Brussels, 13 May 2005
The European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) has expressed doubts over the viability of Commission proposals to establish a European Institute of Technology (EIT), warning that such 'top down' initiatives rarely work.
Rather, the advisory board feels that it would be better for such an institute to emerge from the scientific communities themselves. It points out that the world-class reputation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), upon which the EIT concept was originally based, has grown over decades.
In an interview with The Scientist, the chair of EURAB Helga Nowotny said: 'Politicians do not have a good record in creating top-down institutions, especially not when it comes to research and teaching. Politicians are, [however], responsible for creating the environment in which universities can expand and grow in the desired direction.'
Professor Nowotny agrees that Europe should aim to create high-tech institutions, but does not believe that a single institute or network of selected universities is the answer. 'Europe does not need only one, but ideally many institutions like an EIT. The two already existing ones that can be compared to the US model [...] are Imperial College and ETH Zurich. We would like more of their kind to emerge throughout Europe.'
Finally, Professor Nowotny revealed EURAB's fear that talk of creating an EIT could undermine preparations for the European Research Council (ERC). 'We are very much concerned that the current discussion about an EIT will distract from the truly innovative policy of the Commission funding basic research for the first time [...], and that it might also divert funding,' she told The Scientist.