UNITA R&I focusing in rural  and mountain territories needs in Renewable Energy, Circular Economy and Cultural Heritage

Rural and mountain regions, specially cross-border areas, are being deeply affected by core-periphery dynamics. This factor causes a gradual isolation and demographic decrease in non-central areas, which are heavily suffering a depopulation process. But mountains are also a wonderful laboratory for research, experimentation and innovation and for developing new uses related to emerging technologies. They are also territories which are living the environmental transition of our societies and experiencing their impacts and threats. Apart from conserving and managing a common cultural (and natural) heritage, rural and mountain territories, through research partnerships, must contribute to structuring the European area. Given this potential and attractiveness, the UNITA universities, which are solidly anchored in their territories, propose to set up an experimental model by de-compartmentalizing approaches and policies and thus offering a profoundly renewed vision. The objective is to define a framework for action shared by all the public or private stakeholders of the territories wishing to get involved under the UNITA leadership, contributing in this way to reinforce Smart Specialization Strategies and to build a model of sustainable development for rural areas aligned with the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals. The UNITA strategy is firmly committed with the three Os policy as defined by the European Commission in 2016: Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World

In order to contribute to the sustainable development of their territories UNITA research and innovation will focus during the first phase of the project on three main thematic areas:

  • Renewable energy: energy transition and resource management.
  • Circular economy, includind Bio-economy: networking and opening-up of economies.
  • Cultural heritage: enhancement of the heritage and identity of the territories.

Through these three main areas UNITA can contribute to the development of rural and mountain areas through promoting the value of the natural resources, developing networks of circular economy (including bio-economy), linking different economic activities (agriculture, tourism, industry and crafts), promoting the richness of the cultural and linguistic heritage, and optimising the relationship among the different actors of each ecosystem.

UNITA proposes an action plan based on the launching of three Research and Innovation Thematic Hubs as the main tool to reach the following objectives:

  • Focusing research on territories: Formalizing research and innovation projects around the three thematic areas in connection with the local ecosystem.
  • Identifying actors in the three main areas: a cartography of research
  • Designing models for UNITA R&I Hubs
  • Implementing UNITA R&I Hubs connecting all stakeholders: a R&I strategic five-years plan
  • Connecting research and education:  Embodying the research results into the teaching at all the learning levels.
  • Introducing bachelors’ students to research through micro-credentials, when possible in the rural and mountain territories
  • Fostering research-based master education though summer / winter school
  • Enhancing links among the UNITA PhD programs
  • Energizing the territories: Revitalising the mountain and rural areas through life-long learning and entrepreneurship.
  • Transferring research results for life-long learners
  • Connecting with stakeholders: a network of Liaison Services
  • Enhancing entrepreneurship and employment: co-working spaces and business incubators

This model, which has to be designed and implemented during the period 2020-2023, will be then evaluated to assess its impact and transformative capacity on the territory, on research-driven learning, and on life-long learning, employment and entrepreneurship. If the results are positive, it will be expanded with the necessary modifications in order to extend it progressively to other thematic areas. First of all, those that have a more direct relationship with the development of rural and mountain territories and that best fit the Smart Specialization Strategies of the UNITA regions (for instance, veterinary, food production, environmental sciences, cultural and naturel tourism, among many others). The objective is to extend in the long-term the coverage to all the thematic areas that can be addressed through a coordinated collaboration of all public and private actors in each ecosystem


On September 2021, the six universities of the UNITA Alliance began a new project, called “Re-UNITA: Research for UNITA", with a grant of 2 million € from the European Commission, in the framework of the H2020 programme, within the call « Science With and For Society » (SWAFS).  

Highlighting the importance of UNITA and its potential in the field of research and innovation, we aim, during the 3 years of the project, to create an enabling environment for the emergence of a shared research and innovation agenda within the UNITA alliance.

Re-UNITA is coordinated by the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour (UPPA) involving the whole UNITA consortium (UBI, UNITO, UNIZAR, USMB, UVT).

The partners will have a great opportunity to deeply foster cooperation regarding research and innovation, with five main objectives guiding the activities during the project:

- Developing joint and collaborative European research programmes based on interdisciplinarity – Work Package N°2 led by Université Savoie Mont Blanc (USMB)

Re-UNITA intends to identify the barriers to interdisciplinarity in our universities in order to facilitate collaborative research with high scientific impact and to promote interdisciplinary approaches on its three main themes.

- The development of a common strategy to attract European researchers at all stages of their career and the promotion of the researchers of the Re-UNITA Alliance will allow the development of a strong network of researchers – Work Package N°3 led by Università di Torino (UNITO)

Re-UNITA will aim at developing a common strategy for attracting European researchers at all stages of their careers and to enhance the high potential of the Alliance's human resources. A joint reflection will be carried out in order to improve the training provided to male and female researchers, with a particular focus on gender equality in research.

- Creating an innovative European network of shared infrastructures – Work Package N°4 led by Universidad de Zaragoza (UNIZAR)

Re-UNITA will build on the Alliance's research infrastructures to provide access to more facilities (experimental equipment, library resources, etc.) to develop collaborative and disruptive research and strengthen cooperation with academic and private institutions. Easy access to high-level facilities is crucial to attracting talent and opening up to collaborations.

- Fostering the vitality and socio-economic diversification of mountain regions and cross-border communities Work Package N°5 led by Universidade da Beira Interior (UBI)

Re-UNITA will aim to stimulate synergies between university research and non-university sectors to ensure the economic strength of mountain regions and cross-border communities. This cooperation will maximise the know-how of each of the UNITA partners, and act as a multiplier for the economic benefit of each territory in the alliance. 

- Ensuring the dissemination of research results and the propagation of science in society – Work Package N°6 led by Universitatea de Vest din Timișoara (UVT)

In order to further its local integration, Re-UNITA will aim to make the Alliance's research expertise known, and will develop communication and sharing around research results through the development of open science concepts. Intensifying the dialogue between the scientific community and civil society will be one of the priorities of this project.

As project coordinator, the UPPA will lead the Work packages n°1 (Management and coordination) and n°7 (Communication and dissemination.

On this website, you’ll have the opportunities to follow the Re-UNITA news as well as the activities and events organized all along the project.


 Re-UNITA Key Information

For any questions regarding Re-UNITA, you can contact:

Clément BARDOUX - Project Manager, Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour : clement.bardoux[@]


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