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Central Denmark EU Office - Our Bridge Builder in Brussels

AU constantly works to assert our influence in the EU. For one thing, we have a regional EU office in Brussels where Lina Christensen and her colleague Rikke Edsjö establish contacts, monitor political agendas, track down early warnings and intelligence for AU, arrange meetings and take part in networks that are relevant to AU. In this way, the office works as a bridge builder between the EU and the researchers at AU. And as a researcher, you can obtain lots of help and knowledge here.

Lina Christensen explains that as the European frameworks for research have grown, a regular flora of university representations have developed in the EU. And they are very good at cooperating on the research political agenda. Most of the Brussels-based university offices are members of UniLion, which is an informal network of university representatives in Brussels. They share information and documents e.g. during the preparation of the next framework programme Horizon Europe. “This network and other networks in Brussels have permitted the voice and the weight of the universities to grow considerably compared to the time when Horizon 2020 was under preparation. And we need that. The European Commission as well as the member states pursue growth and innovation, and in this context we need the universities to reach consensus to ensure that the scientific and educational contribution that they make is not overlooked or goes off the rails. In Brussels, we have an amazing collaboration with our colleagues from other universities - a collaboration that is both deep and broad. Combined with our knowledge on political agendas this enables us to act on specific topics and partnerships”, Lina Christensen says.

Everyone Can Gain Influence in EU
Europe is a project which in many ways is built on and created through dialogue. If we want Europe and European research and innovation programmes to have Danish or North-European features, we need to be part of that dialogue.  If not, a French, a German or another agenda will dominate the programmes, Lina Christensen explains. “AU’s messages must become well-know and must work through as many means as possible. Even though it may sound old-fashioned, it really does work to talk and to keep the conversation going. The digital world and all our means of communication offer great potential, but conversation still remains one of the most effective means to true understanding, negotiation and cooperation”, she states. She believes that AU got off to a great start on official Danish and European means of leverage such as e.g. reference groups. The EU Office supplements this work through their network and their knowledge of EU. They can advise on when to participate in an event for a certain subject and when a narrow dialogue will be more appropriate. EU is interested in the latest ‘state-of-the-art’. And Lina Christensen is convinced that a researcher who wishes to exert political or scientific influence on his/her field, can actually do that in the EU as the European political agenda is - in many ways - founded on external inputs.

Promoting the Agenda
The EU Office can also help to promote a certain agenda, if it carries political attention. For instance, they organised a cross-disciplinary exhibition on antimicrobial resistance in the European Parliament in November 2017. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge problem all over the world, and it is a ticking bomb under our health systems. As AU is in possession of researchers from several different academic environments who are all concerned with this subject and who already collaborates on the subject, it was natural to draw attention to such a scientific capacity. “The exhibition provoked a Danish Euro-Parliamentarian in 2018 to encourage AU’s researchers to submit a proposal for a pilot project on exactly such a cross-disciplinary approach. Whether the proposal will result in a grant from the European Parliament, we cannot know until autumn 2018. Nevertheless, the Parliament evidently took the praise from the European Commission as a sign that urgent action was required.

Assistance to Researchers
Through their networks and personal contacts, the EU Office is able to prepare relevant researchers for new agendas and tenders before they are quite official. For example, through their EU network they managed to find out about an upcoming call for a European “Animal Welfare Reference Centre”. Knowledge was quickly shared with AU as the tasks of such a centre match not only AU’s competences but also the public sector consultancy which AU is already providing in this field.

The EU Office can also be of assistance to researchers who require information on policy and networks related to specific research areas.  The EU Office works in tandem with the Research Support Office at AU, and such a close working relationship gives the researchers access to the entire value chain. Lina encourages any AU researcher who needs help in Brussels to contact the Research Support Office. And in Brussels you are always welcome. AU has access to meeting rooms, work stations and free accommodation in a guest house, so don’t hesitate to drop by.

Read more about the EU Office here and  EU research funding here.