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]


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.


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'.

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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