We believe that investing in education and research is essential, not only to enhance knowledge, but also to create jobs and achieve sustainable growth and competitiveness. We believe in young researchers who are bridging the gap between academia and society by using available funds to implement innovative projects and to create jobs for other young scientists.
The Narnia Project, under the coordination of Professor Vasiliki Kassianidou of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Cyprus, is one of them. Beyond its scientific value, it has created jobs for more than 20 young researchers.
Combining scientific research and career development for young scholars
N.A.R.N.I.A. is the acronym of the research project 'New Archaeological Research Network for Integrating Approaches to Ancient Material Studies'. It’s an Initial Training Network that falls under the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions and is funded by the EU's 7th Framework Programme for Research (FP7). NARNIA is an interdisciplinary project that combines archaeology with the natural sciences and takes advantage of the possibilities offered by a great variety of analytical techniques to study archaeological material from the Eastern Mediterranean.
Nineteen fellows have received a full scholarship, through European funding, to undergo the best possible training in archaeological sciences and analytical techniques applied to the study of ancient materials. It will help them improve their future employment prospects and career development at a time when many European countries, including Cyprus, are facing high unemployment levels. At the same time, through their research, they make significant contributions to the history and archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean basin.
Increasing awareness of existing EU funding programmes
Many people think it’s impossible to get funding from European Programmes. Most of them never try. Others are simply not aware of their existence. Professor Kassianidou describes how the Narnia Project became reality:
“The project began to take form in 2009, when a former student of mine, Maria Dikomitou, who had just finished her doctoral research, participated in a workshop organized by the University of Cyprus to inform the academic community about European-funded projects. She was impressed by the possibilities and informed me. We worked together to put down the initial framework of the programme and then we contacted colleagues with whom we had collaborated in the past in order to finalise the proposal.”
“The competition for these programmes is fierce. Our proposal was one of 862 that were submitted in 2009. Out of the 862 only 63 were approved for funding and ours received both the highest rating and the largest budget, which comes to 4.6 million euros, with 100% financing from the Research Executive Agency (REA). Thus NARNIA was, and perhaps still is, the project to have received the largest amount of funding ever to be granted by the REA to Cyprus.”
Important support for universities in times of crisis
"Through European funding the University of Cyprus (UCY) has been able to build and enhance its infrastructure and equipment in its laboratories. Also we have been able to build research teams with new scholars who finally have the opportunity to continue their research in Cyprus. With the current dire economic crisis the budget of UCY, which is a state university, has had to be reduced greatly. So it is now even more important that we try and get European funding to continue our research - but also to open new positions for young scholars.”
“Without the funding we received it would have been impossible to undertake such a large-scale research project."
Developing an international collaboration of universities and research institutes
The benefits of the Marie Curie programme have been felt not only by the University but by Professor Kassianidou herself:
“Because of the project I have been able to form my own research team and to push forward aspects of my research. I would not have been able to do all this if I had not received European funding.”
"I think it’s very important for every researcher to try and get funding from a European programme. As I said before, the competition is fierce but the benefits are great. It enables you to build collaborations and bridges with other institutions; most of all it enables you to give work to young scholars who are at the beginning of their careers. It provides opportunities which would not be possible otherwise."
A new EU research programme with an increased budget
The 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development is an EU programme that bundles under one roof all funding for research projects with EU added value. The programme ran from 2007-2013 with a total budget of over €50 billion. Jerzy Buzek MEP was the MEP behind the programme's architecture.
Its successor is Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. A budget increase of 40% was allocated to Horizon 2020, as compared to its predecessor, and through the activities of the EPP Group, SMEs were given access to the funding. In a period of economic crisis it is more important than ever that the EU focuses on research and innovation as a way to kick-start the economy.
Cooperation with Dr. Vasiliki Kassianidou and the University of Cyprus was solely for the purposes of this article