EU STEM Coalition - General Assembly: Germany

EU STEM Coalition - General Assembly: Germany

30 September 2021
Host organisation: 
Kamp-Lintfort (ZDI FabLab Kamp Lintfort)
Short summary: 

On September 30, 2021, the General Assembly of the EU STEM Coalition took place in Kamp-Lintfort, Germany. The meeting was co-hosted by ZDI and took place in 'hybrid format'. Keynotes and speeches during the plenary session were livestreamed to participants all over Europe followed by several on-site work sessions with a selection of STEM platform representatives. Contributors included Mariya Gabriel (European Commissioner), Susana Solis (member of the European Parliament), Klaus Kaiser (Parliamentary State Secretary of NRW, Germany), Michael Caspersen (It-vest) and others (see below). All presentations are available as recorded videos (see sidebar). 

On September 30, 2021, the General Assembly of the EU STEM Coalition took place in Kamp-Lintfort, Germany. The meeting was co-hosted by ZDI (German partner organisation of the EU STEM Coalition) and took place in 'hybrid format'. The plenary session (10.00 - 12.00) was livestreamed to participants all over Europe. The plenary session was followed by a series of on-site work sessions with a selection of representatives of national / regional STEM platforms. The work sessions took place in different 'Fablabs' (maker spaces) around the campus of the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences.


The paragraphs below provide a short summary of each of the presentations / work sessions. All presentations held during the plenary session are available as videos (see sidebar). To view the meeting documents, please use the button on the right side of the page.


Plenary session (10.00 - 12.00)


The plenary session (available via livestream) was opened with a welcome and introduction by Geert Asselbergs (EU STEM Coalition) and Dr. Oliver Locker-Grütjen, president of the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Science. In his welcome speech, Dr. Locker-Grütjen highlighted the importance of STEM experts in transition to more sustainable societies.


The keynote speech was given by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. In her speech, Commissioner Gabriel highlighted the need to increase STEM uptake in relation to societal challenges like climate change. Action is need in particular along three vectors: (1) basic and advanced STEM skills for all, to ensure that everyone understands the challenges we are facing, (2) Addressing STEM shortages by putting STEM into context, for example through the STEAM approach and (3) increasing diversity in STEM, making sure nobody is left behind, in particular women and girls. Commissioner Gabriel then highlighted current and opcoming actions of the European Commission, emphasing the interdisciplinary character of the key-challenges and the funding instruments and initiatives used by the European Commission to address them. Finally, the need for international cooperation and a strong partnership between the European Commission and the EU STEM Coalition and its members was highlighted as a key priority, as evidenced by the objectives in the Digital Education Action Plan and Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025: "It is clear that we need to continue to work together. The EU STEM Coalition plays a key role in bringing stakeholders together from within and outside academia, and we cannot go without your voice and your work."


The second presentation was given by Klaus Kaiser, Parliamentary State Secretary of Science and Culture of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Mr. Kaiser provided an overview of the ZDI activities and services touching upon the importance of providing context to STEM, role models and gender equality. Mr. Kaiser then highlighted the interdisciplinary character of the STEM subjects and their strong link to broader transitions like digitalisation and climate, characterising the ZDI-network as a 'science transformation programme' with a strong focus on out-of-school learning environments with the zdi Fablab Kamp-Lintfort as a case in point. 

The session then continued with presentations about three topics that are currently especially relevant in the work of national and regional STEM platforms:


  1. Digital skills (and how to effectively implement them in the curriculum)
    This section focused on 'Technology Comprehension', a new informatics-subject for primary and lower secondary schools in Denmark that has been piloted in 5% of schools in the past 2.5 years and is currently being concluded. An in-depth presentation on the background and current status of the pilot was provided by Prof. Michael E. Caspersen of It-Vest, who had a leading role in the development of the pilot. Starting with an overview of the background and evolution of informatics-teachin since the 1980s in Denmark and abroad, prof. Caspersen then highlighted the multi-faceted nature of digital skills (both as a vehicle for learning and understanding (similar to language) and as a specialisation. This is reflected in the four competence areas that make up the content of 'Technology Comprehension'. This is also reflected in the conclusion that the implementation both as a stand-alone subject as well as integrated in other subjects is most effective (for a more in-depth overview of 'Technology Comprehension' please see the programme page). The presentation was concluded with an overview of the Danish pilot programme and an update on the next steps for the possible implementation in all Danish schools (see 'meeting documents' on the right for the presentation & resources used).


  2. Gender equality in STEM
    The second section focused on the topic of gender equality in STEM. Girls and women are underrepresented in STEM education and jobs in virtually all Member States, in some cases (e.g. ICT) by a factor of eight. Addressing this issue is relevant for a number of reasons, not in the least to address STEM shortages in the short term. The session started with a video message of Susana Solís Pérez, Member of the European Parliament and rapporteur of a recently adopted Resolution on gender equality in STEM. The speech highlighted the large differences in female participations in various fields ranging from 40% for scientists in general to 12% for a field like A.I. This trend is reinforced by a 'vicious cycle' of stereotypes and the absence of female role models from one generation of students to the next. Such underrepresentation is associated with biases and income gaps. The session then continued with a reflection from Dr. Alice Fiser of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology. In her presentation, Dr. Fiser highlighted the various levels of EIT-activities in which the gender-topic plays a role, from the composition of the governing board to the activities of the Knowledge and Innovation Community's (KICs) as well as some dedicated initiatives and events, like the Girls go Circular-initiative (lead by EIT RawMaterials). The members of the EU STEM Coaltiion were invited to an upcoming event on October 28, 2021 focused on female participation in STEM (see 'events' page). The session was concluded with a reflection from a secondary education student who participated in Girls go Circular and various other EU-funded initiatives.
  3. The role of informal education in increasing STEM uptake
    The third section focused on the role of informal education - like Fablabs - in increasing STEM uptake. The presentation was given by Dr. Martin Kreymann and prof. Karsten Nebe of the Rhine-Waal University for Applied Science. After a brief overview of the history of the Fablabs at the university and the creation of two additional thematic Fablabs (the 'Green Fablab' and 'Fablab Blue'). Beyond the university campus, the Fablab also supports over 20 local schools as well as the broader community through outreach activities and the Fab Academy programme, an intensive six-month training programme. Ultimately the Fablab formula aims to empower people to engage in digital fabrication in the entire community.


Working groups


The plenary part of the General Assembly was followed by an on-site series of work sessions and a meeting of the EU STEM Coalition Steering Group (SC). The work sessions took place in both the Fablab and the Green Fablab on the university campus. Due to Covid regulations participation was restricted to a selected group of representatives of the national and regional STEM platforms in the EU STEM Coalition network. 


The first working group focused on  how the existing national and regional infrastructure (programmes, networks) could be leveraged more effectively by EU-funded initiatives in the area of STEM, in particular in the context of the recent publication of the Digital Education Action Plan (DEAP) and Communication on Achieving the European Education Area by 2025 by the European Commission, both which contained objectives that include the EU STEM Coalition as well as the EIT. The case study that was discussed was the aforementioned 'Girls go Circular' programme of EIT RawMaterials. A short presentation was given by Albeto Terenzi of EIT RawMaterials. The presentation was followed by a discussion with the representatives present. Based on the feedback a concept-note for a possible pilot initiative will be prepared and circulated by the EU STEM Coalition secretariat.


The second work session focused on two initiatives prepared by ZDI (North Rhine-Westphalia STEM platform) focused on the activities of student laboratories vis-a-vis the objectives of the Green Deal as well as a proposal related to the circular economy. After a lively discussion the members present agreed to share their own student laboratory concepts for the further exploration of a possible partnership. The EU STEM Coalition secratariat will support ZDI in drafting a concept-note for further discussions with the member organisations.


The meeting was concluded with a meeting of the EU STEM Coalition Steering Group. An overview of the recent developments in the network was presented by Geert Asselbergs, covering the latest policy developments, new member organisations and an update on the ongoing EU-funded project ('Towards a European STE(A)M Platform'). (for more info, please see the progress report under 'meeting documents'). Then, the members present were asked to give their opinion on the priorities for the upcoming planning period. Points that were highlighted included the development of a more coordinated communication strategy (in particular to the European Parliament) and increased support in identifying opportunities for the development of new partnership. In response, the EU STEM Coalition secretariat will circulate three concept-notes for the project proposals discussed (see above). 


The meeting was closed at 16.00h