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Brussels, 18 October 2006

Frequently Asked Questions: on the road to a European Institute of Technology

The European Commission has adopted on 18 October 2006 a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on a new initiative to tackle the innovation gap in the EU: the European Institute of Technology. This proposal builds on the two Communications adopted in February and June 2006 and is based on the outcome of a wide consultation process with Member States and stakeholders. It responds to the invitation in the June European Council conclusions to present a formal proposal in autumn 2006.

  1. Why did the Commission propose a new institute?

In February 2005, President Barroso put forward the idea of the European Institute of Technology (EIT) as part of the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy.

This was a response to the difficulties the EU has been encountering for some time in translating its knowledge outcomes into commercial opportunities – the so-called "innovation gap". There is a wide consensus that this innovation gap could be reduced by improving the way the actors involved - business, higher education institutions and research institutions – work together. Excellence in terms of innovation is currently not just dispersed physically over the Union, but fragmented because the various teams concerned are not working in an integrated way

To address these challenges, the EIT proposed by the Commission should:

i. Pool existing physical and human resources, to achieve the critical mass needed and create world-class partnerships of excellence.

ii. Work in new, emerging trans and inter-disciplinary fields with potential economic and societal interest through a virtuous integration of innovation, research and education activities at the highest international level;

iii. Promote a new governance model: with its innovative organisational structure, the EIT should become a reference model for other organisations operating in the knowledge triangle;

The EIT is not an isolated proposal: it is an integral element of an ambitious Community strategy to address the innovation gap between the EU and its major competitors.

  1. Is this proposal the European Commission’s own idea?

Since President Barroso launched this idea in February 2005, the Commission has carried out an extensive consultation involving experts, the Member States, business sectors, the public and European stakeholders including the European Research Council.

The Commission’s proposal draws extensively on the outcomes of the consultation. The proposed structure and operation of the EIT, notably the role of the Governing Board, the functioning of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities as well as matters such as the status of the EIT staff, the incentives for partners to participate in the EIT and the issuing of diplomas and degrees are all largely derived from the consultation.

  1. What would be the added-value of an EIT?

The EIT will bring added value in three ways:

  1. It will integrate the three sides of the knowledge triangle (higher education, research and innovation). The Knowledge and Innovation Communities will be joint ventures of partner organisations involving private companies, universities and research organisations. They will undertake education, research and innovation activities in a fully integrated way. No existing EU-level activities tackle all three sides of the knowledge triangle.
  2. It will represent a concentration of excellent human and physical resources and thus achieve a critical mass able to compete on the global scene.
  3. It will offer the private sector a new relationship with education and research, which should foster the commercial and societal exploitation of innovation and knowledge outcomes.
  4. How will the EIT look?

The EIT will be based on an innovative, integrated model, combining a top-down and a bottom-up approach:

  • The EIT itself: the legal entity that will be the EIT will in fact be a very small organisation. It will consist of a Governing Board (GB) and a very limited number of around 60 scientific and support staff. It will be responsible for setting the overall strategic priorities of the EIT and for selecting Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) to address them. It will evaluate their progress towards agreed objectives and coordinate their work in the strategic areas concerned. The GB will be composed of a balanced, representative group of 15 high-profile people from business and the scientific community, plus 4 further Members representing staff and students from the EIT and its Knowledge and Innovation Communities.
  • The Knowledge & Innovation Communities (KICs) are the defining characteristic of the EIT. Based on, but going beyond a network approach, they are joint-ventures of partner organisations, drawn from universities, research organisations and businesses. These joint ventures will be formed in response to calls for proposals from the EIT. Their objectives will be laid down on a contractual basis with the EIT, but they will have a high level of autonomy in terms of how they organise themselves, how they manage any Intellectual Property generated, and how they achieve the agreed objectives. They will fully integrate the innovation, research and education dimensions.
  1. What will be the nature of KICs?

The Knowledge and Innovation Communities are more then mere networks of innovation actors. They are joint ventures of partner organisations, which share a strategy and common objectives and pool their resources to achieve them. The Knowledge and Innovation Communities will help to build a European strategic and operational capacity through joint work and sharing of expertise between the different partner organisations.

Each KIC will have the autonomy to define its own legal status as well as its internal organisation in the light of its specific objectives, the nature of the partner organisations and the planned activities.

  1. Who will appoint the members of the Governing Board?

The Governing Board will comprise 19 members belonging to two different groups:

15 members, representing a balance between business, on the one hand and research and academia on the other. The Members will be appointed by the Commission for a 6-year non-renewable term of office, on the basis of proposals from an Identification Committee. This Identification Committee will be composed of 4 independent high level experts appointed by the Commission, building on the experience of the European Research Council.

One third of these members will be replaced every two years.
4 members, representing personnel, students and doctoral candidates will be elected by staff and students for a 3-year term of office, renewable once, at the moment the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities become operational.

  1. Where will the EIT be located?

The decision on the location of the EIT itself will be taken at a later stage, by the Member States and the European Parliament. However, it is important to note that the main activities of the EIT – the teaching, the research, the innovation - will be carried out by the KICs, whose partners will be dispersed across the Union and not concentrated in one location.

  1. Is there a legal basis to establish the EIT?

The third paragraph of Article 157 in the Title on Industry of the Treaty establishing the European Community provides the legal basis for the EIT.

Article 157 (3) requires the European Community to contribute to objectives such as encouraging an environment favourable to initiative and fostering better exploitation of the industrial potential of policies of innovation, research and technological development. The main goal is to close the innovation gap, and integrated education and research activities are part of the means to achieve this.

  1. Will the EIT deliver degrees and diplomas?

Since awarding degrees is a competence of the Member States, it has to be done through institutions or organisations recognised by them .The proposal therefore envisages that degrees should be awarded from among the partners within KICs - or possibly by the KIC as a whole. In this respect, the Commission thinks that it will be crucial for the success of the EIT to ensure that the degrees issued through the KICs are clearly identifiable as “EIT degrees”. To build a global EIT reputation, the quality of the degree courses, as well as their compatibility and recognition will be an important element in the selection of KICs.

The EIT will encourage partner institutions to award joint degrees and diplomas.

The EIT will actively promote the process of recognition of EIT degrees by the Member States, as this should increase the attractiveness of the EIT both inside and outside the EU and facilitate the mobility of students and researchers.

  1. What’s the difference between the EIT and the ERC?

The EIT will promote innovation at the EU level, by involving and integrating innovation, research and education of the highest standard. It will carry out activities around the three parts of the knowledge triangle aiming to ensure a better commercial exploitation of knowledge and innovation outcomes. Thus, the EIT will be a knowledge and innovation operator, not simply a funding mechanism, working on a trans and/or multidisciplinary basis, with a strong emphasis on economic and societal outcomes. Moreover, the business sector will be an integral partner in the EIT.

The European Research Council is an element of the Seventh Research Framework Programme and will be a research funding agency. It is a Council of research experts that will select individual teams or even individuals for funding, on the basis of the sole criterion of excellence, to carry out creative and innovative basic research that pushes forward the frontiers of our knowledge. Education and innovation activities are not necessarily a part of this.

  1. Will the EIT and KICs be able to participate in Community programmes?

The EIT itself and the KICs will be able to participate in Community programmes, in accordance with the rules, criteria and objectives defined for each programme, on the same basis as any other organisation or partnership.

There will be no preferential access: their applications would be assessed on a competitive basis, in the light of their quality and pertinence, like all the other applications.

Duplication will be avoided: the assistance received through these Community programmes will not be used to support the activities funded by Community resources granted to the EIT directly.

  1. What will be the role of business in the EIT? And SMEs?

The involvement of the business sector in the EIT will be crucial for its success and credibility.

Business expertise will be fully represented in the Governing Board: the strategic choices about the fields to invest in must take into account their commercial potential.

Secondly, business will be an integral partner in the “Knowledge and Innovation Communities” to ensure useful outcomes, efficient development and commercial use of the knowledge outcomes. In this way, the private sector will also be a major contributor of financial, human and physical resources. Business will also contribute to defining the education element: the EIT degrees should incorporate innovation management and entrepreneurial elements as integral features.

The EIT has the ambition of attracting a significant amount of resources funds from private sources. This contribution is expected to rise as the EIT builds up a global reputation and develops relations with private institutions.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will naturally be invited to become a partner organisation of a KIC, like any other private company. Each KIC will define in total independence its partnership and the respective role of each member.

That being said, it is true that SMEs often lack the critical mass to participate in top-class excellence-driven initiatives. For this reason, the EIT will seek to disseminate the best practices of the work carried out by KICs to non-partner organisations, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

  1. What are the financial implications?

The Commission estimates that the total expenditure of the EIT during the period 2008–2013 should be around €2.4 billion. The resources will be provided by different partners, both private and public as well as from income resulting from the EIT's activity and endowments.

The EIT will require front loading from the Community Budget in its kick-off stage (€308 M), the objective being to maximise contributions from external sources, especially from the private sector, in the medium-term. This amount will come from the unallocated margin in the Competitiveness for Growth and Employment sub-heading of the 2007-2013 Financial Framework. It will be allocated directly to the EIT.

The total Community contribution will be significantly more than this however, since it will include funding attracted by the KICs directly, through the Structural Funds and, in accordance with normal procedures, through the 7th Framework Programme, the Lifelong Learning Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

Since the amounts that may come from the various sources cannot be stated with precision now, the exact arrangements for the funding of the EIT and the KICs will naturally evolve over time. However, the Commission believes that the proposal represents a reasonable and realistic starting point.

  1. What are the next steps?

This proposal will now be transmitted to the Council and the European Parliament.

The target is to adopt the legal instrument establishing the EIT by the end of 2007, or early 2008 at the latest. Subsequently, the Governing Board could be appointed in 2008, along with the first supporting staff to the Governing Board, including the Director. The EIT could then start its activities in 2009, with the selection process for the first two KICs completed in time for them to start their activities for the 2010-2011 academic year. Two further KICs could be established in 2011 and two more in 2012.

Also see:
More information:
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

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