Professor, the University of Gdańsk is implementing the SEA-EU and reSEArch-EU projects. As a coordinator of the reSEArch-EU project, I would like to ask about the main objectives of the reSEArch-EU project, but also about the links between the two projects?

The reSEArch-EU project – support for research and innovation of European Universities, implemented under the Horizon 2020 programme, is one of the key elements of building the European SEA-EU University. The idea of a competition to support these activities was initiated by the European Commission in 2020 as an additional funding path for the first university alliances established under the Erasmus+ programme. Let’s recall that the University of Gdańsk was among the first laureates of the new European Union programme, the guiding principle of which is greater integration and cooperation of universities in Europe in order to achieve a greater critical mass of research and innovation, enhance their social impact, build joint curricula, and increase mobility but also to compete better with strong universities from North America, Great Britain, Asia and Oceania.

Realising the scale and quality of contemporary challenges, the decision was made to strengthen the alliances with additional funds. It was also a response to the appeal of universities, which signalled the need for further support for the emerging European Universities. I intentionally call them alliances, not consortia, to distinguish them from typical project consortia. We want something more – a real scientific and educational community, i.e. a shared university. This is where the scale of the challenges and the need to finance them come from. It is enough to mention the tasks related to the green or digital transformation of universities, to a response to climate change, to the dynamic development of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, and thus, the need to acquire new skills and competences, build new research agendas that respond to the challenges of the modern world or the assumptions of the European Green Deal. The flagship challenge for our alliance is, for example, the involvement in the European mission “healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters”. But not only, because each of them is also important for our university, such as smart cities or cancer research. All this requires coordinated cooperation, shared visions and strategies within alliances in order to be able to integrate the potential of the SEA-EU universities and use the synergy and scale effect for the benefit of society.

How does the reSEArch-EU project fit in with the university’s third mission aimed at, inter alia, strengthening the cooperation of the University of Gdańsk with the social and economic environment?

As part of reSEArch-EU, we strive to transform our universities so that they become more resistant to contemporary crises and challenges, and that they become an initiator of changes, a true anchor of innovativeness in our regions. We’re working, among other things, to achieve these goals and to make them reflected in all components of the university’s mission: education, research and innovation, as well as relations with the socio-economic environment. It’s worth emphasising that almost all activities are focused on the exchange of experiences, sharing knowledge as well as infrastructure, searching for new cooperation opportunities, new research niches and common specialisations, strengthening human and social capital, developing innovation and even greater openness to the environment, i.e. building open science. We are focusing on developing a long-term vision, not on ad hoc activities, looking for complementarity and opportunities for new and ground-breaking research and innovation.

The project covers a series of activities grouped into appropriate work packages. It’s impossible to list all the tasks, but let me highlight a few of them, which, in my opinion, bring additional value to our University. In reSEArch-EU, the so-called Antifragility Think Tank was created. It is a body of experts that will work on a catalogue of future challenges, in particular those related to green and digital transformation. We want to build different scenarios for the future for our alliance, among other things, in order to better respond to future crises, such as the current pandemic, which will unfortunately certainly arise. Our university is also responsible for the creation of SEA-INNOVATE HUB and Spin-Off Competence Lab. We strive to better integrate the university’s entrepreneurial potential, strengthen the culture of innovation and build new business partnerships. In the future, we want to cooperate with companies from Croatia, Spain, Malta, France, Germany, using the potential and contacts of our partners from the SEA-EU. What is especially dear to me, we intend to create the so-called Marine Science Shop.

What is Marine Science Shop?

It is a unit that will connect residents, NGOs from our region with researchers, PhD students and students in order to jointly solve specific problems. The essence of this project is to involve citizens in the scientific process at every stage and to break the traditional understanding of the university-environment relationship. In this case, the process of the flow of knowledge, experience and competences is two-way and is of equal importance. Therefore, we want to create an additional platform connecting citizens with science. We will also strengthen the policy of open and accessible science. Many activities will take place in this area, for example, Ambassadors of Open Science will be appointed to promote this idea. And finally, a research plan for the SEA-EU will be created, closely related to the most important contemporary societal challenges. A number of workshops will be held that will accompany various events and that will support the university academic staff. All the tasks are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal policy.

What most important benefits can we derive from the implementation of this type of projects?

I’d like the awareness of this great opportunity, which the SEA-EU alliance is for us, to increase at our University, both among the academic staff, post graduate students, students, but also the administrative staff, for whom it is also a huge challenge and a chance to draw experience and get to know best practices. The rector’s team strives to ensure that our academic community develops on the basis of these common European goals and that it becomes even better. This is an opportunity for the development and promotion of the University of Gdańsk not only in Europe, but also globally. Therefore, also apart from these projects, we are implementing a modern vision of the University. Establishing the Centre for Sustainable Development of the University of Gdańsk is an important element in creating a modern and socially responsible university.