clearly demonstrated by the declaration and the roadmaps on research and innovation endorsed today by all Member States.”
The Ministerial conference reviewed the progress made in regional cooperation on research and innovation since the Euro-Mediterranean Valletta Declaration on ‘Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation through Research and Innovation’, which was issued in 2017. At that time, agreement was reached to prioritise cooperation on blue growth and jobs through the BLUEMED Initiative, which aims at tackling pollution towards a healthy, productive, and resilient Mediterranean Sea and coastal regions. In addition the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), aimed at the achievement of sustainable management of water resources, farming systems and agro-food value chains, and its nexus and migration research that has resulted in a number of collaborative research projects funded by the EU Framework Programme.
During the 2022 Ministerial, the common fundamental values and principles of research cooperation and science diplomacy were recognised, as well as the need to level the playing field and collaborate on the openness of science and data.
The regional dialogue on research and innovation in the Euro-Mediterranean region was integrated into the UfM framework in 2020. The Ministerial declaration is the result of a negotiation process among the 42 UfM Member States.
Examples of the current initiatives and projects
Horizon Europe is the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion. It tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth. The programme facilitates collaboration and strengthens the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies while tackling global challenges. It supports creating and better dispersing of excellent knowledge and technologies. It creates jobs, fully engages the EU’s talent pool, boosts economic growth, promotes industrial competitiveness and optimises investment impact within a strengthened European Research Area.
PRIMA – Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area is a joint programme that is being undertaken in the frame of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. By funding R&I through competitive calls, PRIMA focusses on building research and innovation capacities and developing knowledge and common innovative solutions for agro-food systems, to make them sustainable, and for integrated water provision and management in the Mediterranean area. The aim is to make those systems and that provision and management more climate resilient, efficient, cost-effective, environmentally and socially sustainable, thus contributing to solve water scarcity, food security, nutrition, health, well-being and migration problems upstream.
The BlueMed Initiative, set up in May 2014 in the framework of the European Strategy on Blue Growth, is a political initiative aiming at advancing a shared vision for a more healthy, productive, resilient, better known and valued Mediterranean Sea, promoting the citizens’ social well-being and prosperity, now and for future generations, and boosting economic growth and jobs. In 2021 the new Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda was developed, preparing the path for the implementation of the Mediterranean lighthouse of Horizon Europe Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030, also through a comprehensive mapping of the initiatives to tackle plastic pollution carried out by Mediterranean countries.
The Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change (MedECC) is an open and independent international scientific expert network founded in 2015 and providing information to decision-makers and the general public on the basis of available scientific information and on-going research. MedECC prepares assessments and a comprehensive synthesis of global change knowledge in the Mediterranean region and their risks.
The SFS-MED Platform is a community to leverage the existing knowledge, experience and skills of food systems actors across the Mediterranean region. The SFS-MED Platform is led by: the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), in collaboration with the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), as an affiliated project of the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme.
The BlueSkills project promotes opportunities for “Blue” marine and maritime careers by developing skills, exchanging knowledge and valorising research for more sustainable Mediterranean Sea. Its aim is to develop new curricula and increase employability in the marine and maritime sectors. By supporting the Euro-Mediterranean communities of the Blue Economy stakeholders through higher education, research and innovation, the project enhances the shared knowledge of the Mediterranean Region.
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