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European Institute of Technology: the Commission proposes a new flagship for excellence

Brussels, 24 February 2006

The Commission is proposing to the European Council to set up a European Institute of Technology (EIT) intended to be a new flagship for excellence in higher education, research and innovation. In a Communication adopted today, the Commission defined the key elements of the proposal for a EIT – originally put forward in 2005 as part of the revamp of the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs - which is now ready for consideration by the Heads of State and government. The Commission has based its work on the results of a wide public consultation collecting more than 700 contributions.

‘’Excellence needs flagships: that’s why Europe must have a strong European Institute of Technology, bringing together the best brains and companies and disseminating the results throughout Europe’’ said José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. ‘’The EIT will be a light and flexible organisation”, stressed President Barroso. ‘’It will teach graduates and doctoral candidates, carry out research and be active in innovation, both in some strategic thematic areas and in the field of science and innovation management’’.

“If Europe is to remain competitive, then we must ensure that we improve the relationship between education, research and innovation,” said Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism. “It is a common perception that in Europe, this relationship does not work as well as it could. Europe consistently falls short in turning R&D results into commercial opportunities, innovations and jobs.”

The European Institute of Technology will concentrate, in particular, on combining the three sides of the knowledge triangle: education, research and innovation. These three areas hold the keys to the knowledge society. The EIT will have a structure and a mix of partners specifically designed to integrate and inseparably link these three areas.

The EIT’s structure would be based on two levels: a Governing Board with a small supporting administration (which will be the EIT’s central core); and a set of Knowledge Communities, distributed all over Europe, carrying out the activities in strategic trans-disciplinary areas. The EIT is expected to receive funding from a variety of sources including the EU, the Member States and the business community.

The EIT will set out to attract the best and most talented students, researchers and staff worldwide. These will work side by side with leading businesses in the development and exploitation of cutting-edge knowledge and research, thereby enhancing research and innovation management skills generally. The integration of teams from universities, research centres and companies will give it an edge over traditionally organised universities or networks. Furthermore, the new EIT model will act as a catalyst for reform by inspiring change in existing institutions.

Significantly, it will also bring opportunities to attract private finance to the EIT. Consequently, the EIT will offer to the private sector a new integrated relationship with education and research, with new opportunities for the commercialisation of research and a closer two-way exchange.

Following a wide consultation of the public and experts in the field – more than 700 contributions were sent to the Commission – and having taken into account various position papers, the Commission concludes that the EU needs to better concentrate its human, financial and physical resources in research and higher education. This does not mean creating a new university on a single site, but a new, multi-site, legal entity which brings together the best teams and university departments in strategic fields across Europe. This responds to the need to promote an innovation and entrepreneurial culture in research and education as well as new organisational models that are suited to today’s needs. The EIT will thus perform a role unlike any existing or planned EU initiative or national university.

There are numerous incentives for partner organisations to have their best teams participate in the EIT while remaining on-site: visibility which will attract top-class students, researchers and staff; privileged links with knowledge spill-overs; financial incentives, a dynamic for change and local spin-offs.

The Commission invites the European Council to consider the elements outlined in today’s Communication, and to agree on the importance of this initiative. The Commission will put forward a formal proposal before the end of 2006. If the legal instrument establishing the EIT can be adopted in 2008, the Governing board could be appointed in early 2009, along with the first staff. The identification of the knowledge communities should start in 2009.

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