Europe's research-intensive universities have questioned the thinking behind plans for a European Institute of Technology on the model of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The challenge from the League of European Research Universities (Leru) is largely supported by the European University Association, which opposes the US model of a single institution. It argued that the EIT should take the form of "programme-driven" competition between collaborating institutions to which an "excellence/quality label" was awarded.
Leru agreed with the European Commission's diagnosis that Europe's research performance must be improved and its impact on industry enhanced.
The EUA said the EIT was a lower priority than achieving the key Seventh Framework Programme goal of establishing an effective European Research Council.
Leru said that a standalone EIT was a "diversion" that failed to address key priorities and would not deliver significant benefits.
David Livesey, secretary-general of Leru, said the Commission's proposals lacked any description of how the EIT would translate world-class results into innovative products and processes. "Rather, it relies on an implicit assumption that Europe needs MIT."
The EIT was proposed in this year's mid-term review of the Lisbon Process "as a pole of attraction for the best minds, ideas and companies from around the world".