Public funding for research in Albanian Universities is virtually inexistent. The Ministry of Education and Sports has been paying into European Research Funds and is keen to see Albanian research groups win more research funding from these sources. However, the participation of Albanian research groups in Calls for Proposals has been low. Less research money flows from Brussels to Albanian researchers than the Albanian Government has contributed to them. In fact, Albania has qualified for a rebate.
The National Contact Point for IT in the Horizon 2020 Programme identified the following constraints of Albanian research groups to be successful with accessing international research funds: (i) a lack of a critical mass of researchers (i.e. quantitative and qualitative); (ii) lack of knowledge regarding available EU funded research schemes and a lack of awareness when Calls for Proposals are published; (iii) lack of contacts with other European research groups, which is essential for joining consortia to apply for research funding. Comparative advantages of Albanian research include low cost of human resources in research, and specific knowledge about the region (as required by particular research topics).
PERFORM started a dialogue and exchange with two researchers (social sciences & IT) who proposed the idea of creating a collaboration platform that will facilitate and contribute to increased visibility, awareness and capacities of Albanian researchers in competing for international research funding programmes, particularly those offered by the EU. In June 2016, the Collaborative Online and Offline Research Platform – COORP was born. Its first result was bringing together 13 Albanian universities (public and non-public) into a consortium.
PERFORM is supporting the activity agenda of COORP by providing close guidance during the planning phase of these activities, liaising with the international partners in order to help COORP consolidate its network, as well as increase the capacities of its members and the wider research community. PERFORM is also continuously involved with COORP’s strategic development, and it has provided, where necessary, the right facilities that would foster greater attention to the strategic development of COORP’s mission and activities.
Through its network of partners, PERFORM is involved in helping COORP to undertake a partnership visit at the Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) in Vienna, to be followed up by a partnership visit in the UK. The aim of these visits is to give COORP the opportunity to learn from these institutions and understand their best practices, as well as have the opportunity to get in touch with relevant research communities with whom they can forge closer ties of cooperation, to help promote Albanian research and researchers.
PERFORM is continuing to support COORP through a number of activities, one of which is the establishment of the inter-university centre for project development and research between a group of Albanian and Serbian universities.
- Collaborations between Albanian researchers and regional and European research centres active in H2020 and in other European Research Area have been established;
- Albanian research community is engaging in H2020 application processes and other research grant applications;
- Researchers in diaspora are identified and connected with researchers in Albania according to their fields of interest;
- Offline and Online sustainable collaboration network among Albanian researchers is created;
- An updated database of researchers, assets and other instruments Albania may have, is made available online;
- Participation rate, and eventually the success rate of the Albania SSR in the international call for projects is increased;
- Skills and capacities in research project development and research design and methodology are transferred to the wider community of social science researchers.
COORP’s goal is to increase research funding for participating partners and contribute to making Albanian researchers less dependent from state funding. Successful acquisition of research funds will enable researchers to conduct more complex and interdisciplinary research.
Collaboration of Albanian research groups in European research consortia will contribute to enhancing the quality of their research and put Albanian research on the map of European research.
COORP aims to foster collaboration among Albanian researchers within the country as well as with the diaspora in order to establish sustainable networks and a critical mass of Albanian research. COORP’s approach of working with counterparts at an institutional level facilitates the creation of knowledge within research institutions, not limited to individuals.
COORP will explore possibilities for an Erasmus+ KA2 application for the establishment of an inter-university research centre with other universities and NASRI. PERFORM will explore ways of supporting such an initiative.