European universities need to embrace change by continuing to forge alliances with innovative companies and independent research groups to use and develop their knowledge in cooperation with the outside world, experts agreed at the 8 March launch of the European University Association’s new report The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems.
The study, it concluded, shows how universities and their partners in regional innovation systems can, should and do join forces “to build such bridges across institutional and disciplinary boundaries, look for new collaborative formats and spaces in order to address shared challenges, and shape their own changing roles in the process”.
It highlighted how universities have, as a result, been better able to embrace societal and technological developments including climate change, globalisation and digitalisation, while encouraging innovation across the board.
This report demonstrates that success comes when universities and their partners let challenges, ideas and solutions be a common project from the beginning: “This can be done through student start-ups, project learning or by really long-term cooperation with industry.”
Fabienne Gautier, innovation ecosystems unit head at the European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, agreed: “The EU has a huge role to play through funding, regulation or support to innovation ecosystems,” working to stop innovation barriers at national, regional and EU levels.
She said a current EIC pilot, testing the concept, is already supporting top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and researchers, offering €2.7 billion in funding to 5,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovators for 2018-20 (using existing EU budgets).
From April, the EIC’s pilot Pathfinder programme, covering the emergence of ideas to pre-commercial phase, will be open to funding proposals from universities.