Business pans idea of Europe institute

April 28, 2006

UK business joined the fight against a European Institute of Technology this week, adding to the chorus of criticism from vice-chancellors and politicians.

John Cridland, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry, told a seminar on Europe's knowledge economy that the EIT was "an initiative too far". He said the idea, put forward by the European Commission in 2005, did not pass a "value-added test" and that the Commission should focus on collaborations and building on existing initiatives, rather than create new infrastructures.

However, Janez Potocynik, the European Commissioner for Science and Research, said that the fact remained that Europe was good at creating knowledge and weak at exploiting it.

He agreed that the EIT was no "magic solution" to this problem, but said that it still needed to be addressed. The Commission is currently consulting on the idea.

In an opening speech to the seminar, organised by the Centre for European Reform, Bill Rammell, Minister for Higher Education, agreed that the EU needed to find new ways of linking research, innovation and education.

But he said that he remained to be convinced that the EIT would provide a solution.

"We need to find ways of encouraging improved networking and collaboration between business and universities," he said. "If an EIT is to add value, it needs to focus on building on and developing partnerships that are already working well and help them to move into the excellent class."

Drummond Bone, president of Universities UK, warned last month that the EIT could become a "costly white elephant". He said: "Looking across the Atlantic to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and trying to engineer it in Europe, which in effect is what the Commission has done, is simplistic in the extreme."

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