Systemic Approach & Form

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Why should SRIA pursue a systemic approach? | Which principles should be considered when establishing a SRIA?

The transition of European society and economy towards the SDGs, requires enhanced policy orchestration, novel forms of R&I governance and R&I instruments. In this context, partnerships should contribute to the wider societal transformation and, more specifically, the overall objectives of Horizon Europe. In order to do so, the SRIA of a partnership should take a systemic approach in achieving its objectives.

The expectation that partnerships take a systemic approach implies that they should not be considered as stand-alone initiatives, but should drive changes through:

  1. Large-scale directionality and impact orientation
    A SRIA should be developed with a main pathway to impact in mind and should allow to develop more practical action plans, in the form of a roadmap or an annual work plan, which are then set out accordingly.

    The SRIA should define priorities that need to be addressed in order to achieve the general and specific objectives, and that can be transformed into concrete actions. A well-developed logic framework with concrete and measurable objectives and targets reflected in a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and resources that match these objectives. The definition of a logic framework while ensuring measurability of targets is key to providing clear impact orientation of the partnership from the beginning. It helps to prioritize choices that have to be made and allows for better monitoring of progress. It may also help to identify opportunities for collaboration with other partnerships and EU initiatives, and synergies with other regional, national or European Programmes.

  2. Flexibility in implementation and activities beyond joint calls
    A SRIA should foresee some flexibility in its modes of implementation, i.e. the SRIA is not an action plan. The SRIA should serve to give guidance without pre-determining specific actions in order to be able to take into account changing environments and to adjust to changing policy, societal and/or market needs, or scientific advances. Flexibility in the SRIA allows the partnership to adjust and/or specify actions along the way, while being precise enough to detail annual or bi-annual work plans. Therefore, a partnership should also agree upon an appropriate timing to review and renew the SRIA at the start of the partnership, as this helps to improve agility and flexibility.

    Beyond the scope of funding trans-national calls for R&I a SRIA could also outline additional joint actions that facilitate the realization of these objectives, supports capacity building, up-take of results, and thus achieve a close nexus to social and economic impact.

  3. Synergies and complementarities between related activities at EU, national and regional level
    A key element of a partnership’s systemic approach is its contextualization and consideration of synergies and complementarities between related activities at EU, national, and regional levels. The SRIA should identify and elaborate on such synergies and potential opportunities for collaboration with other initiatives. The definition of key strategic and operational objectives in the SRIA, along with a well-developed logic framework and KPIs, may facilitate the identification and elaboration.

  4. Better demand articulation
    A SRIA should delineate key stakeholders relevant for pursuing its objectives and lay out means by which these stakeholders are being addressed and engaged in the development process of the SRIA and throughout the operation of the partnership.

    A SRIA should consider and be guided by high-level policy priorities and the respective research and innovation needs of the key stakeholders and end-users. Developing a SRIA does not mean to develop an agenda “for” certain groups, but rather “with” them through a process of Co-Creation. Extensive stakeholder consultation processes or co-design activities as part of the SRIA development process can help to ensure that the SRIA has a wider perspective than those of Members only and that more attention is being paid to the provision of solutions and uptake of results.

  5. Anticipating changing needs and enhanced capacity to adapt/steer R&I strategies to those
    In order to be able to anticipate changing needs and steer accordingly, a SRIA should include appropriate approaches for monitoring and assessing progress its towards strategic objectives. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should allow to understand the partnerships strategic challenges from the perspective of the management, decision makers and societal stakeholders and to justify support for the partnership (see also the section on large-scale directionality and impact orientation). It is also important to link KPIs closely to EU policy objectives and enable international benchmarking.

All these aspects are fundamental for a strategic approach to research and innovation highlighting the pathway to impact of the partnership.

What form can a SRIA take? | Is there a template to follow?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ SRIA or a template to follow, as the strategic approach to research and innovation of a partnership needs to reflect its mission and vision and its approach to define and pursue its pathway to impact. Different partnerships may adopt different approaches to set out their SRIAs, depending on the specific needs in the field and the stakeholders concerned. In some cases, a SRIA may need to refer to a set of technological challenges or regulatory issues that need to be resolved by a partnership and its industrial and public partners, during its operation. In other cases, a partnership may need to focus more on key needs and the interaction between actors from public policy, research and innovation communities, and end-users around jointly defined challenges.

What SRIAs need to have in common, is a sufficient detailed and distinct level of contents, that allows establishing annual and multi-annual workplans based upon the prioritized lines of actions. Therefore, SRIA development needs to follow a systemic approach (see section above). Horizon Europe insists on openness and inclusiveness in R&I agenda-setting throughout the lifetime of the partnership and also, active and early involvement of Member States. The main expectations are a better alignment of R&I agendas to societal needs, to respond more effectively to SDGs, and the creation of more favorable conditions for promoting take-up and adoption.

What are the functions of SRIA for different actors?

The SRIA is a key document of the partnership, which provides guidance for those in charge of designing and implementing the partnership and information for all actors interested or potentially affected with the operation of the partnership. When establishing the partnership proposal, among others, the following group of actors could be considered as target groups of the partnership’s SRIA:

The research and innovation communities of the partnership

The public and private research actors (including actors such as public authorities, NGOs, civic organizations that pursue research and/or are have an interest in research results) active in the areas of operation of the partnership, are a key target group of the SRIA. To the research and innovation communities, the SRIA should provide an overview on key topics, measures and instruments being developed, and their role within the partnership. The research and innovation community should also be involved in the process of setting up the SRIA (see section on systemic approach).

Policy Makers and national decision-making bodies

Member States, associated countries and relevant regions should be considered in the early development process of a SRIA and in the communication and outreach activities of a partnership to ensure that relevant stakeholders from all countries are made aware of the opportunities from an early stage of strategy development. By reaching out to policy makers and national decision-making bodies, a SRIA can inform national and regional policymakers and actively contribute to a better alignment of policy making processes and increase synergies.

Operational Management of the partnerships

For the management authorities of the partnership, the SRIA is the main source of information for prioritization of planned activities and support in making choices upon concrete implementation measures. The SRIA can also provide a reference framework for a monitoring and evaluation system.

Other Partnerships

To other partnerships a SRIA provides a valuable source of information for their own planning. A SRIA is the starting point for the identification of synergies between partnerships and planning of transversal actions across partnerships.

What elements should a SRIA contain?

There is no universally applicable template for a SRIA, since the SRIA is a strategic document elaborating on a partnership’s specific vision, mission, and approach to achieve impact. As the SRIA is intended to provide the baseline for the implementation of annual work plans, the following elements could serve as constituent parts of a SRIA:

Describing a partnership’s ambition: Vision & Mission

A vision statement is a statement describing the overarching aspiration of a partnership, of what it hopes to achieve or to become. Vision statements do not provide specific targets, but they provide a broad description of the values and ambitions that a partnership aims to provide. Visions are a visual impact of what a partnership is trying to produce.

For partnership members and contributors, the vision statement should inspire people and motivate them to get involved in the partnership. Vision statements should be clear and concise, not longer than a short paragraph.

In the process of defining a partnership, developing a vision statement can be an inspiring starting point to develop concrete objectives and actions of a partnership.

A mission statement describes what a partnership is about to do in its operations to achieve the vision. Vision and mission must support each other, but the mission statement is more specific. It defines the main principles how the partnership is going to contribute to achieving the mission and in which areas the partnership sets its operations.

Describing intervention logic – objectives and expected pathways to impacts

Vision and mission statements can provide the main guiding principles for developing concrete objectives and options for policy responses of a partnership. In its SRIA, a partnership should provide a set of objectives that link the analysis of the problem(s) it is about to tackle (and the framework conditions driving it) to the prioritized options for partnership responses.

A clear and concrete definition of objectives sets the level of policy ambitions and allows to plan the yardsticks against which policy options are compared and determine the criteria for monitoring and evaluating the achievements of an implemented policy is determined (see Better Regulation Guidelines).

To define a SRIA, one could think of delineating a roadmap of intended outcomes or a programme theory, describing how you get where you want to go. It should thereby reflect upon the drivers and barriers interacting with the actions of the partnership. It should also provide the basis for an agreement (buy-in) of all partners about what needs to happen and who needs to be involved in it.

To develop a programme theory, a number of programming options exist. An overview on options on how to design an intervention logic can be found here.

Priority areas and instruments

A SRIA should define key priority areas, i.e. the main thematic areas it is about to address. These can take various forms and can be defined in terms of key challenges to be tackled, research needs, or research questions etc. For each thematic area a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda could lay out for example:

  • Why is the area important?
  • Which specific challenges/sub-questions need to be dealt with?
  • How the area is going to be addressed (i.e. which instruments are being used?)?
  • Who needs to be involved? Estimated timeline and resources
  • What the main benefits/results are expected from tackling this area?

Measuring progress against intended impacts

A SRIA should lay out its approach towards measuring its outcomes and impacts. Deriving well-developed, measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) from the partnership’s programme theory and intended impact pathways is key towards measuring progress against goals in a defined timeframe. KPIs should be defines using SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Based on the definition of impact pathways and KPIs, the SRIA could also lay out a monitoring and evaluation framework for the partnership, providing a reference for the future operationalization of its monitoring system.