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Statement by the European University Association on the EUFlagship Initiative “Innovation Union” of the Europe 2020 EuropeanStrategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth
Europe’s universities have a major role to play in theInnovation Union and EUA welcomes the fact that this is properlyrecognised in the European Commission Communication. Europe’sfuture as a dynamic competitive global region will depend largelyon its ability to increase substantially the number of highlytrained people within EU Member States and to attract others fromabroad. The task of universities is to create new knowledge and toeducate people to be creative in their personal development, intheir economic activity in the workplace and as citizens of a civilsociety. Innovation is, at its roots, all about people and theirability to reach their full potential in skills development andresourcefulness, and fostering the right conditions to achieve andmaintain it – hence the emphasis of this statement that Europeneeds “Smart People for Smart Growth”.
Six Key Messages
1. Europe’s universities play an essential role in the”innovation chain” through their research and teaching activitieswhich strengthen our knowledge base and skills development toprovide new jobs for the future.
2. Innovation requires a wider interpretation and understandingthan simply being seen as the last step to commercial application.The breadth of university-based research has its impact at manylevels in the economy and society. Innovation comes fromcontributions across the full spectrum of sciences, fromengineering and technical sciences, medical and life sciences tothe social sciences, arts and humanities. Wider interdisciplinaryperspectives will also be needed to tackle the growing societalchallenges effectively.
3. Three concerns should be overriding for EU fundinginstruments in the Innovation Union and FP8. Excellence criteriashould determine the use and allocation of instruments and fundingacross the range of research and innovation activities based uponassessments and indicators of best practice in the various researchdomains. Simplification and reduction of heavy administrative andaccounting procedures should be the driving forces for the improvedimplementation of FP8. Competitive funding instruments open to allresearch institutions should be a governing principle of FP8 withno programmes targeted specifically for certain types of researchinstitutions as exclusive partners
4. In order to achieve the ambitious programme set forth in theInnovation Union Communication, it is clear that FP8 and related EUinstruments will need an increased budget.
5. An essential message is that, particularly in times ofeconomic crisis, government expenditure on university-basedresearch and training (and higher education as a whole) should notbe regarded as “consumption” of public resources that can be easilycut, but as an “investment” in training, skills development andresearch and innovation activities needed to lead Europe out of theeconomic crisis and towards a truly ‘Innovation Union”.
6. Our global regional competitors are not waiting for us, theyare investing heavily in universities and the next generation ofyoung people who will be the innovators of tomorrow!
SMART PEOPLE FOR SMART GROWTH – EUA statement onInnovation Union
I. Introductory remarks and context
At the EUA Convention in Prague in March 2009, EU President JoseManuel Barroso told the assembled university audience from acrossEurope that “Investing more in education and research will helpEurope emerge from recession faster and in better shape”. EUA notesthat this clear message is reiterated and developed further in theInnovation Union Communication. In fact, this message is morerelevant today where cuts in public finances in education, researchand development threaten to undermine the contribution ofuniversities to helping drive forward innovations in goods andservices, both public and private. EUA is monitoring the impact ofthe financial and economic crisis on European higher education andhas published its most recent report in January 2011. Thishighlights that the economic crisis continues to affect highereducation in several ways. Funding has not only been decreased in anumber of European countries, but often public authorities are alsoreviewing the way the funding is actually delivered touniversities. Some EU countries face major cuts to higher educationbudgets and many others need to adapt to noticeable falls in incomewhile only in a few countries governments have upheld theircommitment to increase public funding for universities.
As a result of the 2009 Prague Convention, EUA issued aDeclaration which contained a targeted message to political leadersand decision makers with proposals for immediate measures toaddress the crisis, while at the same time setting a strategicagenda of 10 success factors for Europe’s universities to addressin the next decade. These 10 success factors match strongly withthe Innovation Union policy proposals relating to strengthening theknowledge base and reducing fragmentation and the modernisationagenda for universities. In fact, the “modernisation agenda” inEurope’s universities has proceeded at an impressive pace in recentyears but there is now a clear risk that the current impact of thefinancial and economic crisis could set back this agenda inimportant respects.
Most importantly, therefore, EU level actions must more clearlyoffer and demonstrate “European Added Value” in order not to runthe real risk of being used to replace reductions in national andregional funding. The EU Research Framework Programmes and LifelongLearning programmes as open competitive funding schemes have actedas crucial multipliers in the development of European universityresearch and training cooperation both between universitiesthemselves and between universities and other public researchinstitutions and external partners in industry, commerce,government agencies, regional authorities etc. They have supportedactively and strengthened the European and international profile ofuniversity-based research through project collaboration and theenhanced mobility of their academic and research staff,post-doctoral and doctoral researchers and their careerdevelopment. For European universities to remain competitive thiscontinued growing investment in research and innovation activitiesat the European level is essential.
EUA welcomes particularly the medium-term time frame approachtaken in the Europe 2020 Innovation Union Communication.Universities cannot operate effectively in the short-term processof the political cycle (of four years or less) or indeed businesscycles which are also often too short. Scientific progress on”major societal” challenges of energy supply, climate change, foodsecurity, health and ageing require medium to long-term commitmentof funding instruments that support both fundamental research andcollaboration with industry and other external partners. Europe’suniversities are working hard to provide innovative research andtraining environments to help tackle these challenges and they needa balanced and appropriate combination of instruments and fundingat the European, national and regional level to assist theirefforts.
Innovation as a term requires a wide interpretation and shouldnot be seen simply as the last step to commercial application.Innovation also does not come only from the engineering andtechnical sciences, natural, medical and life sciences but also thesocial sciences, arts and humanities. Wider interdisciplinaryperspectives will be needed to tackle the growing societalchallenges effectively.
In this statement EUA offers comments below on those headingsand commitments in the Innovation Union Communication which reflectEUA’s current major policy priorities based upon empirical evidencefrom its projects and activities with its universitymembership.
II. Strengthening the knowledge base: promotingexcellence in education and skills development
Increased autonomy enables universities to move forward inplaying their full role in the Innovation Union. EUA supports,therefore, the emphasis placed in the Communication on the need forEuropean universities to be freed from over-regulation andmicro-management in return for full accountability. EUA iscollecting evidence and monitoring progress on the development ofthe degree of autonomy achieved in Europe’s universities withrespect to autonomy in relation to academic matters, financialissues, organisational structures and staffing policies throughcurrent studies, drawing upon empirical evidence from itsmembership. Again, there is cause for concern here that the presentpublic budget cuts may lead to a return to greater micro-managementby governments.
EUA studies focus on the state-of-play providing benchmarking ofuniversity autonomy and governance reforms which will help publicauthorities and higher education institutions to assess betteruniversity autonomy in the wider European framework, and thuspromote the exchange of best practice in a rapidly evolving field.The results of these studies, which are undertaken with supportfrom the European Commission DG Education and Culture, can bebrought forward to inform the implementation of Innovation Unionpolicy commitments.
Similarly, concerning the Innovation Union’s re-stated need toattract an increased number of young people to become researchers,evidence from the EUA Trends surveys over the past decade has shownthe substantial growth and development of doctoral programmes inEuropean universities offering critical mass in training andsupervision, interdisciplinary approaches and European andinternational cooperation and mobility. The Council for DoctoralEducation (CDE) established by EUA in 2008 has attracted over 150universities as members to share best practice in all aspects ofdoctoral training. In 2010 CDE issued its revised “Salzburg IIRecommendations” based on evidence from reforms in doctoraleducation across Europe. The recommendations cover three categoriesaddressing firstly, and importantly, the conduct and practice ofthe original research as the core foundation of the doctorate. Thesecond category consists of recommendations for the improvement ofdoctoral education (recruitment and status, supervision, careerdevelopment etc) aimed at both universities and those providing thelegal frameworks for doctoral education. The third categoryaddressed importantly non-university stakeholders, policy makersand funding organisations involving issues such as institutionalautonomy and sustainable funding of doctoral schools.
EUA proposed in 2010 that there should be an EU competitivefunding scheme to support European and international recruitment ofdoctoral candidates to doctoral schools. Doctoral schools wouldapply to the competition to demonstrate the quality of the researchand training environment and successful schools would then receiveawards to attract non-nationals to study at the schools. EUAendorses the view expressed in the Innovation Union Communicationon the importance of the Marie Curie Actions in strengtheningskills development, mobility and careers of researchers and wouldsuggest that a new MC action pilot scheme should be launched forsubsequent evaluation and possible adoption as a major newinitiative in the next EU financial framework, 2014 – 2020.
On the stated need for businesses to be more involved incurricula development and doctoral training, EUA would wish topoint to the relevance for the Innovation Union strategy of theresults of the extensive work that it has undertaken with thesupport of DG Research and Innovation on doctoral trainingprogrammes conducted with industrial partners. Based on an analysisof several university collaborations with large and medium-sizedEuropean companies (and conducted in partnership with EIRMA, theEuropean Industrial Research Management Association), the 2009 EUAreport on “Collaborative Doctoral Education. University-IndustryPartnerships for Enhancing Knowledge Exchange (DOC-CAREERS Report)”presents a set of key recommendations for the successfuldevelopment of these programmes. The work continues with a currentfollow-up project which examines and promotes best practice indoctoral programmes involving other external partners, SMEs,regional authorities etc. EUA is currently bringing the experienceof these collaborative schemes to the work of the “University -Business Forum” and these experiences will have considerablerelevance to the creation of the proposed new “KnowledgeAlliances”.
Concerning the Innovation Union commitments on strategies forincreased training of researchers, EUA would assert that with theabove innovative practices Europe’s universities are workingactively to improve their research environments for therecruitment, training and employment of researchers.
As an Innovation Union commitment, EUA notes that the Commissionwill support “an independent multi-dimensional internationalranking system to benchmark university performance which will allowthe best performing European universities to be identified”. Forits part, EUA is currently conducting a review of existinginternational ranking schemes and their methodologies and in June2011 will hold an event which aims to launch an annual debate withexpert opinions on the merits and demerits of ranking schemes andtheir impact, both positive and negative, upon universities andhigher education and research policy. EUA questions whether EUsupport for another international ranking system should be apriority at the present time.
III. Delivering the European Research Area
The Lisbon Treaty has made the achievement of the “EuropeanResearch Area” an explicit goal of the EU’s research and innovationpolicy – expressed in terms of the need to strengthen itsscientific and technological bases to allow it to become morecompetitive (both in universities and other public researchorganisations and in industry and services). The Innovation UnionCommunication emphasises that the completion of the EuropeanResearch Area is therefore a legal requirement and sets thedeadline of the end of 2014 for “achieving a well-functioningERA”.
In order to achieve this the Commission proposes a “ERAframework and supporting measures to remove obstacles to mobilityand cross-border cooperation” which will encompass the seeking ofcommon approaches to an integrated set of goals ranging across thefollowing major issues: quality of doctoral training, employmentconditions and gender balance in research careers; mobility ofresearchers across countries through open recruitment processes andEuropean supplementary pension funds; cross-border cooperation inensuring simplicity and mutual coherence on funding rules andprocedures; greater dissemination and use of research resultsthrough open access; opening-up of Member State-operated researchinfrastructures; and greater consistency of EU and nationalstrategies for international cooperation in science andtechnology.
EUA through its membership and project activities has alreadycontributed input and experience to past and present expert groupsand platforms in making progress on these issues. EUA welcomes,therefore, the proposed establishment of a “European Forum onForward-Looking Activities” involving public and privatestakeholders in bringing relevant empirical evidence to informpolicy making.
IV. Focusing EU funding instruments on Innovation Unionpriorities
In the coming months EUA will offer its views in theconsultation process on the future orientations and fundinginstruments that are required for Europe’s universities to realisethe ambitions of playing a fully productive part in FP8 andachieving the European Research Area and “Innovation Union”. And,importantly, EUA will take the perspective of how the rules andconditions of EU funding can help advance the modernisation agendain Europe’s universities. Three concerns will be overriding.Excellence criteria should determine the use and allocation ofinstruments and funding across the range of research and innovationactivities based upon assessments and indicators of best practicein the various research domains. Simplification and reduction ofheavy administrative and accounting procedures should be thedriving forces for the improved implementation of FP8. Competitivefunding instruments open to all research institutions should be agoverning principle of FP8 with no programmes targeted specificallyfor certain types of research institutions as exclusivepartners.
The Innovation Union Communication cities the European ResearchCouncil both as a success and as showing the way forward inenhancing excellence criteria in EU programmes. EUA welcomes thisrecognition and supports the further strengthening of the ERCthrough both an increased budget and achieving greater autonomywithin the legal framework of the Lisbon Treaty. Insufficientrecognition is given though in the Communication to the role offundamental research in the innovation process. Innovation oftencomes through inspiration and insights generated in the process ofscientific research. There is an overall tendency in theCommunication to assume that innovation can only be best achievedthrough strategic planning. The right conditions have to befostered in respective environments to foster innovation. Foruniversities, they must be free to conduct research that takes thelong-term view. There is an inherent danger that an over-emphasison strategic short-term priorities in research funding canundermine the research base in Europe’s universities.
EUA notes also that the Cooperation part of the FrameworkProgramme is recognised as having provided “European added value”in priority research, technology and development thematic areasthat have been subject to substantial consultation with MemberStates and public and private stakeholders. EUA would argue thatthe Cooperation programme (supporting collaborative researchprojects on both smaller and larger scales) should continue as itprovides the open framework in which universities anduniversity-based researchers develop their European networks andproject collaborations with external partners and it offersvaluable instruments to both established players and, importantly,new entrants.
The process of “Joint Programming” of national programmes whichseeks to overcome fragmentation of research effort in grandsocietal challenge topics and to achieve synergy with EU levelactivities has been under discussion and initial development overthe past two years. EUA holds the view that the “frameworkconditions” for participation in “joint programmes” should takeaccount of universities’ interests at both the national andEuropean levels. Furthermore, if they involve any new funds orearmarked funds these should be subject to an open competition toallow new entrants as well as existing national programmeparticipants. Joint programming should not become a substitute forthe FP Cooperation programme.
EUA strongly supports the Innovation Union commitments toachieving simplification of funding instruments and theirimplementation based more on a trust-based system. Furthermore,similar rules of participation should be applied across all EUresearch and innovation programmes and EU Structural Funds used forthis purpose. EUA will remain very active in this area being anadvocate of universities strengthening their professional financialand research management capacity to measure and identify the fullcosts of their research activities. EUA believes that EU fundingmade an important step towards full-cost support with the FP7eligible cost model which acts as an incentive for universities inthis respect. EUA will continue to be fully engaged with theEuropean Commission and the European Parliament concerning the ECCommunication proposals for Simplification. Furthermore, EUA hassubmitted its written views to the second triennial review of theFinancial Regulation.
V. Promoting the European Institute of Innovation andTechnology (EIT) as a model of innovation governance inEurope
EUA is an active stakeholder in the debate on the development ofEIT and maintains a dialogue with its Governing Board. ThroughEUA’s critical intervention and that of other stakeholders, the EITinstrument has been improved to reflect upon and develop furtherhow universities work with external industrial partners in the new”open innovation” model of research collaboration. Many of theconcepts developed in the EIT debate on the “knowledge triangle”and “co-location” centres build upon established best practices inuniversity-industry collaboration in research-intensive andtechnical universities. Universities engaged in the first threeKnowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) all have substantialexperience in these respects. EUA, in its work examiningcollaborative doctoral programmes with industry across Europeancountries, has observed that such programmes can be seen as manyworking models of the “knowledge triangle” whereby education,research and innovation are brought together in a common frameworkof high skills and knowledge development by university and industrypartners. As the EUA study concludes – there are no”one-size-fits-all-solutions” and successful approaches tend toincorporate local or regional characteristics as captured in thephrase “the way we do things here”.
As universities are the degree-awarding authorities, it isinappropriate to talk about, as the Innovation Union Communicationdoes, the introduction of an “EIT degree” in 2011. Graduatesattracted to the existing KICs are motivated by the quality of theresearch and teaching at the participating universities and thepostgraduate degrees offered. The value of any EIT ‘brand’, as anadditional label to the university degree, will have to be provenover time, as the work of the KICs develop and mature.
Finally, there is the need for a debate on where EIT should findits place within the range of EU instruments focusing upon theenhancement of partnerships with industry which remains unclear inthe Innovation Union Communication.
VI. Promoting openness and capitalising on Europe’screative potential
This theme explores how companies, in conducting their researchand innovation activities, work increasingly with universities andstart-ups and how these trends in open and collaborative innovationhave major policy implications. As an Innovation Union commitment,the Commission will develop further proposals to facilitateeffective collaborative research and knowledge transfer in EUprogrammes, including a range of approaches relating tointellectual property rights.
EUA wishes to draw attention once more to the ResponsiblePartnering Initiative “Joining Forces in a World of OpenInnovation: Guidelines for Collaborative Research and KnowledgeTransfer between Science and Industry” which have been developed byEUA together with industrial and RTO partner associations based onbest existing practices (partners are the European IndustrialResearch Management Association, EIRMA, the European Association ofResearch and Technology Organisations, EARTO, and the Pan-EuropeanNetwork of Knowledge Transfer Offices, ProTon Europe).
The Responsible Partnering Guidelines Initiative issued revisedguidelines in 2009 and their importance and value has beenrecognised by the European Research Area Board (ERAB) as aneffective stakeholder initiative that held high relevance for anERAB priority policy recommendation of achieving an “OpenInnovation Charter” in the European Union. EUA and its partnerssuggest, therefore, that the guidelines could provide thefoundations for future EU policy development under Innovation Unioncommitments in this domain of knowledge transfer and intellectualproperty rights.
VII. Maximising Social and Territorial Cohesion:Spreading the benefits of innovation across the Union
EUA has stated previously that the present unspent EU Structuralfunds and those for the period 2014-2020 need to be more stronglyorientated towards science and research both in terms of humanresources development and infrastructure. New EU monitoringmechanisms should be introduced to ensure that Member States’allocated budgets for research and innovation investments withinthe EU Structural funds are actually committed. Such commitment isnecessary for those Member States receiving Structural funds to beable to play their full part on a competitive footing in FP8 andother EU actions post-2013.
In contributing to Europe 2020 objectives in research andinnovation Member States receiving Structural Funds should promotetheir regional strengths (smart specialisation) and not adoptwholesale the EU agenda if appropriate human capacity is not yetdeveloped to maximise fully the opportunities. Skills developmentthrough trans-national programmes involving universities fromacross regions who have made effective use of EU Structural andSocial funds would be highly valuable but they would need to befunded at a higher level than the pilot-type programmes in thecurrent FP7 such as the Regions of Knowledge. Universities shouldalso be eligible to be consortium leaders in such proposedtrans-regional/national programmes.
VIII. Pooling forces to achieve breakthroughs: EuropeanInnovation Partnerships
In the present Innovation Union Communication it is unclear howthe proposed European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) will relate toand pool the efforts of existing instruments such as JointTechnology Initiatives (JTIs) and European Industrial Initiatives(EIIs) that promote partnerships between industries and otherstakeholders in major priority research and innovation, and thecurrent new process of “joint programming” amongst Member Statesgovernments. It is noted that in June 2011 the Commission will setout in a Communication its proposals for European InnovationPartnerships, their governance, financing and implementationarrangements. EUA will wish to engage in the consultationprocess.
From the perspectives of Europe’s universities there will be aneed for more openness and transparency in the involvement ofuniversities in the consultation and development stage of EIPs thanhas occurred to date with the JTI and EII instruments in order toensure that university-based research teams with the appropriateexpertise have opportunities to contribute.
EUA’s recent experience in building a European Platform ofUniversities engaged in Energy Research (EPUE) within the frameworkof the EU SET-PLAN which was launched at the November 2010 SET-PLANConference in Brussels could serve as a valuable pilot project onhow to bring “representative platforms of key stakeholders” intofuture EIPs.
IX. Making it Happen
EUA notes that the Commission plans to expand the remit andmembership of the European Research Area Board (ERAB) “to evaluatethe Innovation Union on a continuous basis, reflect on new trends,and provide recommendations on priorities and actions”. EUA haswelcomed the work of ERAB and its predecessor body EURAB as valuedexpert advisory bodies whose membership has been drawn partly frominvited nominations from major European stakeholder bodies fromacross the wide spectrum of industry, university and other publicresearch institutions, social partners and the civil societyorganisations. EUA expresses the expectation that Europeanstakeholders will be consulted on new membership recruitment andproposed new terms of reference of this key advisory body.
X. Next Steps
EUA looks forward to the forthcoming “EU orientation paper onFP8” and it will put forward its views on the portfolio of FPinstruments that it would wish to see in order that Europe’suniversities can play their full part in the ERA and InnovationUnion. In doing so, it will take account of and draw upon therecently completed report of the Expert Group on the “InterimEvaluation of the Seventh Framework Programme”. EUA commends theExpert Group report for the thoroughness of its analyses andrecommendations and its demonstrated commitment to consult withinterested stakeholders in conducting its work.
XI. Concluding remarks
In order to achieve the ambitious programme set forth in theInnovation Union Communication, it is clear that FP8 and related EUinstruments will need an increased budget.
The full engagement and commitment of EU Member States withcorollary increased resource allocation will be crucial inachieving the Innovation Union goals, given the strong emphasis onpartnership and overcoming of fragmentation in national researchand innovation systems.
Further progress on university autonomy will be an essentialcomponent in realising the ambitions of the Innovation Union.
In relation to the above crucial observations, EUA’s essentialmessage is that, particularly in times of economic crisis,government expenditure on university-based research and training(and higher education as a whole) should not be regarded as”consumption” of public resources that can be easily cut, but as an”investment” in training, skills development and research andinnovation activities needed to lead Europe out of the economiccrisis and towards a truly ‘Innovation Union”.
Our global regional competitors are not waiting for us, they arealready investing heavily in universities and the next generationof young people who will be the innovators of tomorrow!
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