The Knowledge Platform with the working title of 'ERA-volution' is a community space for dialogue on current EU initiatives between policy makers and stakeholders in Slovenia in the fields of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. In this way, we aim to strengthen the co-design and joint implementation of policies in these areas, to support cooperation of Slovenian stakeholders in EU initiatives, and effectively promote synergies between the fields.
The Knowledge Platform was created in response to the need for regular dialogue between policy-makers and stakeholders in the fields of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, and to strengthen synergies between these areas. We have built the initiative on the outcomes of our efforts during Slovenia's Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2021, since promoting synergies between Higher Education, Research and Innovation in the EU was one of the priorities in our EU Presidency project. The Knowledge Platform is conceived as a community in the form of:
- Regular meetings/consultations (virtual or in-person), which take place 4 times a year.
- A digital platform offering relevant information (EU acts in the fields of higher education, research and innovation, registration, recordings of meetings, space for sharing good practices) and direct communication with stakeholders. This Digital Knowledge Platform is being developed.
The establishment of the Knowledge Platform is a social innovation that aims to improve governance through a participatory process. It facilitates the flow of information between policy makers and a wider range of stakeholders on current initiatives at the EU level and the exchange of views and positions on these initiatives. The previous in an effort to maximise the opportunities offered by EU actions to Slovenian organisations, to keep them up-to-date on EU initiatives and actions and to involve them to the greatest extent possible. The Knowledge Platform gives stakeholders a voice that is heard and taken into account when policy-makers prepare national positions on EU initiatives.
The Knowledge Platform has benefited both policy-makers and stakeholders:
- The stakeholders have been promptly informed on all key current initiatives of the EU in the areas of Higher Education, Research and Innovation and have had the opportunity to inform the positions and decisions taken at the government level in regard to these EU initiatives.
- Policy-makers have directly used the feedback from the stakeholders to prepare national responses or positions on current EU initiatives and acts.
- The Knowledge Platform is also a useful tool for implementing some of the goals of our national strategies in the fields of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
- With the help of the Knowledge Platform we are strengthening cooperation between the Higher Education Directorate and the Science Directorate within the Ministry of Education Science and Sport.
- We are also strengthening the cooperation with the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia to the Council of the EU (Permanent Representation).
Regular Knowledge Platform meetings with stakeholders are planned four times a year (one consultation per quarter), either virtually or in person. The topics discussed are those that are relevant for the policy-makers and stakeholders from all three areas. The choice of topics is informed by the stakeholders and the next Knowledge Platform Consultation, the topics of the past Consultations have been:
- 1st Knowledge Platform Consultation – 21 March 2022 – Strengthening the links between higher education and research in the European context
- 2nd Knowledge Platform Consultation – “ERAvolution” – 16 June 2022 – Current priorities of the European Research Area (ERA)
- 3rd Knowledge Platform Consultation – “Innovation Ecosystem: from Silos to Collaboration” – 22 September 2022 – New European Innovation Agenda and strengthening of the Slovenian Innovation Ecosystem
In the future the main short-term plan is to develop the Digital Knowledge Platform which will offer relevant information and enable direct communication with stakeholders. We wish to develop the Digital Knowledge Platform together with stakeholders in order to make it useful and user-friendly for all involved – stakeholders and policy-makers. We intend to consult with our relevant stakeholders on what features they would find most useful in the Digital Knowledge Platform.
At the present we do not intend to formalize the Knowledge Platform. The Directorate for Higher Education and the Directorate for Science at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport share the lead role in organising events and managing the initiative. This alternation of roles ensures a real sense of ownership of the initiative in both areas and transcends the typical hierarchical management structure. It is about community leadership, co-creation and co-ownership, and those participating consider that the establishment of a formal structure is not necessary at this stage, as all key decisions are taken in accordance with the principle of a participatory approach. The work could be formalised when and if this would bring added value.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The Knowledge Platform is a social innovation that aims to establish an open space for regular dialogue with stakeholders on topical issues and initiatives at the EU level which will fuel further development of the Slovenian Higher Education, Research and Innovation. The initiative differs from similar mechanisms at the national level because it goes beyond one-way transfer of information/opinion, and strives for an active co-design of the Slovenian positions on EU-level initiatives, i.e. participatory co-design of policies.
The initiative is innovative on both levels:
- At the Knowledge Platform level: we are building the initiative together with stakeholders.
- At the Public Administration level: the Directorate for Higher Education and the Directorate for Science share the lead role in organising events and managing the initiative. The alternation of the lead roles ensures a real sense of ownership of the initiative in both areas.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The different activities of the Knowledge Platform are currently in different innovation stages:
- The activity of regular Knowledge Platform meetings/consultations (virtual or physical), which take place 4 times a year is currently in implementation and evaluation stage. We have already organised 3 consultations of the Knowledge Platform this year and we constantly have follow-up evaluation meetings, enabling constant improvements.
- The activity of establishing a Digital Knowledge Platform is currently in the stage of designing solutions and developing proposals. The initial idea for the Digital Knowledge Platform is to offer relevant information (EU acts in the fields of higher education, research and innovation, registration, recordings of consultations of the Knowledge Platform, space for sharing good practices) and enable direct communication between policy makers and stakeholders.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The Knowledge Platform is a joint initiative of different divisions within the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Important institutional partners also include the Slovenian Permanent Representation in Brussels, and EIT Climate-KIC which is facilitating further development of the initiative. We also see the stakeholders of the Knowledge Platform as partners, not only as users, because we are actively involving them in the design of the Knowledge Platform.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The main users of the Knowledge Platform are the stakeholders from the so-called Knowledge Triangle, i.e. from the areas of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, (Higher Education Institutions, Research Performing Organisations and Businesses). On the other side the users are also government officials or policy-makers who use the dialogue with the stakeholders to inform their decisions.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The Knowledge Platform has:
- Strengthened dialogue between policy-makers and stakeholders (2 virtual and 1 in-person consultation with around 170 participants)
- Informed the preparation national responses/positions on the following EU initiatives and acts:
- European Universities initiative;
- Joint European Degree initiative;
- Legal status of European Universities;
- Council conclusions on a European strategy empowering higher education institutions for the future of Europe;
- Council Recommendation on building bridges for effective European higher education cooperation;
- Participation of Slovenia in 20 ERA actions;
- Empowering higher education institutions (ERA Action 13);
- Bringing science closer to citizens (ERA Action 14);
- (Draft) Council Conclusions on the New European Innovation Agenda:
- Contributed to the implementation of national strategies in the fields of higher education, research and innovation.
- Facilitated breaking down departmental silos.
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge that we have encountered is connected with the Digital Knowledge Platform that we aim to establish. It is clear that if we wish to make the Digital Knowledge Platform useful it needs to be responsive and regularly updated. For this we need sufficient human resources to manage it, which we currently do not have. We would need to find the human resources either within the Ministry or externally. Another challenge is how to attract and involve the stakeholders more actively in the building of the Knowledge Platform. We aim to try out different strategies (giving the stakeholders a more prominent role in organising the events, co-designing the Digital Knowledge Platform, etc.)
Conditions for Success
Since this is a social innovation, and one based on co-design and a participatory approach, the most crucial conditions for success are personal values and motivation of those involved in the initiative, but also human and financial resources. Only sufficient human and financial resources allocated to the initiative can ensure that all those involved remain highly motivated. One additional condition for success is staying true to the core values of the Knowledge Platform: building trust between policy-makers and stakeholders with honesty, dialogue, transparency and flexibility. The leadership and guidance of the Knowledge Platform is also crucial for its success, and the initiative has had strong support from the top leadership team of the Ministry. However, the Knowledge Platform team operates in line with participatory leadership approach which depends a lot on personal values and motivation of all involved.
This is a new innovation and has not been replicated yet. If it proves successful it could be replicated in practically all areas of public administration.
An important lesson learned was that in-person events of the Knowledge Platform have quite a different dynamic than online events (the first two events were held online, the third one took place in person). Participants of the in-person event were highly engaged, and the main lesson learned is that we need to allocate more time for discussions with the participants in the future. Networking for promoting synergies between the stakeholders could also be further promoted in the events. We have also learned that it is important to keep the Knowledge Platform flexible and open to improvements and participation of new stakeholders at all times. In order to further develop the initiative, we are cooperating with EIT Climate KIC within the Deep Demonstration Project in Slovenia.
The Knowledge Platform has been shortlisted for the “Premik naprej 2022” Award for the best innovation in Public Administration in Slovenia in 2022.
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
22 November 2023