You wouldn’t guess from its obscure name, but in the past six years the WBC-Inco.net project has become a beacon for scientists in the Western Balkans. Prompted by the eastern expansion of the EU in 2004, the project was initiated to help create a spirit of research collaboration in the conflict-ridden region. It received €3 million from Framework 7 from 2008 to 2013 to run workshops and networking events, help scientists from the region access EU funds and promote Western Balkan research in an online journal.
The project is coordinated by Vienna’s Centre for Social Innovation as an independent entity, which, according to its organisers, has contributed to its success. The centre has brought together scientists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to access EU funds jointly.
Elke Dall, who manages the project at the centre, says that implementing it “without major conflicts or any open fights, creating an environment of trust for the people involved”, has been the most important achievement overall.
“Just 20 years ago, no-one in the region would even have thought about sitting down at the same table to collaborate on science,” says Manfred Horvat, an honorary professor at the Vienna University of Technology. The wars during the 1990s destroyed links between local researchers and European science, he says, and this project has helped to repair them.