Human Capacity Building | JPI OCEANS

Human Capacity Building

Human Capacity Building (HCB) feeds the complex web where education, innovation, growth and employment are closely interlinked. In a knowledge-based economy, increasing people knowledge in relation with the surrounding environment not only brings to the achievement of new research results but also to the enhancement of innovation potential and the creation of new jobs.This makes HCB a standing aspect of cohesion and cooperation policy.


The capacity building circuit entails 'new knowledge arising from research to be fed back into appropriate levels of the education, training and human resource development' (Hopkins et al., 2006) as required by the rapidly evolving science role with respect to society. Education and training system is not only a science support mechanism, as it guarantees the fulfilment of new jobs needs to address incoming societal challenges. Research and technologyplay the fundamental role of bridging this system with the economic one. Strong implications result at territory level, in line with Smart Specialisation Strategies.

Education has a long tradition in schemes, careers, responsibilities and communities. Nevertheless, the different aspects of HCB but customary education mission of Universities and Schools can rarely be associated to specific and well recognized paths and instruments. The multi-disciplinary and cross-sectorial aspects of the marine and maritime issues often require an integrated approach and this implies a difficulty in getting a comprehensive and easy-to-access scenario. Indeed, HCB has been often associated to a side activity of others (accessing infrastructures, developing projects) and rarely addressed as a priority to be strategically interlinked to joint programming. HCB is in fact a pillar for the realization of the European Research Area and many aspects deserve specific attention.

To contribute to the establishment of the educational landscape of marine science, reinforcing the peculiarities of the marine and maritime sectors in relation to more general EU education schemes, a preliminary awareness about the HCB context is essential. A brief overview of this scenario is therefore provided, before presenting two practical HCB actions: training and mobility.


The EU education and research context focused many schemes for funding the enhancement of human potential, like Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCAs) and ERASMUS +, supporting higher education also in collaboration with industry.

Also the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) develop their own education programmes, that fully integrate higher education, research and business with the specific aim of tailoring the needs of the European innovation system.

In addition to these general HCB schemes, single EC research projects/joint programmes use to carry on many HCB initiatives, according to their scientific objectives and recognized capacity needs. The survey carried out by SEAS-ERA project and presented in the report Capacity Building: Identifying needs, specificities, and imbalanceshighlighted that HCB actions are often embedded in FP7 RTD projects. Besides the usually provided per-se training to junior researchers through contracts and scholarships,different approachesare adopted:

  • summer schools and training actions involving stakeholders and researchers who are not partner of the project;
  • development of PhD and recruitment of young researchers;
  • specific work packages of projects dedicated to HCB or to training and dissemination;
  • open access to laboratories and marine infrastructures.

At international level, consortia and international organizations (e.g. IOC, ICES, BONUS, EuroMarine) also contribute with their experience to the scenario, pursuing high impact HCB actions according to their core business, as outlined in the table below.

Organization Name

Scientific Themes



IOC - Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission

Understanding the Ocean; Climate change and the Marine Environment; Policy Support

Long term perspective;

empowering network of directors with leadership skills; supporting network of scientists with proposal-writing skills; building scientific teams to collaborate on funded projects; training in decision support systems.

HCB as part of thematic programs

ICES - International Council for the Exploration of the Sea

Understanding the Ocean; Safe and sustainable use of marine and coastal spaces; Maritime Transport; Policy Support

Quality assurance in the advisory process; focus on high-profile scientists and instructors.

Training courses

BONUS for the Baltic Sea Science

Understanding the Ocean; Climate change and the Marine Environment; Policy Support + Dissemination

Integration between natural and socio-economical sciences;

linking between physical and biological science; focus on early career scientists

Training courses


Understanding the Ocean; Climate change and the Marine Environment

Interdisciplinary, competency training and capacity building

Mobility Fellowships Programme

Table 1: Review of actions by international Organizations. Source: SEAS-ERA report D5.2.1 [11]

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The European framework is complemented by regional and national initiatives addressing different themes in relation with the specificities of the area. Many efforts are directed at Basin level towards the inclusion of HCB as part of neighbourhood cooperation and interregional cohesion policy. With some differences among countries, the attention in tackling HCB is rising also at national level, with increased specific programmes dedicated to building capacities in the marine sector, as part of main research funding schemes or specific strategy for HCB.

Last but not least, the demand of skilled capacities for territory development encourages local stakeholders, like technology districts, to actively participate to the HCB. Often in collaboration with the research system, specialized educational paths are created to match the continuously updates of the Blue economy,addressing also non-academic training for the needs of industrial sector (e.g. maritime transportation, tourism, ...).

The alignment of these perspectives is needed for consolidating a strong HCB strategy for reaching JPI Oceans objectives. To this end, an opportunity, but not exclusively, can definitely be taken advantage of EU instruments, like for example the COFUND scheme that 'offers additional funding to existing or new regional and national fellowship programmes for research training and career development and can also support and strengthen existing and new international programmes. Nevertheless the way is long towards the creation of an effective integrated marine HCB platform as ideal framework for intersecting the outputs of different initiatives, in order to address a comprehensive policy in marine HCB interlinked with joint programming, through the design of new actions.

The following paragraphs illustrate two main typologies of HCB action, training and mobility, and related instruments to implement them. Some indications on management practices are finally provided, to be possibly followed as appropriate terms of reference for the implementation.


Training is about learning and gaining new expertise and skills. Different schedules and processes can bring to different level of know-how achievements. According to the previously depicted scenario, main instruments available for implementing training activities and related level of qualification obtained are listed.

  • Master/PhD courses: complete education actions usually (co-)organized with Universities. Released title: Master/Doctoral degree.
  • Internships: on-field extended experience usually (co-)organized with a private company/ association/ NGO. It can foresee access to research infrastructures, or practice in a job of the sea. Released title: technical license.
  • Short training courses: highly focused summer schools, workshops, webinars, e-learning module… Released title: certificate of attendance.
  • Mobility grants: see dedicated paragraph.

General objectives and technical features of each instrument depend on the implementation framework of reference. Training actions can indeed be a segment of a program entirely dedicated to HCB or the capacity building counterpart, generally implemented during its lifetime, of a scientific project or a joint programme.

For example, at EU level Marie Curie Actions foster, through a bottom up approach, excellent and innovative research training networks, and Joint and Industrial doctorates, enhancing business-academia collaboration and staff exchange; while EIT identifies 'a robust entrepreneurship education and an highly integrated, innovative learning-by-doing curricula' as degree quality criteria.

Besides the scientific driven training actions carried out by RTD projects, the EU research framework programme Horizon2020 strongly supports as part of RI/e-I projects the training of staff managing and operating RIs, the exchange of personnel and best practices between facilities, the adequate supply of skilled human resources in key disciplines, engaging academia to prepare curricula and courses to address RIs intercultural and interdisciplinary nature as vehicle of international cooperation, e.g. north towards south and west towards east. This is a clear opportunity for Ocean facilities to augment their impact role also as place for training activities.

At the interface between science and policy, training courses can be the adequate response to the capacity demand addressed by the implementation of EU directives and strategies, e.g. the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Integrated Maritime Policy, or the Blue growth.

When looking at the purpose of creating new jobsof the sea,training is also a fundamental cohesion instrument. In this case, specialist job oriented non-educational training courses like internships usually combine structured educational programmes with on-the-job experience. The lacking of an EU structured scheme addressing these courses has to be noticed.

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The portfolio of training instruments and related frameworks of implementation is definitely rich. But as outlined in the chapter Training and careers for the next generation of marine experts of the Marine Board Position Paper 20 Navigating the Future IV, too few doctoral programs are 'marine science' specifically labelled; moreover EU schemes have been so far too limited in scope and duration; and the involvement of maritime industry in promoting courses to train skilled workers requested by emerging sectors is not structured enough. As prominent actor of marine and maritime international joint initiatives, JPI Oceans can raise the volume of voices asking for an integrated marine and maritime training strategy clustering and blueprinting different education levels.


Mobility is more about expertise sharing and networking.

Within the five ERA (European Research Area) priorities identified in 2012 (European Commission, 2012), an open labour market for researchers is considered fundamental and barriers to mobility, training and attractive careers for researchers should be removed. Researcher mobility may indeed strongly contribute to the circulation of excellence but, in a context of considering the research also as a support to boost competitiveness and knowledge-based policy decisions, the concept of mobility has to be enlarged to include the opportunities for all the stakeholders.In some way, it can be considered an instrument of training and learning where the building of capacities specifically occur through the movement of people.

For its specificity and undeniable role as capacity building tool, though mobility is usually embedded as a support for the development of projects and activities, it deserves a dedicated focus as a strategic 'action'.

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In 2012, the Informal Group of Research and Technological Development Liaison Offices (IGLO) has carried out a survey on research stakeholders' views on mobility and collected data from individual experts from national funding agencies, research performing organizations, universities and public authorities across Europe. Twenty experts from twelve EU Member States and associated countries reported on the situation with regards to mobility in their organization. The results were presented during the ERA in Action event 2012 of IGLO.

Without entering into the details of the findings of this survey and discussion, it has to be distinguished between the aspects of mobility which can be addressed at governmental political level and those at funding and performing organizations, that is, closer to the capacity and responsibility of JPI Oceans.

Having in mind that policies and instruments should be strategically interlinked, some of the recommendations which JPI Oceans can endorse are therefore summarized:

  • Foster structured mobility, especially in times of economic crisis. The European Commission already has instruments to do so, but the support could be strengthen, also at national and regional level, and also to increase communication on bilateral or multilateral successful initiatives. In particular, an integrated strategy to support mobility, taking into account both bottom-up and top-down approaches, should be mandatorily adopted to strengthen the truly multinational dimension and to efficiently solve the major societal challenges.
  • Harmonize short-term and long-term mobility, usually identified as individual and institution mobility.
  • Better articulate EU, national and regional levels. For example, alignment and rationalization of national tools, coordination between national calls and EU calls for proposals could be implemented to facilitate researcher mobility. Dedicated R&I strategies encompassing mobility at regional level are needed. The information role of the EURAXESS network could be strengthened to provide a more visible resource for advertising vacancies. The COFUND instrument has proved efficient to foster this articulation and could be further developed, e.g. by using Structural Funds.
  • valorise scientific careers: experience from abroad is not enough valued in researcher careers; increase visibility for activities of researchers not only limited to publications or excellence but also to the support to policy and technology transfer.
  • increase transparency recruitment-related issues: a lack of information and transparency of recruitment procedures makes research careers less attractive and hampers mobility.
  • increase the dialogue between researchers, funders and end-users of the products of research.

Short and long term mobility actions can be developed in the framework of dedicated programs at international/national level or be part of a research Institute own policy. According to the objective targeted by the action, mobility can stands for: capacity transfer of single persons working or visiting a place different from the one they belong to (foreign Institutes, other sectors); or even the exchange of entire staff, e.g. between research infrastructures. General instruments (set of rules) that suit for these actions are:

  • consolidated formal schemes, e.g. the FP7 International Research Staff Exchange Scheme among the Marie Curie Actions;
  • fellowships/grants, e.g. MCAs COFUND, dedicated programme at national, regional or research Institute level;

ad hoc Memorandum of Understandings: short term actions set in the framework of for example Bilateral/Cooperation Agreements; requirement of specific HCB action within a Joint Call for projects/Joint Programmes.

Support To Implementation

Some terms of reference to implement HCB actions are provided here below. Templates like formal agreements or applications forms to be used as tools for HCB calls, are also provided.

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Landscape analysis. On the basis of preliminary needs and gaps evaluation, outline how the action can contribute to the establishment of the educational landscape at international/national level.Database check on available actions in the same field is recommended in order to avoid duplications. Examples of HCB actions database: Euromarine training survey; Aquat-net Education gate; ICES Courses and reports.

Objectives. Identification of the planned action aims in relation to the implementation framework: a single project, an extended programme, ... A diversification between specific (e.g. new resources in a high specialized field are needed) and more general (e.g. reinforce transnational cooperation) objectives is desirable.

Specific targetsidentification, linked to the objectives: profile (e.g. researchers, technologists, technicians, operators, managers), sector, discipline, thematic.

Expected impactsare to be qualitatively identified. If possible predictable outputs are to be quantified.

General questions to be possibly answeredbefore implementing the action can help avoiding unexpected delays as well as develop it in a more structured way. Few examples, including technical and theoretical arguments, are reported.

  • Is the action feasible within the lifetime of a project/programme?
  • Are there any framework barriers that could delay the starting or slow down the implementation of the action? e.g. administrative, legal, …
  • At which level is the released title/certificate recognized in different participating countries?
  • How can the outputs of the HCB action be fed back into the marine education landscape?

Action design in terms of topics selection and logistics aspects: advertisement and dissemination of the call, eligibility criteria including necessary pre-requisites, number of awards, grants availability, ranking criteria, involved parties and related contact point, data policy, management issues, time schedule, budget plan, visa, insurance, access conditions to facilities...

Procedure guidelines. The choice of the procedure to be followed is another fundamental step of the HCB action implementation process. A linear-few steps mechanism is to be preferred. For example:

  1. Before starting: agree on the most suitable HCB action and the related instrument;
  2. Starting: launch the call for training/mobility action or sign the agreement on the action;
  3. Throughout: execution of the action & monitoring by measuring it through for example a mid-term evaluation, number of publications, discussion workshops;
  4. Closing: presentation of outcomes.

Funding mechanisms: Direct application of EU schemes (e.g. MCAs); agreements at EU level for supporting HCB in the framework of marine Programs (e.g. MCA-COFUND, see the attached example of template); staff exchange; dedicated lines of project funded through structural funds (at regional level); agreements with other stakeholder, e.g. technology districts, to train capacities in specific fields (e.g. jobs of the sea); public-private collaboration; individual fees.

Checklist of helpful tools: proper channels for disseminating training opportunities; experts (teachers, evaluators) lists repository; database of training initiatives; repository of the outcomes of HCB actions; forum to collect feedbacks (e.g. BONUS Young Scientists Club).

Examples of templates: (i)COFUND & RITMARE Italian Flagship Programme Call for applications for 6 fellowships; (ii) EUROFLEETS training course application form; (iii) a Memorandum of Understanding linked to a Bilateral Agreement in the framework of which building mobility actions between two Research Institutes; (iii) ECORD-IODP summer school announcement; (iv) ICES course registration form.

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  • COFUND – BANDIERA, Best Action for National Development of International Expert Researchers Activities Co-funded by FP7 Marie Curie Actions – People, RITMARE Flagship Project Call for applications for the assignment of six (6) fellowships to experienced researchers to carry out research activities within the objectives of the RITMARE Flagship Project at Italian research institutions by means of individual personalised projects in the fields of Oceanography and Marine Sciences
  • EUROFLEETS, “A ship-based training course in multibeam echo sounder technology for technicians and scientists in marine research - Application Form 2010”



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