EUA‘s research policy activities have grown substantially in recent years and have emphasised universities’ pivotal role in the research and innovation process. EUA aims to ensure that the full potential of Europe’s universities in the production of knowledge, its transmission, dissemination and utilization in technological innovation is realised, hence maximising the university contribution to innovation and sustainable social and economic development.
Through its projects involving its membership and other organisations active in research policy at the European level, EUA provides European policy actors with expertise on a range of issues - university research strategy and research funding, collaborative research with external partners, doctoral training programmes, research career development and international research cooperation. EUA plays a core role in bringing empirical evidence from universities’ experiences in research and innovation activities to inform the policy-making process in devising needed new European instruments to support their strategic development and to enhance their performance in addressing social, economic and civil society needs and “grand challenge” topics of an international scale.
EUA’s policy activities in the area of research and innovation are led by the Research Policy Working Group (RPWG), chaired since March 2009 by Vice-President Professor David Drewry. RPWG, which meets three times per year, serves as an advisory body to the EUA Board and Council in preparing and promoting EUA policy positions on behalf of its membership. It maintains also a regular working dialogue with the relevant European institutions and other main European stakeholders in research and innovation policy.
Europe’s Universities – Key Stakeholders in the European Research Area
EUA’s main message in the European research policy debate is that Europe’s universities are key stakeholders in building the European Research Area: they play the major role in supplying trained researchers; they encompass diverse missions in basic and collaborative research; they have the capacity to foster interdisciplinary research skills and expertise; they are embedded in cities and regions as key components of social and economic development; and, not least importantly, they are focal points for dialogue and knowledge exchange with citizens and society.
European research and innovation policy in creating the European Research Area needs to recognise the important drivers of change in university-based research and innovation activities. Firstly, external funding sources both public and private are accounting for ever higher proportions of university research budgets. Secondly, this reality is coupled with the need for universities to both compete and cooperate in building European (and international) research collaboration. Thirdly, Europe’s universities are responding to the fact that the emergence of complex research issues (reflecting global challenges) requires new interdisciplinary approaches and skills. Fourthly, there is growing societal demand for highly trained researchers for non-academic labour markets. And finally, the digital revolution is having a profound impact on the research process and knowledge exchange in our societies and economies. All these “drivers of change” in Europe’s universities need the support of appropriate instruments and incentive mechanisms to achieve excellence in their distinctive institutional research profiles and their clustering and networking at the European level. EUA’s task on behalf of its university membership is to engage with the European institutions and other stakeholders to demonstrate what universities are achieving and make the case for instruments that enhance further their contributions in creating a globally competitive European Research Area. EUA’s response to the public consultation process on the European Commission ERA Green Paper 2007 set the foundations on which EUA has built its case for Europe’s universities to play their full role in building the ERA – EUA’s Response to ERA Green Paper.
Promoting a Range of Instruments to Enhance University Research and Innovation Capacities
EUA has followed closely the development and implementation of the 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7) 2007-2013. With a total budget of over €50,000 million, FP7 is a major source of external research funding for Europe’s universities outside of their national and regional competitive research funding schemes. All the four main programme components of FP7 (Cooperation; Ideas; People; and Capacities) are important for Europe’s universities. They have been used effectively to create and strengthen European research and training cooperation both within individual universities and between universities, and importantly between universities and external partners in industry, commerce, government agencies, regional authorities and other external actors. EUA will continue to demonstrate through its work that increased investment in research and innovation instruments at the European level is essential for Europe to remain competitive.
Building partnerships is increasingly important in university missions in research and innovation particularly given the growing application of the “open innovation” model in university – business cooperation. The “Open Innovation” model can lead to opportunities for enhanced employability and entrepreneurial skills of university graduates and researchers, greater inter-sectoral mobility of staff and knowledge exchange. Successful partnerships in research and innovation activities require sound project management and intellectual property management reflecting respective interests.
Major progress has been made in raising the profile of good practices in research collaboration between universities and business enterprises through the combined initiative of the EUA, the European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA), the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO) and the European Network of Knowledge Transfer Offices linked to Universities and Public Research Organisations (ProTon Europe) in launching the Responsible Partnering Guidelines: Joining Forces in a World of Open Innovation. The Responsible Partnering Guidelines initiative is a “living document” which is up-dated by the partners to reflect new developments – the most recent version was published in October 2009.
On 28th April 2010, a meeting held between the EUA President, Professor Jean-Marc Rapp, and the EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn (on the invitation of the new Commissioner) provided EUA with the opportunity to draw her attention to current EUA research and innovation priorities and activities of relevance to the development of future European policy and instruments on which EUA welcomed further dialogue and exchange. These priorities are as follows:
- University – industry research collaboration: the “take-up” of the “Responsible Partnering Guidelines: Joining Forces in a World of Open Innovation” developed by EUA in cooperation with industry and research and technology organizations, and good practices in doctoral programmes
- Universities’ contributions to “grand challenge” research and technology initiatives and joint programming – EUA’s building of an “European Platform of Universities Engaged in Energy Research” within the European Energy Research Alliance of the EU SET‐PLAN
- Career development and mobility for young researchers in the European Research Area – future needs, including EUA proposal for a third funding stream of the European Research Council funding to support a European competition for university doctoral/graduate schools to be awarded ERC doctoral awards to recruit candidates to undertake their Ph.D outside their country of origin
- Sustainable university based research: the need for greater simplification of rules and procedures and to move towards common principles governing external research funding conditions.
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