Helga Spitaler

Senior International Relations Project Manager

As part of the International Relations team at the pan-European networking organisation GÉANT, for over 15 years Helga has been involved in network development across the globe, primarily in the context of EU-funded research and education networking projects, including TEIN/Asi@Connect.

She currently manages the EUMEDCONNECT3 project in the Eastern Mediterranean and supports the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN) in the implementation of AfricaConnect3 in north Africa, overseeing procurement activities and connectivity deployments. Helga also contributes to GÉANT’s global partnership engagement in Asia-Pacific and the GCC region.

  • Helga joined GÉANT in 2004 holding various positions as the organisation has evolved but always driven by arguing the case for NRENs and R&E networking and compellingly showcasing the impact.

  • Prior to joining the NREN world Helga was an Executive Education Programme Manager at the Judge Business School in Cambridge UK following a stint in event management in the US and after ‘escaping’ the isolation of soundproof simultaneous interpreting booths.

Helga Spitaler's Keynote

Title: NREN sustainability: a journey, not a destination

Sustainability. What is it and why is it so important? A simple definition of sustainability is the ability to carry on; however, when we are talking about sustaining something, we are not talking about keeping it going as it is - sustainability requires us to evolve. NRENs and RRENs are no exceptions to this requirement for successful organisations.

So, what considerations does an NREN need to make on this ongoing journey – or when embarking on this journey in the case of an NREN that is just starting out? A quick look at NREN compendia reveals that there are not two NRENs which are in any way the same and, by extension, there is no one-size-fits-all model for a successful NREN. NRENs tend to be influenced by the needs and realities of their respective national university, science, ICT, policy, market, regulatory and funding environments.

Nevertheless, key sustainability factors transcend national or regional boundaries. In the general debate over what makes or breaks a successful NREN, the arguments of a sound business model and strong stakeholder engagement to ensure that they are travelling along the same journey rank typically high. Securing and retaining skilled staff, keeping abreast of technology trends, having insight into policy changes and stakeholders’ priority setting, forging strategic partnerships, embracing new opportunities to add value are requirements of equal importance for a sustainable networking organisation. And let’s not forget the ability to rapidly respond to a global crisis, such as positioning themselves as critical to keep learning going and to support researchers in the race for a vaccine in times of a pandemic.

The talk will take participants on a journey, based on observations made by the presenter in her
involvement in EU-funded regional networking projects around the globe over the last 15 years. It will draw on examples of how NRENs and RRENs have and continue to live up to the challenge of staying sustainable and, ultimately, relevant.