Report from EUIMA Project Final Event with European policy makers
May 24, 2012
On 10 May, EUA organised the final event of the EUIMA project, which examined the state of play in the implementation of two major areas of European universities’ Modernisation Agenda, collaborative research and full costing, in the light of their relevance to the current debate on the development of Horizon 2020 research and innovation funding instruments.
The high-level one-day event presented outcomes of the EUIMA project to 100 participants gathering a number of Brussels-based policy makers from the European Commission and national Permanent Representations as well as representatives of universities, knowledge transfer offices, companies and technology clusters, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders.
After introductory presentations showing initial outcomes of the two strands of the project, the Collaborative Research strand and the Full Costing strand, two sessions followed that illustrated the types of input and good practices collected in the course of a series of 16 expert workshops and study visits organised by EUA across Europe in the framework of this project over the past two years.
Joint presentations in the Collaborative Research session, given by one university representative and one external partner’s representative, echoed expert discussions carried out during the project’s workshops. Importantly, they highlighted the paramount importance of continued mutual trust between the partners to sustain long-term collaborations. They also pointed out the need for institutional instruments that allow flexibility in collaborations as well as the importance for partners to be able to demonstrate to each other and inside their own organisations the potential added value of collaboration: “Building long-term collaborations is a process, it needs to be flexible and based on interpersonal relationships” said Jan Erik Odhe, from the Steel Cluster in Värmland, Sweden, in a joint presentation with Prof. Jens Bergström, Karlstad University.
Maurice Biriotti, Professor in Medical Humanities and Enterprise at University College London, who is also CEO of a consulting company, emphasised that his approach was founded on the principle that “tough problems are often ‘human’ in origin and that the insights, methods, theories and techniques in the humanities and social sciences, built over thousands of years of scholarship and creativity can help illuminate even the toughest challenges”. In a joint presentation with Neil Cameron, former Global CIO at Unilever, he demonstrated the relevance of Plato’s critique of writing and Aristotle’s views on friendship to a successful collaboration addressing modern communication problems in business.
Main messages from the Collaborative Research strand were rooted in the evidence provided by practitioners which included:
- in addition to the traditional indicators already in use, a new set of assessment tools is emerging based on the quality of the collaborative research processes in the partnership;
- these assessment tools are dynamic and evolve along the life of the research collaboration;
- universities demonstrate that they can make compatible their core missions (i.e. excellence in academic research) and successful long-term collaborative research activities provided that there is good institutional support;
- continued public funding is essential in all stages of the collaboration, from early stages of idea development or discovery to later stages leading to potentially commercial prototypes and other research outputs.
In the Full Costing session two examples of universities implementing full costing were illustrated, the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Both presentations outlined the challenges as well as the expected benefits of full costing implementation and showed that the methodology has to be developed according to the specific needs of each university. Pieter-Jan Aartsen, Corporate Controller at the University of Amsterdam demonstrated how full costing increases efficiency and contributes to long-term financial sustainability. With regard to Horizon 2020 both presenters therefore argued for the possibility to declare the full real costs of a project.
“This way the European Commission would get better value for money”, said Pieter-Jan Aartsen. “I hope that the arguments for full costing will convince decision-makers” explained Thomas A.H. Schöck, Head of Administration of the FAU. This was echoed by Francien Heijs (Science Counsellor, Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU) in the panel debate with high-level policy makers that concluded the event (reported in the last EUA newsletter): “Removing full costing in Horizon 2020 [as proposed by the European Commission] removes an important incentive for universities to improve their financial management and increase transparency.”
Both strands of the EUIMA project, Full Costing and Collaborative Research and the essential related issue of human resources development created a lot of interest amongst EUA members, and there will be further efforts to do more on exchanging experiences and sharing best practices in this area.
For more information about the event, click here.