On 22 February 2019, a celebratory dinner took place at the House of the Blackheads in Riga prior to the annual gathering – the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day. This was a special occasion due to the launch of the Baltic Sea Science Day Award. For the first time in the CBSS history an award was presented to celebrate the achievements of young promising minds doing research on the topics of great importance to the Baltic Sea Region.
The Baltic Sea Science Day 2019 Award was presented to Pinja Näkki, Emiliya Popova, Andris Bērziņš and Savitri Jetoo for an outstanding contribution to transnational research cooperation within the Baltic Sea Region and promotion of the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda. The CBSS Secretariat had the pleasure of engaging with its key partners – Baltic Sea Region University Network, Baltic University Programme, as well as the Lead Partners of the cornerstones of the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda – Baltic Science Network, Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and Baltic TRAM, DESY – to identify the best candidates for the award.
On the next day after the celebratory dinner the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day 2019 took place at the Nature House of the Academic Centre of the University of Latvia as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations. The event commenced with the Rectors´ Panel “Prospects for Smart Specialisation Strategies” moderated by Indriķis Muižnieks, Rector of the University of Latvia. After a brief introduction to the history of the University of Latvia, Indriķis Muižnieks elaborated on the current achievements of his institution, e.g., the University of Latvia being the leading institution in Latvia in terms of an engagement in Horizon 2020 funded projects.
Among the speakers of the Rectors´ Panel was Wolfgang Schareck, Rector of the University of Rostock (UROS), the oldest university in the Baltic Sea Region. His remarks on the specialisation of UROS in teachers´ training, information and communications technology (ICT), maritime and health sectors were followed by an invitation to think about specialisation keeping in mind the flexibility towards potential alternative growth areas. These reflections on the challenging task of finding the right balance between specialisation and remaining open to various thematic domains were echoed also in the elaboration expressed by Rimantas Jankauskas, Vice-Rector & Pro-Rector for Research at the Vilnius University, with full consideration demonstrated regarding the limited resources which are at a disposal of a relatively small country.
Tālis Juhna, Vice-Rector for Research of the Riga Technical University, outlined green technologies and robotics among the leading areas of expertise of his institution. Tiit Land, Rector of the Tallinn University, highlighted that digital skills are being taught to all students irrespective of their chosen specialisation. Among the niche expertise developed by the University is sustainability and healthy lifestyle.
In the spirit of offering a follow-up to the discussions launched in St Petersburg in 2017, the panel was benefiting from insights presented also by Igor Maksimtsev, Rector of Saint Petersburg State University of Economics (UNECON).
With a reference to one of the four Cs of the smart specialisation pointed out by Indriķis Muižnieks – connectivity as a matching exercise of “what you have with what the rest of the world has” – a mapping of commonalities in prioritised sectors was paving the way for further elaboration on the smart specialisation as a highly collaborative engagement. Kalervo Väänänen, Rector of the University of Turku, besides naming the food, health sectors, as well as blue economy among the prioritised sectors in his institution, stressed the importance of collaboration and co-development.
This content-rich panel was followed by two parallel sessions – each focused on one of the CBSS cornerstone projects endorsed in Kraków in 2016 – Baltic Science Network and Baltic TRAM. The Baltic Science Network and EUSBSR HA Neighbours co-hosted session “Researcher Mobility in the Baltic Sea Region” resulted in a stronger support towards addressing the existing shortfalls in the researcher mobility in the Baltic Sea Region. Baltic TRAM session “Science for Business in the Baltic Sea Region” facilitated the exploration of the specifics of research and business sectors, where research institutes are traditionally focused on offering a diversity of methods, while the business is interested in acquiring a working solution, which will deliver the required result. How to best tailor closer ties between the two sectors is continuously explored, e.g., via recently launched project Commercial Analytical Research Organisations Transnational Strategy (CAROTS).
This year´s discussions on the CBSS endorsed projects were concluded by the announcement of the next Baltic Sea Science Day taking place at the University of Turku on the occasion of its forthcoming 100th anniversary. Kalervo Väänänen briefly introduced the attendants of the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day to the inception of the University of Turku. Among the key facts presented about the University was its founding being secured by the public donations under the slogan “From a Free People to Free Science”. Consequently, next year the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day will return to Turku, the city where roughly one year ago Åbo Akademi University hosted the second annual public debates of the CBSS overseen cooperation in research, science and innovation.