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Strengthening Education in Europe, Conference of the European Ministers of Education

 

16 March, Part 1 – Plenary

The Commission’s proposal for a European Institute of Technology

 

There is a shared recognition that Europe needs to reinforce its capacities to develop and integrate the three components of the knowledge triangle: education, research and innovation. We must improve our ability to translate the results of research and development into commercial opportunities; to reach critical mass in certain advanced fields of knowledge, both in terms of education and research; to address the lack of innovation and entrepreneurial culture within research and education and the parallel lack of an innovation propensity in business, notably small and medium enterprises.

The Commission’s proposal is intended as one part of Europe’s response to address these weaknesses. It is based on the following principles:

  • The European Institute of Technology (EIT) should pool existing centres of excellence to achieve critical mass and create synergies, rather than seek to create something new from scratch. 
  • It should aim to ensure a framework for excellent work in new emerging inter-disciplinary fields and, at the same time, inspire and drive changes in existing organisations.
  • It should be a knowledge flagship with a strong European identity.

It will have a mission to perform excellent education, research and innovation activities; to attract the best talents world-wide; to disseminate and share knowledge with business and society in general; and to contribute to the enhancement of research and innovation management.

The Commission’s proposal envisages a two level-structure: the first level to be a light-weight governance structure concerned with the strategy, budget, selection and evaluation of knowledge communities. At its centre will be a governing board composed of top individuals from the science and business sectors.

The second level will be a set of knowledge communities, each performing education, research and innovation activities in strategic inter-disciplinary areas identified by the governing board. The “knowledge communities” will federate teams (not entire institutions) within universities, research centres and companies all over Europe. These will second human and physical resources to the EIT, which will then become legally part of the EIT.

The Commission proposes to set up the EIT on the basis of a specific legal instrument and, if the European Council gives the go-ahead for further work on this ambitious project, the Commission should come forward with its proposal in this regard towards the end of the year.

Questions for discussion:

Does the establishment of an EIT along the lines envisaged in the Commission’s Communication have the potential to contribute to addressing Europe’s weaknesses in the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation?

While acknowledging that a full appraisal of the proposal must await the more detailed presentation by the Commission later this year, does the approach outlined in the Commission’s communication - in particular the in-built link between education, business and research - appear in broad terms to be the right one?

 

Date: 20.03.2006