EUA has been an invited member of the Forum for the Philanthropic Funding of Research since its establishment in 2007. The Forum brings together the major private foundations based in Europe to discuss their work and funding in a European context through the European Foundation Centre (EFC) in Brussels, and with the support of the European Commission DG Research. The members of the Forum are the major foundations including the Wellcome Trust, Gulbenkian Foundation, Volkswagen Stiftung, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Robert Bosch Stiftung and others.
The invitation to EUA to join the Forum followed from its involvement in an EC Expert Group chaired by Professor William Wakeham, the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton UK, led to the publication of its report in 2007 “Engaging Philanthropy for University Research”. The main activity of the Forum is to organise an annual conference to address key issues and challenges concerned with the further development of philanthropic funding for research which involve a range of contributions and participants from the private foundations, universities, the business world and journalism.
The most recent 'European Forum for Philanthropy and Research Funding' conference in December 2009 was hosted in London by the Wellcome Trust and brought together key actors from Europe’s leading foundations and universities to discuss philanthropy as a growing asset for research. The conference provided an opportunity to discuss the role of philanthropic funding of research and what needs to be done to enhance further growth in philanthropy as a growing research asset for universities.
EUA provided several contributions to the London conference. Professor David Drewry, EUA Vice President, underlined that philanthropic funding can be a highly flexible funding source with less complex strings attached in comparison to other public funding sources. He also warned that philanthropic funding should not be seen by governments as a substitution for public funding but rather as an additional source. He further stressed that autonomy is key for universities to attract other funding sources and that EUA is willing to contribute to further capacity building within institutions to increase philanthropic funding.
Dr John Smith, EUA Deputy Secretary General, argued that philanthropic funding should support “risk taking” in research and should be a source for investing in “out of the box” ideas and approaches. The conference also provided an opportunity to present the first findings from EUA's EUDIS project. Dr Ian Creagh, Kings College London and Chairman of the project, underlined the importance of incentive mechanisms if philanthropic funding is to grow in universities budgets. Professor Shirley Pierce, Vice Chancellor of Loughborough University, showed, with the example of the UK matched funding scheme, how governments can provide such an incentive mechanism.
In a concluding panel discussion, Thomas Estermann, EUA Head of Unit for Governance Autonomy and Funding, made the case that philanthropic funding should be a way of investing in research without the bureaucracy that other public funding sources often bring with them. He placed emphasis on the value of a continued dialogue and exchange between foundations and university leaders to increase the understanding of what is needed to enhance philanthropic funding for universities.
The Forum dialogue continues on 7-8 December 2010 with the third Conference to be hosted by the Robert Bosch Stiftung foundation in Stuttgart, Germany, on the role of foundations in building human capacity. To visit the conference website click here.