Since the launch, by the European Commission in September 2005, of a public consultation on the idea of developing a European Institute of Technology (EIT), EUA has been an active stakeholder on behalf of Europe’s universities . EUA has remained committed to engaging fully in the further EU discussions on the EIT and has issued statements and contributions to ensure universities’ viewpoints are taken into account.
• In a first Statement in November 2005, EUA stated clearly that (1) the establishment of a European Research Council must have priority over the proposed EIT, given the necessary investment of time, energy and expertise, in order to make it a strong base for globally competitive research and innovation, and (2) if the new institute were to be created, it should be through new funding, preferably with matching contributions from public and private funding sources.
• In its formal position adopted by the EUA Council on 30 March 2006, EUA stated its support for the overall objective of creating a new space for creativity in research and training in Europe, but expressed doubts about the proposed legal construction for the "knowledge communities" as defined by the European Commission. EUA’s then President, Professor Georg Winckler, stated that "we are in favour of competitive mechanisms to support excellence in research and innovation but not through 'top-down' legal entities that fragment universities". New proposals such as the EIT should demonstrate added value in relation to the 7th Framework Programme instruments.
• EUA commented further on the formal proposal made by the Commission in March 2006. EUA was pleased that the Commission had recognised that the success of the EIT depended upon the active cooperation and participation of Europe’s universities, but stressed that the proposed model was an untried one and substantial work was still necessary on the EIT concept, structure and its relations to existing institutions.
• A further European Commission communication in June 2006 addressed several of the concerns that EUA and other European stakeholders had raised. In its comments to the European Commission , EUA welcomed the progress made on two key issues: that universities as a whole should be ‘shareholders’ and partners in the strategic development of EIT; and the willingness to offer greater flexibility concerning staffing arrangements between the EIT and the ‘Knowledge Communities’ to avoid the building of ‘walls’ around faculties, departments or laboratories within universities. EUA favoured a partnership approach with universities and other host institutions of the proposed EIT Knowledge Communities to ensure that “win-win” collaborations could be achieved.
EUA was invited subsequently by the EIT Governing Board Identification Committee to provide input on membership criteria and to nominate candidates for the EIT Governing Board. The EUA Research Policy Working Group has continued to monitor closely EIT developments with regular reports to the EUA Board Council. EUA has emphasised that the role and interests of universities within EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) related to all three elements of the “knowledge triangle” – education, research and innovation. This emphasis was necessary because too often the EIT policy dialogue tended to restrict the role of universities to providing only education and training facilities with KICs. It is agreed also that transparency of the EIT-KIC application and evaluation process, and the openness of the competition will be crucial to EIT’s future successful development and there was a need for mutual learning from national schemes and FPs in this respect .
On 1 July 2009 EUA President, Professor Jean-Marc Rapp, initiated a meeting with Dr Martin Schuurmans (Chairman of the EIT Governing Board) with a view of establishing an informal dialogue on a similar basis to that achieved with the President of ERC Scientific Council. The purpose of the meeting was to indicate EUA’s continuing interest in the development of EIT on behalf of its members and to place emphasis on its view on the need for the strong engagement of universities in all aspects of the EIT instrument. It was brought to his attention the current relevant work being undertaken by EUA on the past and present nature of collaboration between universities and business enterprises – building upon best practices through the development and current updating of the “Responsible Partnering Guidelines” and the “DOC-CAREERS” project examining collaborative doctoral programmes between universities and industry.
Dr Schuurmans indicated that he was aware of EUA’s input to the development stage of the EIT concept and he acknowledged that the new instrument was substantially improved by the constructive critical input received. He looked forward to working with all stakeholders to make this new instrument work successfully. He anticipated that once the new Directorate and staff in the new Budapest EIT Executive Agency were fully in place a regular dialogue with EUA and other European stakeholders would be established.
For its part EUA has continued this dialogue through inviting EIT Governing Board member Professor Anders Flodstrom to attend the February 2010 Research Policy Working Group meeting. Discussion focussed on the future development of the new instrument of EIT-KICs in the policy context on the FP7 mid-term review, financial perspectives and future budget allocation across ERA instruments. Professor Flodstrom indicated that it was envisaged by the EIT Governing Board that there would be considerable interaction between the Board, the European Commission, European Parliament and importantly European Stakeholders before decisions were reached on the topic choices for the second call for EIT-KICs proposals. Also, the mid-term review of FP7 would be an important phase for the future development of EIT-KICs and their funding with the new European Commission with priority being given to the forthcoming European Plan for Research and Innovation.
EUA aims to continue this dialogue, through both the EIT Board and the new EIT Executive Agency located in Budapest, on behalf of its membership.