The WAITRO Capacity Development program aims to strengthen the capacity of individuals and institutions as well as enabling its members to be more responsive to global challenges and market needs. Competence in leadership, know-how, and advocacy is indispensable for RTOs to master the ever-changing conditions of conducting research and development. This is why, in 2020, WAITRO developed the Capacity Development Workshop Strengthening International Collaborations within the Horizon Framework.
We were able to welcome over 40 researchers from 20 member organizations from all over the world. Originally, it was planned to host the event in person in Barcelona, but that was not possible due to COVID-19, so the date and place of the workshop was changed to an online format. This reduced the potential for interaction created by putting everyone in the same room, but had the huge advantage of enabling us to admit more participants.
This was the first online workshop of such a size hosted by WAITRO and it received very positive feedback, which is why the WAITRO Secretariat decided to expand its online services and offer more members the opportunity to actively participate in WAITRO activities, independent of where they are.
The three days’ workshop was designed to enable WAITRO members to participate in international research collaborations, in particular in the Horizon framework and to prepare WAITRO members for the shift from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe. The participants were split into two groups to better cater to their different experience levels. While some WAITRO members already had extensive experience participating in Horizon, for others this was a new landscape. Hence, we offered one workshop for beginners entitled ‘Introduction to International Collaborations and Horizon Europe’ and one for advanced and experienced proposal writers on ‘Advanced Proposal Writing for Horizon Projects’.
We were able to win extremely experienced trainers for the different parts of the workshop. Amro Satti, from LEITAT in Spain, led the workshop for the advanced group, and Alexandra May Hyldgaard, from the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), held two introductory workshops for the beginners group, which was split into two to account for the twelve different time zones of the global participants that extended from Thailand through Kenya to Colombia.
Additionally, Séan McCarthy, renowned European research strategy and implementation specialist with vast experience in all aspects of European research, kicked off the workshop with presentations and follow up discussions on “Getting Ready for Horizon Europe” as well as “How to Write a Competitive Proposal for Horizon 2020. The goal was to prepare both groups for the following hands-on sessions and more importantly for the upcoming framework change from Horizon 2020 to Horizon Europe.
To give the participants an immediate opportunity to put their learned skills into practice, a matchmaking event took place on the last day. Here, the WAITRO Secretariat closely collaborated with the liaison of the Regional Focal Point Europe, Laia Piñol. She reached out to all European WAITRO members to establish a “WAITRO Green Deal Core Group”. European WAITRO Members who were looking into leading a proposal under the last Horizon 2020 call, the Green Deal, decided on seven topics for which they would lead a matchmaking session on the last day of the Capacity Development workshop.
This event was open to all WAITRO members and about 100 researchers and staff from WAITRO member organizations participated, including all workshop participants. Unfortunately, no consortium was formed after the matchmaking sessions this time around, however the participants provided the Secretariat with very positive feedback, which is why in 2021 the Secretariat is planning to continue with more matchmaking sessions and improved tools (especially SAIRA 2.0) to facilitate WAITRO members’ participation in Horizon Europe. Using the feedback from this past event to their concepts will help more WAITRO-Horizon consortia to be formed and successfully apply for calls under the new EU research framework in the future.