Commission favours network approach for European Institute of Technology

March 22, 2005

Brussels, 21 Mar 2005

The Commission has published an information note outlining its initial thoughts on the establishment of a European Institute of Technology (EIT), arguing that a network of existing institutions would be preferable to the creation of a new one.

The EIT proposal was one of the recommendations contained in the Commission's mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy. The proposal is a reaction to the fact that Europe is falling behind its competitors in the US and Asia when it comes to the creation and application of new knowledge.

In an introduction to the information note, Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism Ján Figel' writes: 'I am convinced that attempting to create a new institution in Europe would not be the right solution. Europe has sufficient potential in its existing universities, but this potential must be mobilised and shared. For this reason, the attached paper outlines a network approach, based on around 5 or 6 of the best universities in Europe.'

The EIT would aim to meet four key objectives: to offer world-class education and attract the best students, to become an accepted centre of world-class researchers and research, to raise the quality of research and research management in Europe, and to increase knowledge transfer and innovation.

In terms of its structure, the Commission envisages a network institution founded on, but not taking over, around six of the best universities in the EU. Five of these would each coordinate a main field of EIT work -life sciences and biotechnology, chemistry and materials science etc. - the sixth, and perhaps most important, would be responsible for making the networked EIT function.

To increase the EIT's impact, the Commission states that: 'Each of the universities would be the heart of a further network of affiliated partners - so that the added value of the EIT would be felt across the whole Union.' The EIT would use the facilities of its constituent universities on a full cost basis, take some of their students, conduct research, award its own degrees and retain complete scientific and administrative independence.

The central 'node' of the network, meanwhile, would have all the functions of a physical university. It would pursue its own interdisciplinary work, cooperating with the other nodes as required; ensure effective communication and exchanges between them; and perform the central functions of the network and represent the EIT in the outside world.

The Commission foresees the selection of the institutions that will make up the EIT based on a call for expressions of interest. Selection would be made according to academic excellence, facilities offered, and experience in the relevant fields of work. A high level jury composed of leading international scientists could make a recommendation to the Commission, which would in turn make the final decision.

Although the document argues that it is too early for detailed proposals on administration, it argues that: 'It is clear the EIT would need real autonomy if it is to achieve the goals set for it. [...] It cannot be bound by civil service rules (European or national), nor could it respond to current national controls on universities.'

The institution would, however, be accountable to its private sector research sponsors for its use of their contribution, as well as being financially accountable to the Commission for the Community funding it would receive. Strategic accountability would be to the Council and Parliament on a three year rolling basis.

Finally, on the all-important question of cost, the Commission states that the institution will require 'considerable levels of funding'. 'This funding would have to be found from EU resources, in a proportion to be determined, and coupled with funding from Member States and private of competitive funding arrangements,' the document concludes.

For further information on the Commission's updated Lisbon agenda, please visit:
http:/// bs/index _en.htm

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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