Thematic Session on supporting STE(A)M in the EU

Thematic Session on supporting STE(A)M in the EU

26 November 2023
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Short summary: 

The STEM platforms which are involved with the EU STEAM project, as well as many which are represented in the EU STEM Coalition, have frequently expressed concerns over the lack of specific attention given to STE(A)M education on the European level. STE(A)M could contribute to solving many of the economic, environmental, security, and medical issues faced by modern society. Yet, despite the clear and essential civic significance of STE(A)M , there is inadequate earmarked funding for work being done on this topic, as well as a lack of specific support for STEM networks. It is for these reasons that so many STEM platforms, as well as industry related organizations, in the EU STEM Coalition have requested the coalition investigate how to promote a STEM agenda in the EU, as well as how to obtain funds for European STEM development.

It was decided that this thematic session be held on the same day as the EU STEAM project’s steering committee meeting in Amsterdam, so as to take advantage of the opportunity to hold a thematic session in person. The following are points which were brought up and discussed by the EU STEM Coalition members present during the thematic session on promoting a STEM Agenda in the EU:

• European Level Lobbying
One suggestion was that the EU STEM Coalition work together on lobbying efforts to make clear the necessity of supporting STEM to the European Commission, and thereby having the Commission provide more earmarked funding for STE(A)M development. In this plan, certain members of the Coalition who had a particular interest in pursuing lobbying as an option would undertake such activities as:

o Reaching out to knowledgeable contacts for advice and guidance on the topic of lobbying.

o Monitoring the commission’s agenda so as to know when the ideal time to act on this plan would be.

o Gathering likeminded organizations to support lobbying activities.

• A Self Sustained EU STEM Coalition
Another option which was put forward was that of requesting a membership fee from the members of the EU STEM Coalition. Such a fee would provide the coalition with operational funds, and thereby ensure that Europe had a network invested in the betterment of STEM education.

However, while it would certainly help facilitate improved STE(A)M education in Europe to have a STEM network with a long term funding plan, mandating a membership fee to such an organization would come with certain significant drawbacks, such as excluding organizations with less access to funding.

• Non-Governmental Funding
Yet another option which was considered was that of searching for funding to operate the EU STEM Coalition from industry organizations. Several members of the EU STEM Coalition with connections to industry unions have promoted this idea as being particularly viable, given the need for more STEM trained workers in the field of industry.

However, while having industry organizations fund the activities of the EU STEM Coalition would solve the issues behind members paying a membership fee, this approach too comes with drawbacks. The primary among them being concerns over conflicts of interest.

If the EU STEM Coalition is funded by industry groups, then industry groups could very well end up having undue influence in the activities of the Coalition. The EU STEM Coalition is intended to develop STEM for the betterment of all Europe, not just private companies, and for this reason, the potentiality of industry deciding when and if to fund the Coalition would be too much of a risk.

The conclusion of this thematic session was that the best option to develop STE(A)M development in the EU is likely through public funds specifically intended for this purpose, as well as the support of European wide STEM networks. Follow-up meetings will be held to further investigate the possibility of organizing lobbying activities.

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