Research in transition – the Danish EU Presidency organises meeting of directors of higher education

November 26, 2002

Copenhagen, 25 Nov 2002

Strong winds of reform are blowing through European universities these years. The political will to adapt institutions of higher education to a changing, open and increasingly complicated world is strong, and in all European countries there are deliberations and reflections on which role universities are to play in society, and how universities are best governed. Therefore, there will also be plenty of current and complicated problems to discuss when Denmark, as part of the Danish EU Presidency, on Monday and Tuesday will be hosting a meeting of European directors of higher education, officials with executive responsibility for higher education, from the EU, the candidate countries and Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

"The meeting programme is highly current, with discussions and exchanges of experience on the role and governance of universities. One of the key items will be the relationship between universities and business, an area for which countries all over Europe are formulating innovation strategies to create closer ties between research environments and business," says Mogens Berg, who as special adviser with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has participated in the planning of the meeting of directors.

The initiatives in the research area are a result of growing pressure in recent years for knowledge produced in universities to be translatable into economic growth. It has become clear that universities cannot function in isolation from the rest of society. Today, it is expected that research results to an increasing extent must have commercial applications in a business context, and thereby contribute to strengthening national and European competitiveness.

"Only ten years ago, relations between universities and business were of very limited. Today, this relationship is developing very rapidly in Europe, and it involves a number of new initiatives. Among these are the new special development environments set up in association with various universities. They have been established to promote the development and growth of knowledge-based enterprises, and in order to facilitate active communication of knowledge, for the benefit of commercial development of companies," says Mogens Berg.

The role of universities has, in other words, moved from focusing on research and teaching to including the fostering of stronger ties to business, and also in certain cases to providing direct contributions to the development of new products and services.

The EU Member States are meeting these challenges in various ways, but this certainly does not mean that the development of research and innovation is not a common European concern. Quite the contrary: EU co-operation on research is being strongly intensified, and at the Lisbon European Council in 2000, the Heads of State or Government established that the development of European research is necessary for achieving the goal that the EU is to be the most competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world in 2010.

The EU Commission is now busy implementing its plan for a European Research Area. It is a comprehensive plan for how to provide better conditions for research in Europe. The EU Commission will also participate in the discussions at the directors meeting in Denmark, which is hosted by Director General Jens Peter Jacobsen of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Danish Presidency Website http://www.eu2002.dk/main/

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