ENGAGE.EU R&I strategy

1. Introduction 

This webpage presents the strategy and thematic agenda of ENGAGE.EU R&I as well as summaries of the associated actions plans for ENGAGE.EU R&I, the document can also be downloaded here. The ENGAGE.EU R&I Strategy presents the results of the analysis of existing R&I strategies and action plans of partners and associate partners and explores the potential for sharing and creating synergies between the partners (including associate partners) and with third parties to work on the R&I thematic agenda. The strategy will be interpreted and executed by each partner and associate partner locally, drawing on each other’s ideas, experiences, and mutual support. 

2. Strategy and thematic agenda 

ENGAGE.EU is an alliance with a passion for society and an active engagement in the current and future state of Europe and beyond. ENGAGE.EU aims at providing the new generation of European citizens with the set of skills and competences needed to tackle major societal challenges, through international collaboration and knowledge development. The social sciences are key disciplines for understanding the complex issues we face from current megatrends such as globalization, digitalization, and growing inequality. Strong, international and interdisciplinary research in these areas is imperative to our success in meeting these challenges, and innovation cannot take place without the social sciences. ENGAGE.EU R&I will further strengthen the research and innovation dimension of ENGAGE.EU, ensuring responsible research and innovation and take it to a new level. Responsible research and innovation, peer exchange and openness, excellence and relevance are at the core of ENGAGE.EU R&I. The joint strategy of ENGAGE.EU rests on these: 

Responsible research and innovation: Academic freedom is a prerequisite for everything that the alliance does, and comes with an ethical responsibility and accountability requirement. ENGAGE.EU as a joint European endeavour strongly supports academic freedom and responsibility. Responsible research and innovation require that all researchers within the alliance use appropriate methods to address pertinent research questions, and that this is done in a transparent way. ENGAGE.EU respects the dignity and integrity of people, animals, and the environment and is committed to these values in its research activities. Responsible research and innovation is important for all ENGAGE.EU partner institutions. 

Peer exchange and openness: European solutions need a pan-European approach. Spanning nine different countries and cultures, the alliance benefits from the width of European traditions and the joint strength of core European values. The alliance will work together to strengthen R&I both locally and across the alliance so that we can engage in top quality R&I and provide knowledge and people who can tackle current and future societal challenges. Peer exchange and openness strengthen and ensure quality in research, a sign of quality that spills over to other activities within the alliance. ENGAGE.EU is aware of its responsibility to society for providing the public with unlimited and long-term access to the academic work published by its researchers. ENGAGE. EU encourages its researchers to publish their work on open access platforms.  More generally, within ENGAGE.EU R&I we strive to improve through openness and collaboration with each other, as well as with society. For this to be sustainable, adoption needs to be a gradual, step-by-step process, based on the partners’ extensive knowledge and experience within their fields and disciplines. 

Excellence and relevance: Researchers within ENGAGE.EU maintain an intensive dialogue with the scientific communities they are a part of as well as the world around them, in order to make excellent and relevant contributions to the development of their disciplines. Co-creation is key to delivering research with a high impact that can contribute to tackling major societal challenges. Excellence in research requires solid, responsible, and transparent methodologies and peer discussion to ensure the highest quality, and to contribute to providing the new generation of European citizens with the set of skills and competences needed to tackle major societal challenges. ENGAGE.EU R&I will provide an arena for this peer discussion as well as for showcasing but also strengthening and expanding existing initiatives. ENGAGE.EU acknowledges the challenges in the current assessment of researchers and will strive to contribute to a more responsible assessment of researchers in and beyond the European Union. 

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2.1. ENGAGE.EU R&I Thematic Focus

The thematic focus of Engage R&I highlights what we consider to be the areas where the Engage partner institutions are strategically aligned, and where international collaboration and co-creation of knowledge are critical. Current societal challenges have led the alliance to focus R&I activities within areas such as digitalization, sustainability and climate change, health and wellbeing, diversity and strong institutions.

 Digitalization: The future of societal and political participation, economic prosperity and good work depend on how we make sense of digital technologies and the Internet. ENGAGE.EU aims at strengthening a positive and responsible use of digitalization and technology, including limiting the potential dangers in this field. To be credible, ENGAGE.EU needs to ensure responsible and transparent use of research methods. Understanding the ongoing digital transformation is key to ensure democracy and a well-functioning society. 

Sustainability and climate change: Many systems in place today — related to energy, food, agriculture, economy, education etc. — do not seem to be fully sustainable. What are the obstacles to designing long-term, fully sustainable systems? And how do we overcome them? New knowledge within the social sciences is at the core of ensuring sustainability. 

Health and wellbeing: Health and well-being are important at every stage of one’s life. Health and wellbeing address all major health priorities that a person will face over his or her lifetime: reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health; diseases; universal health coverage; and access for all to safe, effective, and affordable medication and vaccines. 

Diversity: ENGAGE.EU is committed to equal opportunities. Inequality and lack of diversity are increasingly becoming social issues. Social and economic inequalities and disadvantages lead to inefficiencies that may prevent us from tackling societal challenges in a timely fashion. Diversity is thus an important topic to understand within ENGAGE.EU R&I, both as a research topic and as a goal within the alliance. 

Strong institutions: Strong institutions are an essential pillar of modern societies. Reliable institutions are needed to ensure a trustworthy and resilient democracy in the digital age. Strong institutions also account for more equitable and well-informed policies, and they help to ensure transparency, accountability, and good governance in the long run. Capable institutions are essential in delivering public services effectively and building trust among citizens. Solid public financial management and tax administrations are key in achieving sustainable and equitable socio-economic objectives. Various aspects must be taken into account, such as efficient governance structures, functioning legal systems, tax law and many other areas which interact and are a prerequisite of a peaceful living together. 

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The research themes described above will continue to be important within ENGAGE.EU R&I but considering what has happened over the past few years with the war in Ukraine, a world-wide pandemic, and a current energy crisis, it becomes obvious that new and unknown challenges lie ahead. Thus, R&I within ENGAGE.EU needs to be flexible, forward-looking, and inclusive in order to continuously identify and address new, future-oriented topics. 

2.2. ENGAGE R&I Strategic Priorities 

To deliver on the overall goal of the alliance, ENGAGE.EU R&I sees the need to prioritize and focuses its efforts on a few key strategic priorities. This enables the ENGAGE.EU to move forward with a common understanding of direction and increased efficiency. As part of the Engage R&I strategy, the partners aim to meet the knowledge needs of the future with the collective capacity of our institutions. We will do so by focusing on the following key priorities: 

People-centred organizations: The centre of any organizational ecosystem is people, and even more so in a knowledge-generating setting such as higher education. Within the research area, ENGAGE.EU will prioritize young researchers, such as PhD students and early career researchers, and foster diversity, including inclusiveness and gender equality. ENGAGE.EU aims at providing young researchers with the updated skills, facilities/resources, and networks to succeed both as individual researchers and in the joint effort needed to tackle important societal challenges. 

Early career researchers: Actions within ENGAGE.EU R&I will prioritize young researchers, including both PhD students and young researchers at the post-doctoral level and beyond. The course component in a PhD education creates a natural extension of the educational offer of ENGAGE.EU, but PhD and post-doc training goes beyond the course component. Early career scholars will both be equipped to provide new knowledge and research to tackle current and future societal challenges as well as provide the industry and higher education sector with talents. Within higher education it will create a virtuous circle where these talents will equip further talents to deal with these challenges. The professional development of young researchers continues after graduation and provides young researchers with the necessary skills, facilities/resources, and networks to succeed both as individual researchers and in the joint effort needed to tackle important societal challenges. 

 Networks of data driven research: New technologies increase the capacity to deal with large amounts of data and can be used to take better decisions and solve new challenges. There are numerous examples of local initiatives that takes advantage of data and big data methodologies in the social sciences. An aim within ENGAGE R&I is to “create networks of networks” so that these local initiatives can develop into larger networks that are beneficial for the entire alliance. New technologies also come with new risks. Data protection and privacy issues are also therefore at the core of our alliance. The understanding of such risks is an integral part of research within ENGAGE.EU and participants from several partners of the alliance have already started to connect through the ENGAGE event on privacy in digital markets. 

Strong research infrastructure and support: In order to realize the full potential offered by digitalization, data-driven research and open science, solid administrative and technical support need to be in place. Knowledge generation and innovation directly depend on the quality and availability of research infrastructures and support. Strong research infrastructure and support is thus of strategic importance. All partners have a strong focus on Open Science. The ENGAGE.EU alliance promotes mutual learning and exchange. The enhancing of research infrastructure and support of ENGAGE.EU R&I also follows these principles. Note that continued and future research collaborations and facilitation of such should be viewed as part of research support. 

Innovation and regional ecosystems: Excellence and relevance in research and innovation require not only dialogue within the scientific community, but also interaction, discussion and co-creation with regional and national ecosystems. The world demands solutions to complex problems that can only be solved in cooperation by different parties, such as government, companies and knowledge institutions. In this large ecosystem, the university is an important stakeholder. The ENGAGE.EU partners have already positioned themselves as salient and reliable partners in their regional ecosystems, allowing ENGAGE.EU to become THE European University Initiative in business, economics and social sciences fostering economic capability and societal development in Europe. Participation in networks and ecosystems enable learners of all ages to develop new ventures and implement innovative ideas through collaboration and co-operation. The creation of such knowledge-creating teams is an important focus of ENGAGE.EU. 

3. Action plans 

To support excellence in research within ENGAGE.EU R&I, the current H2020-project includes action plans in four areas that will contribute to support and facilitate high quality research and increased societal impact. 

Mannheim brainstorming

ENGAGE.EU R&I action plans: 

1. ENGAGE.EU R&I Plan for Inno-preneurial Ecosystems : This task focuses on strengthening academia-business cooperation, knowledge sharing and technology transfer where ENGAGE.EU members act as driving forces within their respective local inno-preneurial ecosystems. 

2. ENGAGE.EU R&I Talent Development Plan : The goal of the talent development plan is to promote all employees along the line of their individual skills and talents and release their potential with the aim ENGAGE.EU R&I Strategy and Thematic Agenda 6 of maximizing the value they bring to the organisation and the ENGAGE.EU alliance. 

3. ENGAGE.EU R&I Data Management and Open Science Plan: In this task we will develop a common plan for the Alliance Ecosystem as a whole. It will serve as a reference for Institutional Data Management and Open Science Strategies and action plans to be implemented by the individual partners and joint frameworks to be built collectively. 

4. ENGAGE.EU R&I Dissemination and Communication Plan: The aim of this task is to identify current best practices within the alliance, and facilitate and identify measures that can be adopted by each partner to overcome obstacles related to communication and dissemination. The plan guides what must be done in the alliance regarding the internal and external communication process, and dissemination of R&I results as a foundation for their transformation into societal impact. 

4. Concluding remarks This document presents the ENGAGE.EU R&I strategy and thematic agenda. It also describes the process followed in the development of the strategy. The ENGAGE.EU R&I strategy is a strategically important document that sets the stage for the focus of our collaboration within R&I, including, but not limited to, the current project, and the development and implementation of the associated action plans as well as new project proposal.

This publication has been produced by ENGAGE.EU R&I. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission or the European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Commission nor REA can be held responsible for them. ENGAGE.EU R&I does not accept responsibility for loss caused to any person who acts, or re-frains from acting, in reliance on the material in this publication, whether such loss is caused by negligence or otherwise.


First published March 2024 Copyright © 2024 by ENGAGE.EU. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. 

Contact: Coordinator University of Mannheim Prof. Dr. Thomas Fetzer engage@uni-mannheim.de