Brussels, 09 Dec 2005
The European University Association (EUA) has published a statement expressing the views that a European Institute of Technology (EIT) must be built, but not at the expenses of the European Research Council.
The declaration is based on the views expressed through an open consultation by the EUA members, which comprise 34 National Rectors' Conferences and over 700 individual universities in 46 countries, as well as on discussions at the EUA Council meeting held at in Uppsala, Sweden, in October.
In addition to its already strong support for the European Commission's proposed Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and budget, the EUA outlines clearly in the statement that movements towards establishing of an EIT must be based upon two core conditions.
The first is the establishment of a European Research Council (ERC), with an annual budget of around 1.5 billion euro as proposed in the European Commission's FP7 plans. This will already involve an investment in time, energy and expertise, in order to make it strong base for globally competitive research and innovation, says the EUA.
The second conditions is that the EIT is therefore built with 'fresh money', preferably with matching contributions from public and private funding sources.
On the assumption that the above two conditions are met, the introduction of an EIT into the European research and technology development landscape could have a positive growth effect, rather than that of a negative substitution, the paper states.
The EUA also believes that the US model of a single institution would not be appropriate in the European context, where many world class research institutions already exist across EU Member States. Instead, the EUA suggests that maximum added-value could be achieved through establishing an EIT as a competitive 'programme-driven' initiative. This initiative would operate through collaborating institutions, to whom an EIT 'excellence/quality label' would be awarded on the basis of clearly defined and independently developed criteria.
According to the EUA membership, an EIT initiative should allow for the involvement of a large number of universities on a competitive basis to foster excellence, followed by outcome-based evaluations of these EIT programme investments. Such EIT 'programme-driven' collaborations should integrate teaching, research and knowledge transfer functions.
The EUA also emphasises its preference for the term 'knowledge transfer' rather than 'technology transfer. According to the association, an innovative EIT should encompass the diversity of research expertise that is needed to strengthen European competitiveness across the full range of business/economic activities in a knowledge society.
The EUA also expresses concern about the idea of launching a European Institute of Technology in the present climate of uncertainty over European Union level commitments to research investment, and warns the European Commission of the risk of raising expectations in EU Member States that might fail through inadequate funding.
The idea of establishing an EIT, inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, was launched by the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, in February 2005.
Last September, the European Commission launched a consultation with the aim of gathering the views of stakeholders on how an EIT could strengthen research and education, as well as market innovation in Europe. The public consultation, now closed, will feed into a wider analysis currently being carried out by the European Commission services. Once concluded, the Commission will consider whether it wishes to take the matter further, and may then prepare a paper for the Spring European Council in March 2006.