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Research and Innovation Print

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 utilisation in technological innovation is realised, hence maximising the university contribution to innovation and sustainable social and economic development.

Through its full range of activities (conferences, workshops, projects, expert groups) 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 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.

During the period July 2012 to December 2013 the EUA, through an agreed Memorandum of Understanding, is working with the European Commission DG Research & Innovation on a series of actions to tackle the main barriers and bottlenecks inhibiting the achievement of the European Research Area.

Promoting a Range of Instruments to Enhance University Research and Innovation Capacities

EUA is engaged actively and recognised as the main European Stakeholder in representing universities’ interests in the development of the new EU research and innovation funding programme for the period 2014-2020, HORIZON 2020. EUA has participated in all major stakeholder dialogues as the HORIZON 2020 programme has taken shape and importantly it has been pro-active in issuing position statements that have drawn upon empirical evidence and experience from its membership in working with the previous FP7 research programme. EUA attaches also crucial importance to the need to achieve greater synergy between the future HORIZON 2020 programme and the high priority given by the European Commission to the use of European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) to support research and innovation activities. An enhanced role for Europe’s universities in the implementation of the ERDF/ESF actions is advocated by EUA and this is being pursued in its work with the European Commission on the Smart Specialisation Strategy.

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. Two major EUA projects have addressed this important area by identifying and disseminating good practices in collaborative research between universities and industry and other external partners, and collaborative doctoral programmes involving joint supervision and placements – EUIMA project on Collaborative Research and the Doc-Careers projects, I & II.

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 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 has been revised periodically by the partners to reflect new developments.

On the key challenge of demonstrating the scope and potential of maximising university research and educational capacities to address “grand challenge” topics on a European and international scale, EUA has taken the initiative of building a “European Platform of Universities in Energy Research, Education and Training” (EPUE) within the framework of the SET-PLAN for a Low Carbon Economy and which will seek to enable also Europe’s universities to play their full part in the HORIZON 2020 “Societal Challenge” programme area focussing on energy.

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