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At the Eighth Senior Officials Meeting on Science and Technology (SOM) of the EU-CELAC Joint Initiative on Research and Innovation (JIRI) on 30 October, Senior Officials reached consensus on the future steps of collaboration, the main points of which are reflected in the 2021-2023 Strategic Roadmap, awaiting approval according to the corresponding procedures.

Senior Officials stressed the importance of the 2015 Brussels Declaration and EU-CELAC Action Plan as guides to address the extraordinary threats of coming years, for which the development of the EU-CELAC Common Research Area will be a key part. The Participants reviewed the achievements of EU-CELAC Common Research Area and shared the priorities identified by both regions. This text summarizes the main conclusions collected in the document regarding the three pillars of the EU-CELALC Research Area (Mobility of Researchers; Cooperation of Research Infrastructures; Global Challenges), as well as some of the considerations that resulted in the definition of a new pillar: Innovation.

In relation to the ‘Research Infrastructures’ pillar, the Participants assessed the central role of RI in the construction of Common Research Area, and took note of the development of the EU-CELAC Working Group in RI since its creation in 2017. The Participants also debated on common priority areas for the EU and CELAC – such as health, environmental aspects and emerging technologies – and emphasized the importance of the support in this matter of EU-LAC ResInfra Project.

Regarding the ‘Researcher Mobility pillar’, the Participants stressed the importance of reinforcing the tools and instruments to inform on existing national, regional and European programmes supporting human capital development, international collaboration and knowledge transfer, and welcomed the extension of the Euraxess mobility portal to the whole CELAC region.

On the ‘Global Challenges’ pillar, three areas of activity were defined: health, environmental aspects of sustainable development, and digital.

Regarding health, Participants stressed the importance of shared challenges such as COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance and non-communicable (chronic) diseases, among others, highlighting the benefits of addressing them in the framework of participation and cooperation in global health research activities, such as GACD (Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases) and GloPID-R (Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Diseases Prevention). They also stated their support to CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and GAVI (‘the Vaccine Alliance’), with vaccines being considered as a global public good.  Besides, Participants called for strengthening regional research networks and recalled the shared commitment to the promotion of open science as a key enabler of an effective joint response to the common health challenges.

Regarding the Environmental aspects of sustainable development (known in Europe as green transition), several topics were discussed. The Participants recognised the important contribution of wildfires to biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change, and emphasised the essential role that joint research, demonstration and deployment of innovative means and methods have in reducing this risk. They also discussed about sustainable agriculture, bioeconomy and circular economy and highlighted the importance of research and innovation in these areas to face climate change and to guarantee the well-being and prosperity of citizens, taking note of the efforts carried outunder the Horizon Europe programme in the framework of its Mission on Soils. Another topic that was addressed was the need to enhance joint research efforts related to the Atlantic Ocean, calling for a systemic approach to the challenges and opportunities offered by the Atlantic Ocean, welcoming as well the move towards an All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance. Finally, on sustainable urbanisation, Participants welcomed the debate about the optimal ways to address the key focus areas, such as sustainable cities and communities, nature-based solutions, renewable energies, and more, and also underlined the need to explore synergies with the mobility and the innovation pillars.

Regarding Digital, Participants agreed that connectivity is an essential enabler of knowledge exchange, productivity and growth and welcomed the efforts to establish a high-speed link between both regions, highlighting  the value of BELLA cable to further boost the future cooperation potential in all areas. Participants also discussed the role of Cybersecurity as a vital factor to build trust in digital environments –  to this end, Participants underlined the importance of protecting their digital systems at all levels, as well as the importance of a proper evaluation of risks of the introduction and deployment of innovative digital technologies. Regarding digital standards, the Participants encouraged a joint work between EU and CELAC in defining common standards and promoting their adoption at the global level. Finally, Participants also underlined the need to continue developing the digital skills necessary for citizens and the economy to thrive in this period of digital transition

Participants acknowledged innovation as an essential ingredient for long term prosperity and for sustainable and inclusive development. They welcomed the organisation of the 2019 EU-LAC Innovation Cooperation Conference in Brussels and took note of its conclusions and recommendations. To this end, Participants underlined the importance of deepening the work on the EU-CELAC Common Research Area, adding ‘Innovation’ as its fourth fundamental pillar. Participants encouraged actions to strengthen management capacities and complementarity, such as innovation scoreboards that should help taking stock of the current innovation landscape, improvement of capacities in terms of technology transfer, and more. Participants agreed that smart specialisation is a promising area for further development.

Finally, Participants highlighted both regions commitment to open science, and concluded that CELAC and EU should have a common interest in exploring the potential for linking emerging ‘data commons’ around the world and of reaffirming the principles of Open Science.

As a conclusion, Participants highlighted the increased engagement between EU and CELAC at the highest political level and recalled the direct link between the political discussions and the S&T cooperation conditions framed by the SOM dialogue. Also, Participants encouraged good use of the opportunities offered by the Horizon Europe programme, which will launch in 2021 and remain open to the world, to the CELAC S&T community as an additional support to their activities and a way to enhance links with their counterparts in EU. The Co-Chairs finally invited working groups to take account of these priorities in their future activities and looked forward to the success of their work.