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Brussels, 28 February 2008

Commission organises forum to foster university – business cooperation

The European Commission is organising the first European University/Business Forum on 28-29 February 2008 in Brussels. This inaugural meeting is the first of many, whose aim is to facilitate the exchange of good practice between universities and businesses, provide for mutual learning and networking, and inspire further action in the Member States. The Forum responds to calls from universities and companies for there to be a regular, lasting platform for dialogue, exchange, sharing and learning.

The Forum will be launched by the European Commissioner Ján Figel', who stresses the absolute necessity of much stronger partnership between business and education: "Europe has been too weak for too long in bringing the worlds of university academia and business enterprise together, to achieve successful commercial exploitation of academic excellence. Europe's universities have tended to shy away from 'getting their hands dirty' with business! This attitude is totally inappropriate in the 21st century. More intense, structured collaboration between our universities and businesses is vital if we are to face the challenges of globalisation effectively. This realisation is what underpins the formation of the forthcoming European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), and the launch of our Forum today represents another element in our ongoing efforts to bring universities and business together more, for the benefit of Europe as a whole."

The first meeting of the Forum takes place on 28-29 February 2008 in Brussels; it brings together around 250 participants from Higher Education Institutions and associations, from companies and business associations, and from public authorities. The Forum will look into four main topics:

  • Curricular development, and how it can lead to greater employability and an entrepreneurial mindset among graduates;
  • Continuing education, and how to explore and improve cooperation between universities and companies in the provision of training/retraining programmes;
  • The modernisation of governance structures within universities, with the help of business expertise;
  • Development of mobility, including student mobility, but also mobility of researchers and teaching staff, between academia and businesses, and vice versa.

With this initiative, the Commission is giving tangible support to the efforts of the Member States and the relevant stakeholders in this area. By promoting a regular, meaningful exchange between business and university academia, the Forum will positively contribute to the reforms undertaken in the Member States and help to improve Europe’s education and training systems. In a similar vein, the Commission successfully pushed forward the idea of more effective collaboration between the worlds of university academia, research and business, when it proposed setting up the forthcoming European Institute of Innovation and Technology — the EIT.

The aims of the Forum are in line with the Commission's 2006 Communication "Delivering on the Modernisation Agenda for Universities: Education, Research and Innovation” (COM(2006) 208 final), which highlights that Universities must recognise “that their relationship with the business community is of strategic importance and forms part of their commitment to serving the public interest”.

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