Pursued synergies among STEAM-related EU-funded projects

The SMILE - OTTER - EcoSTEAM example and how OTTER's final conference has brought together various STEAM initiatives looking to explore open schooling and exchange good practices

Synergies in the context of European-funded projects refer to the enhanced effectiveness and efficiency achieved when different project consortia collaborate, coordinate, and share resources to achieve common objectives. The European Commission (EC) funds various projects across member states, spanning diverse sectors such as research and development, innovation, infrastructure, and social programs. Pursuing synergies among these projects, particularly those targeting education and teaching practitioners, is crucial for several reasons. 

The figure below depicts the principal reasons constituting synergies pivotal to the evolution and consolidation of pursued aims and objectives of a given project. As such, these span from optimisation, deliverable enhancement and enrichment through knowledge sharing, further supporting and connecting communities of practice, strengthening cooperation, and collectively advocating for necessary policy reforms. 

Figure 1. Potential advantages of pursued synergies among EU-funded projects 

In the spirit of such collaboration and exchange, the OTTER project successfully conducted its final conference in Brussels on the 15th of February 2024, offering the opportunity for an open dialogue surrounding outdoor STEAM education and the promotion of Education Outside the Classroom (EOC), bringing together researchers, policymakers, teachers, STEAM educators, and EOC practitioners. Among the participants, representatives of more than ten ongoing Erasmus+ and Horizon projects had the opportunity to share, disseminate, reflect, and receive vital feedback on their project activities, deliverables and pursued actions. 

CARDET  utilised this opportunity to present two of its STEAM-related projects, which it currently runs alongside other European partners: the SMILE project and the EcoSTEAM Development project. In the context of the OTTER conference activities, the World Cafe session offered a diverse group of experts and professionals the chance to cluster themselves in various working groups, facilitating the exchange of crucial information and practices.  Most importantly, the networking opportunities presented laid the groundwork for prospective collaborations in the near future. 

Figure 2. Exploring synergies between EU-funded projects

In greater detail, Table 1 presents, in a nutshell, the multiple points of convergence between all three projects, highlighting once again the importance of establishing and supporting synergies among EU-funded projects. The collaborative efforts contribute to a more integrated and effective approach to tackling shared challenges among EU member states.

Optimising and Enriching Resources
Combining efforts allows for the optimal utilisation of financial and human resources. By sharing expertise, know-how and practices, all three projects can reduce the risk of duplication of efforts and costs. This efficiency is particularly important in maximising the impact of EU funding.
Enhancing Impact
Synergetic opportunities, such as the OTTER Final Conference, amplify the overall impact of projects by creating a more integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing common challenges. Sharing and exploring opportunities for collaboration through the conference’s World Cafe session led to innovative solutions, giving way to better results and a broader reach in the future, benefiting a larger segment of each project’s target audience.
Addressing Cross-cutting Issues
Many educational challenges European countries face - cut across multiple domains, such as lack of resources and infrastructure, lack of professional development opportunities for teachers and educators, inflexible curricula and national education systems, etc. Pursuing synergies allows projects to address these cross-cutting issues collectively, fostering a more holistic and integrated approach to problem-solving.
Promoting Knowledge Transfer
Collaboration facilitates the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned between projects. This knowledge transfer can lead to accelerated progress, as successful strategies and innovations can be adopted and adapted across different projects and sectors. This is clearly evident among the three projects where besides the noticeable overlaps between their overarching themes of coverage (STEAM Education & Climate Change), their particularities (OTTER = Education Outside the Classroom, SMILE = Sustainable Mobility, EcoSTEAM: Innovative learning approaches) complement each other serving as a rich bank of knowledge sharing. 
Strengthening European Cooperation
Synergies contribute to the broader goal of European integration by fostering cooperation and solidarity among member states. Shared goals and coordinated efforts contribute to a more cohesive and unified Europe. The pictures below speak for themselves. 
Improving Policy Coherence
Collaborative efforts enhance policy coherence, ensuring that the outcomes of different projects align with overarching EU policies and objectives and, most importantly, lay the foundations for developing recommendations for policy reforms and propositions. Such endeavours facilitate the creation of a harmonised and effective approach to addressing common challenges.


Table 1. Synergetic convergences between the OTTER, SMILE and EcoSTEAM Development Projects

Pursued synergies among STEAM-related EU-funded projects