EU STEM Coalition - General Assembly: France

EU STEM Coalition - General Assembly: France

20 October 2022
Host organisation: 
Saint-Raphael (Palais de Congrès)
Short summary: 

On October 13-14, 2022, the General Assembly of the EU STEM Coalition took place in Saint Raphaël, France. The meeting was co-hosted by UPSTI, the EU STEM Coalition's lead partner in France. The keynote speech and plenary session were livestreamed to participants all over Europe. Contributors included Ms. Francoise Chombar (chairwoman of Melexis), Martin Kern (director of EIT) and James Brown (director of the United States STEM Education Coalition). The plenary session was followed by a series of on-site work sessions (invitation only) with representatives of the various national and regional STEM platforms (more details below). 

On October 13-14, 2022, the General Assembly of the EU STEM Coalition took place in Saint Raphaël, France. The meeting was co-hosted by UPSTI (the EU STEM Coalition's main partner organisation in France) and consisted of a plenary session with presentations (livestreamed via Youtube) and a series of work shops. The General Assembly was embedded in the larger 'French STEM #2' event organised by UPSTI from October 11-14 (see related website) featuring a host of leading scientists and experts, including several Nobel-prize and Fields medal winners. 


After the plenary sessions, the work sessions took place against the background of several large-scale UPSTI events for students (primary and secondary), focused on robotics. The paragraphs below provide a brief summary of each presentation and session. The meeting agenda, full presentations and other materials are available in PDF format via the 'download' button. The plenary presentations will also be made available as separate videos on the EU STEM Coalition Youtube channel.


Plenary session (14.00 - 15.30)


The plenary session (available via livestream) was opened with a brief word of welcome by Geert Asselbergs (coordinator of the EU STEM Coalition) and Sébastien Gergardier (director of UPSTI), highlighting the importance of STEM driven solutions to respond to today's challenges. 


The keynote speech was given by Ms. Francoise Chombar, co-founder and chairwoman of Melexis (semi-conductor company) and chairwoman of the Flemish STEM platform. The presentation (titled: 'A sense of urgency') first introduced Melexis, its export-driven growth-trajectory and reliance on STEM skilled people for its continued success as a value-creating company in Belgium and Europe. The focus then shifted to Europe's global position and competitiveness in high-tech industries like semiconductors (where it lags behind compared to the US and China). It also highlighted the economic threat of developments related to labour shortages (e.g. in ICT) as well as the societal threats caused by a lack of diversity in these sectors (e.g. AI). After highlighting the 'leaky STEM pipeline' (and related risks to the economy and society) some solutions were discussed, including the use of role models to address unconscious biases and enhance STEM literacy early on. Finally, the implications of these challenges for the semiconductor industry specifically were addressed as well as some of the ongoing and future initiatives. 


The second presentation was given by Ms. Akvilė Motiejūnaitė Schulmeister of the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission, and one of the authors of the recent report "Increasing Achievement and Motivation in Mathematics and Science Learning in Schools" (see meeting documents). In her presentation, Ms. Motiejūnaitė Schulmeister summarised the key findings of the report, addressed what can be done to improve achievement, and how science & maths teaching can be related to students' lives. After briefly covering the various segments of the report, the presentation turned to the topic of (STEM) curricula that foster reflection, and how the various measures that aim to increase students interest are distributed over Europe (see presentation for full overview of the interventions covered). The main conclusions highlight the challenge of (STEM) teacher shortages, but also provideded some guidance in terms of measures that have shown to be effective (e.g. relating science and math teaching to real life and engage students to reflect). 


The third presentation of the day was given by Mr. James Brown, director of the STEM Education Coalition in the United States. In his presentation Mr. Brown coverd the STEM education landscape in the Unted States, highlighting various key statistics and bottle necks, including the lack of time dedicated towards science instruction in early childhood education. Attention was also given to the legislative environment (investment in STEM is broadly supported by both republicans and democrats), the expected impact of recently announced investments. Special attention was given to the measures included in the CHIPS Act (enacted July 2022 with bipartisan support) which to some extent mirrors the objectives of the EU's own 'Chips Act for Europe). Finally it was pointed out that the general public's image of "STEM' tends to lag behind reality, hampering efforts to increase STEM uptake. 


The final presentation of the day was given (as pre-recorded video) by Mr. Martin Kern, director of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT). In his video address, Mr. Kern presented the new 'Deep Tech Talent Initative' (DTTI), launched by the European Commission and EIT earlier that week. DTTI aims to train 1 million Deep Tech Talents in three years time. In his speech Mr. Kern invited the STEM platforms represented in the EU STEM Coalition network to pledge their support to the initiative. This invitation was discussed in more detail during the work sessions (see below). 



Working groups


After a short break the General Assembly continued with a series of work sessions (invitation only). The work sessions took place in a separate meeting room of the Palais de Congrès attended only by representatives of the national and regional STEM platforms in the EU STEM Coalition network. The work session consisted of four main parts. As usual, a progress report was provided by Mr. Geert Asselbergs (coordinator of the EU STEM Coalition) highlighting events and developments since the last meeting. Special attention was given to the follow-up to the Thematic Session that took place in May 2022, in which (among other things) the possible involvement in the Deep Tech Talent Iniative was first discussed, as well as the development of a position paper on behalf of the network (see below). Other topics covered included the ongoing programme mappings and an update on ongoing and planned Taskforces (for full overview, see slides).


The second part of the meeting featured three short presentations by EU STEM Coalition members. In the first presentation, Mr. Sébastien Gergadier (director) and Mr. Pierre-Louis Chiambaretto (secretary-general) of UPSTI gave an overview of several UPSTI initiatives, including those focused on increasing STEM uptake among girls in France. In the second presentation, the Swedish STEM platform 'Teknikcollege' which recently joined the network was presented by Mr. Johan Stahl (concept development manager) and Mr. Rickard Bäck (quality assurance manager). Specific attention was given to the certification process used by Teknikcollege to cooperations between local government, schools and companies (as well as individual schools) as 'teknikcollege'. Finally, an update on the Global Talent Mentoring-initiative of the University of Regensburg (Germany) was given by Mr. Daniel Patrick Balestrini. The initiative (now fully up and running) focuses on connecting high-level mentors and mentees through an international network of participants and is already cooperating with several platforms in the EU STEM Coalition network (see slides attached for more information on activities and results). 


The final two parts of the work session consisted of discussion rounds focused on various topics (including those already covered in the Thematic Session of May 2022). The main topics on the agenda were the response of the network and its members to the newly announced 'Deep Tech Talent Initiative' as well EIT's objective to upscale the already ongoing 'Girls go Circular' beyond the so-called 'RIS countries') and the upcoming EU STEM Coalition position paper (scheduled to be published in November 2022. 


The session was closed at 18.40. All participants were invited to a networking dinner in the 'La Marina' hotel next to the meeting venue hosted by UPSTI and the EU STEM Coalition.