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Research activity focus on challenges is a trend that has been set since 2009 with the publication of the document: “A New Nature of Innovation” of OECD. This document mentions the 4 innovation drivers and an enabler.

The drivers are:

  1. Co-creation of value with customers and involvement of the users’ knowledge;
  2. Global knowledge sourcing and collaborative networks;
  3. Global challenges as innovation drivers;
  4. Public sector challenges as innovation drivers.

The aforementioned enabler is technology.

The third driver: global challenges as a source of innovation, has been considered by the European Union, through the H2020 Programme, and the Spanish Government, through its National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2013-2016, which has very similar goals to the H2020 Programme.

The consideration of this driver implies the need of multiple concurring disciplines to face the increasing complexity of society’s challenges3. Therefore, it demands facilitation and stimulation of authentic collaboration, guided by the will to formulate local responses to global challenges, that impulses the necessary mix of disciplines, knowledge areas, as well as the combination of assets from scientific, industrial, regulatory, and social spheres, among others.

Genuine collaboration is, therefore, what seeks the common good above any other criteria, without conditioning collaboration with participation rules that can reduce the necessary concurrence of the capacities needed to take on the specific challenge, with probabilities of success. The social or global challenge determines the configuration of the partnership in a project and not the pre- established participation rules that mark the existing financing instruments.

Genuine collaboration can thus occur when the “common good” expressed in terms of social and global challenges is the ultimate purpose, while the participation of the agents that provide knowledge for the resolution of social and global challenges are the means by which this collaboration is materialised.

The search for answers to social challenges will have a scientific and technological component in many occasions that must be activated; however, it will not be sufficient to efficiently overcome the problems related to such challenges. The need to consider a systemic and comprehensive focus will force them to favour the concurrence of capacities on many occasions. Capacities that, on the other hand, can only be activated if we consider a fourfold helix (scientific-technological offer, businesses, administration and society) when designing the participation and collaboration between agents, to face these social challenges with guarantees of success.

The consideration of a fourfold helix will further allow to obtain results with a higher guarantee of implementation and resolution of challenges. By facing scientific and technological, regulatory, entrepreneurial or social dimensions concurrently, we can guarantee, in a greater measure, the focus on results through the generation of wealth or social well-being by considering and integrating the complexity of these challenges and their systemic character.

Since 2012, the bodies promoting the Euskampus International Campus of Excellence Project (CEI Euskampus), the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Tecnalia and the DIPC, are collaborating on an ambitious project to unify their scientific and technological capacities to take on social and global challenges that our society is facing since the beginning of the century. The motto of this public-private collaboration, “from the idea to well-being”, demonstrates the focus on sustainable growth and human development as the ultimate goals of the different actions that are being developed in the fields of education, research and transfer to society.

A collaboration that is basically articulated through the Euskampus Knowledge Poles, which are considered as clusters of scientific and technological capacities of the aggregated institutions that are mobilised around strategic commitments formulated on the basis of social and global challenges. The purpose is providing local responses to global challenges. Subsequently, these capacities are activated through the deployment of collaboration initiatives in the fields of training, research and transfer to society. In total, they have identified 11 knowledge poles with the active participation of the UPV/EHU, Tecnalia, DIPC and other institutions participating in the CEI Euskampus Project, like BERCs, CICs and Biohealth Institutes.

In short, an initiative that is based on a rich network of scientific-technical and social-economical agents that are highly connected and act collectively transforming divided or fragmented (ego- systems) into a true ecosystem that values the well-being of the parties as well as the collectivity.

Thus, the commitment and the effort to develop scientific and technological skills from the “Technological desert” of the ’80s, allows the Basque Country to articulate a true ecosystem of science-technology and innovation at the service of the Basque society in first instance, but also contributing to the priority commitments to find solutions with global applications. It is the only way of transforming a local commitment into a global recognition, so the Basque Country becomes a knowledge node to face social and global challenges related to its priority commitments, offering the world solutions in the field of advanced manufacturing, energy, health and the Land.

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