Discussing transformational changes with the international community of researchers and practitioners

Kaunas university of technology has started CATALISI project in January 2023. Within one year of the implementation, the contours of transformations are already seen. Starting with intensive discussions with university stakeholders and university staff, within 3 big domains of intervention – namely, Human Recourses, Research Modus Operandi and Finances – the project core team identified 5 intervention areas such as Supporting talent circulation/mobility, Accurately addressing lifelong learning, Strengthening of human capital, Public engagement with and outreach to society to solve social challenges, and finally, Sustainability in research.

Addressing on of project objectives which aims to improve methods by which research is conducted and perceived at the regional and European level by ensuring that the R&I systems across Europe are promptly and effective in sharing research outcomes not only to academic actors but also to the broader informed society, project team targeted international community of researchers and practitioners to discuss initial findings and projected pathways towards transformational changes. The project team offered a panel discussion at IASIA 2023 conference, focusing discussion on human resource transformations in VUCA environment. VUCA environment is described as having the characteristics such as volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.


In order to better understand acceleration services, the discussions included such questions as what is the role of coaching and support mechanism that higher education institutions might apply? What is the role of the environments to foster transformational changes?

Two focal  points emerged in the panel discussion:

  • The role of community of practice. Community of practice is usually understood as group of people who share common interests, concerns, problems, and challenges, exchange knowledge on a common basis while meeting face-to-face or/and online. Several aspects of communities of practices, that are very important for transformational changes, were crystalized at the panel: Interaction on regular terms makes it possible to follow up the transformations, exchanging practices might help seeing intervention areas and the challenges in the different light or from the different angle, developing solutions that are beyond of the “usual suspects” category.
  • The role of the environment. The contemporary world is described as unpredictable and rapidly changing. Thus, the transformational changes is not a innovation but rather a necessity to be in line with the last developments in working culture, technological environment, socio-economic situations. Organizations need novel approaches to leadership, performance and developments. Thus, the discussion covered environmental transformations and the ways organizations innovate adapting to new environments.
By Egle Butkeviciene, Kaunas University of Technology
Horizon Europe project “Catalysation of institutional transformations of Higher Education Institutions through the adoption of acceleration services” (CATALISI), project number 101094917

🌟 An interview with Maria Carmela Fierro, CATALISI’s Project Coordinator

How does your background in Political Science has influenced your career in managing EU Research and Innovation projects?

I think that my degree in Political Science was instrumental in shaping my career in managing EU research and innovation projects, especially at the beginning. My academic background provided me with a strong foundation in understanding EU political dynamics, policy frameworks and EU decision-making processes. This knowledge has been invaluable in navigating the complexities of EU programmes and regulations. However, what I have learnt about projects has been shaped by years of working on different types of projects such as ERC projects, Marie Curie projects, INTERREG projects.

With your extensive experience in supporting organizations in managing EU projects, what would you say are the key challenges and rewards of such roles?

Throughout my career I have been involved in supporting both private and public organisations in managing EU projects. This involvement has allowed me to understand that each organisation has its own priorities and challenges when dealing with EU projects. Therefore, the key challenges often revolve around reconciling these different interests and ensuring effective communication and collaboration between partners. When you see in a project that different organisations – who may never have worked together before – are collaborating to achieve common goals and results, it is something valuable.

CATALISI aims to transform higher education institutions to become lighthouses of European values. Can you elaborate on what these “European values” mean to the project?

European values in the context of CATALISI include principles such as inclusiveness, diversity, sustainability and an overall commitment to excellence in research. The CATALISI project offers a unique opportunity for European higher education institutions to make a deep commitment to advancing these European values, reflecting a vision of higher education institutions that goes beyond academic achievement to encompass societal impact.

As the coordinator of the CATALISI Community of Practice (CoP), what do you envision as the most impactful contributions of the CoP members?

I envision that members of the CATALISI Community of Practice (CoP) can make an impact by fostering a collaborative environment for sharing best practices, innovative ideas and addressing common challenges. The CoP will serve as a hub for collective learning, creating a space where diverse perspectives converge to drive positive change in higher education institutions across Europe.

What would be your call to action for potential members of the CATALISI CoP from education and research to digitalization and policy-making, and why should they join this community?

By participating in the CoP, individuals, experts and/or experienced professionals, can engage in meaningful discussions, share their expertise in a wide range of R&I areas, from open science, public engagement and outreach of research, to lifelong learning, digitisation of research, talent support and circulation, gender and inclusion plans. Today an institutional transformation pathway towards these areas cannot be achieved alone, in a vacuum, it requires a broaden support coming from ideas, stories, methods of a broaden Community of peers. 

In your opinion, what qualities and expertise make an individual an ideal fit for the CATALISI CoP, and how do you see the diverse backgrounds of CoP members enriching the community’s discussions and outputs?

This is quite a challenging question. I would not speak of an ideal CATALISI CoP member in terms of expertise, any background is welcome. I think the ideal CATALISI CoP member is someone who strongly believes in the potential of mutual learning from the experiences of a wide community of stakeholders, who wants to contribute with his/her knowledge and practices on these topics and benefit at the same time from those of others. The ability to collaborate effectively, a passion for promoting European values and a commitment to continuous learning are qualities that will enrich the dynamics of the CoP.

Where do you see the CATALISI project in the next 3 years, and what lasting impact do you hope it will have on European Higher Education Institutions?

In the next 3 years, I believe that CATALISI Higher Education Institutions have planted seeds for their institutional transformation, defined their own pathway which becomes a catalyst for future profound changes also in the long run , fostering an environment where planning and achieving a transformation becomes easier and easier.

How does APRE’s role in CATALISI, especially in knowledge sharing, mutual learning, and coordinating the Community of Practice, contribute to the broader objectives of the project?

APRE’s role is meant to facilitate the creation of this environment, contributing to knowledge sharing, mutual learning, in providing a methodology for capacity building, as well as by facilitating collaboration and information exchange amongst the CoP.