1) MIRRIS publishes its mid-term results on New Member States gap in accessing EU R&I funds
The first interim results of MIRRIS have been published, based on the inputs collected in 2014 through an extensive policy dialogues exercise involving selected national stakeholders in each of the EU 13 Member States. About 15-20 participants – among decision-makers, implementation institutions and supporting structures – where invited to reflect on which barriers and other relevant factors would affect each country’s participation to FP7/Horizon 2020. These conclusions are important not only for EU13 Member States, but for anyone involved in planning, funding, or supporting research in his-own country and interested in analyzing and understanding which are the underlying causes and factors underpinning success in EU funded programmes.

From single country profiles and statistics analysed, it is evident that all EU 13 Member States are significantly lagging behind compared with EU15 Member States. Moreover, the participation to FP7 when providing a benchmark to previous FP5 and FP6 programmes significantly declined. Disparities appear to be connected with a combination of barriers of different nature, such as structural and local assets, political and administrative national arrangements, and perception/motivational issues.

Low economic reward and incentives to researchers, lack of attractiveness of FP7 funding in comparison to ERDF funding or other national/bilateral schemes, lack of efficient infrastructures and human resources to support potential applicants at the national and organizational levels, or, simply, perceived distance with the setting agenda and strategic priorities set in EU R&D calls, are some amongst the many factors analysed in the MIRRIS Policy Brief. Country-specific fact-sheets complete the analysis, as an annex to the main report, highlighting challenges and recommendations for each of the 13 new Member States.

2)  MIRRIS Policy Dialogues, Round 1: what we achieved

The MIRRIS policy dialogue approach, in its first 18 months of running, has proved its effectiveness in engaging relevant national stakeholders and gathering significant input on all aspects affecting each country’s participation. The 1st cycle of MIRRIS policy dialogues mobilised more than 200 stakeholders covering decision makers, implementation institutions and operational structures. Input materials, provided by MIRRIS as background information for the policy dialogue, were found very valuable by the participants and were further distributed to National Research Councils and other stakeholders by the participants themselves to speed up the reform process and gain leverage from the analysis conducted by the MIRRIS Consortium. This was particularly highlighted in the case of Croatia and Malta. MIRRIS was also invited by key national stakeholders in Czech Republic and Estonia to participate in their national events as key note speakers to present the results of the analysis and the dialogues.

In addition to this, together with the European Commission DG Research and Innovation unite responsible for Reflective Societies, MIRRIS Consortium has organised the workshop  “European Research Funding in the post-2004 Member States.” More than 40 participants attended the event, namely representatives of EU 13 Member States and EU candidate countries together with Heads of Unit and policy officers of the European Commission. EU candidate countries are expressing a high level of interest in MIRRIS as they found the approach of great value to start building capacity. The concern of these countries relates to the fact that what the EU 13 Member States are facing today may become an even bigger challenge for them in the future. For that reason, the MIRRIS initiative is perceived as a practice that can help accelerate the catching up process, anticipate solutions and avoid re-inventing the wheel when faced with similar challenges.

Due to the impact achieved, MIRRIS has established a close cooperation with the "Stairway to Excellence" Project (S2E), implemented by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) on behalf of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional Policy (DG Regio). The comparison of results between FP6 and FP7 demonstrates how new member states were not able to build on their previous involvement to consolidate their presence and how “excellence” was not represented.

The first round of policy dialogue made evident a common challenge related to the “mishandling” of the “key participation factors” in designing, organizing and implementing support and a lack of strategic vision (value for money no clearly identified). Participation to EU R&D programmes are mostly approached as an attempt to mitigate impact of budget constraints, independently from the actual potential for being funded (and this generates frustrations and complains among the ones who have been told to participate even if they had no chance to compete).