The necessity to respond to complex social, environmental and economic challenges has been increasing. Major geopolitical changes, rising economic tensions, the CoV-19 pandemic, civilisation diseases and ageing populations, as well as climate issues and the rapid development of technologies that are affecting people’s privacy and changing the way we work and communicate, point towards the need for systematic research on these processes, including their human and societal dimensions, to ensure the conditions for an adequate and effective response. Debates and activities are underway to orient research and innovation more significantly towards addressing these threats not only at the EU level. In this context, debates regarding the benefits of research for the needs of society and for improving people’s quality of life are becoming more frequent. Social sciences and humanities can make an important contribution in this respect as their mission is primarily to explore the systemic preconditions, resources and tools for societal resilience to challenges or crises of various kinds. The need for a comprehensive understanding of the relationships and processes that strengthen society as a whole (and act as a preventive measure) in its ability to deal with crisis, emergency or threatening situations is at the core.
It is necessary to understand what patterns of individual and collective action are applied in society and how they influence different policies or shape various protection or transformation mechanisms. The challenges and processes that are affecting and will affect the life of society in the 21st century must also be understood in terms of their impact on the human psyche, social cohesion and interpersonal relations in general. The impact in these areas is significantly reflected in the nature of governance and the formulation of specific policies, and therefore significantly influences the possibility of implementing any development strategies and the success of their impact.
Policy promoting research and innovation at the European level is increasingly focused on “mission-oriented innovation policy”, i.e. policies that direct public and private investment towards specific objectives and missions. A key characteristic of this concept of innovation policy is also the emphasis on the role that major societal challenges can play in creating new (local and global) markets and in supporting national and regional competitiveness.
This means that societal challenges can be seen not only as threats to people’s quality of life, but also as opportunities to improve it. Mission-oriented innovation policy fits very well into the RIS3 concept. For that reason, responding to key societal challenges and megatrends is also part of the priorities of the 2021-2027 National RIS3 Strategy . Themes within this area are included under the sectoral and technological themes that the National RIS3 Strategy identifies as priorities.
Societal challenges relevant to RIS3
In the societal challenges and megatrends pillar of the National RIS3 Strategy, investments will be given a clear direction – they will be oriented towards addressing selected societal challenges. The main objective of the pillar is to generate solutions to the specific needs of the Czech Republic and the EU arising from societal challenges and megatrends. The pillar is also based on a forward-looking perspective, with an effort to seize existing and future opportunities related to societal challenges and technological trends for sustainable development of society, further economic development and improvement of the quality of life of people, ensuring internal and external security and overcoming potential conflicts and crises in the context of the entire European Union and its resilience.
Challenges and trends that affect all areas of society and are highly relevant for the economic development and competitiveness of EU Member States, including the Czech Republic, are particularly relevant at present and in the future.
The Czech Republic, like the rest of the European Union and the rest of the world, is looking for ways to restart the economy and social development, which would ultimately lead to an improved quality of life. Governments are looking for recipes not only to increase the competitiveness of the business sector and its economic prosperity, but also to improve the overall living and business environment, including public services. The approved National RIS3 Strategy 2021+ (NRIS3) envisages the establishment of RIS3 missions. These are NRIS3 priorities that will be oriented towards solving societal challenges and will correspond in their setting to the “mission-oriented innovation policy”, which is currently the trend in research and innovation support policies both at the EU level and in many other developed countries.
The upcoming RIS3 missions should mainly:
- Focus R&D&I in the Czech Republic on solutions to selected societal challenges, especially sustainability.
- Link themes across domains of specialisation, encourage collaboration across National Innovation Platforms/sectors, promote interdisciplinarity.
- Involve other interesting actors in RIS3, activate existing actors especially in EDP, including donors.
- Have a link to the Horizon Europe and European Green Deal missions, which represent a great opportunity for Czech R&D&I and the development of the Czech Republic.
- Have specific, measurable goals achievable through R&D&I.
The missions are a new element in the implementation of the smart specialisation strategy in the Czech Republic. Through them, it will be possible to respond to societal challenges and contribute to the implementation of, among others, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to which the Czech Republic has committed within the UNO. They respond to megatrends and recent social challenges that no state can ignore. It is necessary to prepare for the limited availability of natural resources, the negative impact of climate change, global warming, a growing and ageing population on the planet and the related demands on transport, health, education security and other goods. These new societal challenges cannot be addressed by isolated measures in the form of interventions in a specific area, but rather by a coordinated approach, including well thought out activities that use synergies and multi-source funding to achieve the goal.