Kristi Kerge

Rector’s Office members met with EU research policymakers in Brussels

Members of the university’s Rector’s Office were in Brussels on 7 and 8 February to get an overview of the European Union’s research and higher education policy trends of the near future, convey our expectations to policymakers on funding measures for universities, and present the University of Tartu as a strong European research university.

Rector Toomas Asser said that as the European Union (EU) will be undergoing various changes soon, it is essential for the university to be aware of the upcoming changes and the opportunities to be involved in the process. “Preparations for the next EU budget period and the choice of priority issues will depend on the new composition of the European Parliament. For universities, it is important that research, innovation and higher education are at the centre of the European Parliament election debates. It is well known that the EU budget is under great pressure, so we must ensure that the budgets for the Horizon and Erasmus programmes, which concern universities, are not overshadowed by other essential investments, such as in the green and digital transition, security and aid for Ukraine,” Asser said.

During the visit, the Rector’s Office members met with Maria Leptini, President of the European Research Council (ERC), Maive Rute, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, among others. At the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Estonia, they met with Ambassador Aivo Orav, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the EU, Science Advisor Heidi Paju and Education and Youth Advisor Anu Peljo, the Permanent Representatives of the Ministry of Education and Research to the European Union, and Kristel Oitmaa and Carmen Kivistik, representatives of the Estonian Research Council in Brussels.

The Rector’s Office members also visited The Guild network of European research-intensive universities, of which the University of Tartu is a founding member. Also, Claire Morel, Head of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Unit in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, and Thierry Devars, an external expert on the evaluation of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie action, were present the meeting. Stijn Delauré, a representative of Belgium, currently holding the EU presidency, outlined the presidency’s main research and innovation policy areas. One of these is the ex-post evaluation of the previous Horizon 2020 framework programme, which allows the EU member states to draw conclusions and serves as a basis for preparing the next programme.

The meetings gave an overview of the main trends in European research and higher education policies. As discussions on the terms of the new framework programmes are underway, it is now the right time for countries and university networks to provide feedback. As a new issue, the European Commission is developing recommendations on research security as part of the economic security package.

At the end of the visit, members of the Rector’s Office participated in the seminar “Towards a Digital Twin for Biodiversity” at Estonia’s Representation to the EU, where a “Teaming for Excellence” project under the Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation was presented. The project is led by the University of Tartu, with Chalmers University of Technology, the Max Planck Institute and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center as partners.

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