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European Commission

Androulla VASSILIOU

Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

EIT: bringing business to education and education to business

Conference “KIC as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship”/Krakow

6 June 2013

I'm delighted to be here with you for this morning's conference. I would like to particularly thank Minister Kudrycka and the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education as well as KIC InnoEnergy for making this event possible.

[The challenge]

We are all aware of the challenges Europe is facing. The current crisis is testing our social systems, pushing unemployment to record highs and widening the gaps between Europe's regions.

In response, we are working with the Member States on vital structural reforms. Because the traditional industries in which Europe excels need to develop new applications and new business models in order to grow and maintain their competitive advantage.

We need to attract top talent, invest in highly skilled people and equip them with the knowledge and attitudes to drive innovation forward.

We need to reward innovative entrepreneurs, to offer them much better opportunities to start and grow new businesses.

Europe has no shortage of potential. We have world-leading researchers, academics, and companies. The challenge lies in bridging the gap between the excellent research and academic bases and business creation; in embedding a true entrepreneurial culture in the entire innovation chain.

[The EIT]

The EIT has been set up precisely to this end: to boost the innovation capacity of the Union and its Member States and create the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

And it is doing this by fully integrating the knowledge triangle of higher education, research and innovation via the Knowledge and Innovation Communities – the KICs.

KICs are highly integrated partnerships, bringing together companies, research centres and - for the first time at European level - universities on a long term basis around societal challenges.

As you know, the first three KICs were set up three years ago and are currently operating in the areas of sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy), climate change (Climate-KIC) and future information and communication society (EIT ICT Labs).

[EIT KICs distinguishing features]

If I were to name five features that distinguish the EIT KICs as a ‘hub for innovation and entrepreneurship’, I would say the following:

Firstly, EIT KICs have been set-up as innovative business-like endeavours. They are led by a CEO and develop annual business plans to carry out their activities in a strategic manner.

Just like businesses, KICs are established with the intention of being long-lasting organisations that will be evaluated on their merits.

They are not projects, with a pre-defined end date; they are living organisations with a long-term perspective and ready to adapt in order to deliver results.

The second key characteristic of the EIT is that it ensures a level of continuity and certainty that gives current and potential partners the right incentives to invest themselves in the KICs. This long-term perspective is crucial for promoting innovation.

Thirdly, the EIT KICs have a high degree of flexibility that enables them to adapt to the rapid-changing needs of our society. By developing annual business plans, each KIC can modify its strategy to better suit the evolving reality of our economies.

Fourthly, the EIT and their KICs strongly invest in human capital, in creating new and better curricula, in transmitting entrepreneurial values to students and researchers, and in promoting excellence in education.

In this context, the EIT is spearheading the creation of new diplomas for Master and PhD students, combining excellence in academia with a fresh emphasis on entrepreneurship. It is bringing business to education but also education to business. It is designing and developing new educational programmes together with the industry.

The EIT's investment in education not only relies on the transfer of knowledge, be it scientific or entrepreneurial, but on learning by doing.

EIT-labelled diplomas aim at giving students the possibility of carrying out internships in industry and of learning directly from entrepreneurs and other professionals.

Last, but not the least, EIT KICs have a strong geographical component through their co-location centres. There are currently 17 KIC excellence centres spread across Europe. One of these is KIC InnoEnergy’s co-location centre, Poland Plus, based here in Krakow.

It is our experience already that these centres, such as yours, develop strong dynamics of innovation, of quality in education and of new businesses. And at the same time, they link closely to other centres of excellence in Europe.

[The EIT and Poland]

The EIT and the KICs are now delivering their first results. And I have to say, they are very promising. Through the three KICs, more than 1900 students have benefited from innovative courses combining excellence in science and entrepreneurship.

As the EIT always works in close contact with the realities of the market, 27 start-ups and 35 patents have also already been created so far. And many more potential start-ups are in the pipeline, in the incubation phase.

Poland's involvement in the EIT is central. The co-location centre, Poland Plus, involves key innovation organisations of the Polish energy system. This helps KIC InnoEnergy to be a leading engine of innovation in the field of sustainable energy.

It has launched an international Master programme on Clean Coal Technologies, which combines in-depth engineering studies with training in business development and entrepreneurship. It has been coordinating several innovation projects leading to new products and services. And it provides a network of technology transfer centres to support the creation of new businesses.

As to the Climate-KIC, a regional implementation and innovation community was also set up in the Polish region of Lower Silesia. This regional centre develops and tests innovative ideas for products and services to tackle climate change challenges.

[The future]

All this shows that the EIT's initial phase has been successful. But it has also been experimental and taught us important lessons. Encouraged by this success, the European Commission has proposed to further reinforce the EIT for the period 2014-2020.

The Commission’s Strategic Innovation Agenda sets the direction for the future of the EIT and outlines its priorities. We want the EIT to expand its activities and advance towards its full potential. For this we have proposed:

First, to consolidate and expand the three existing KICs to strengthen their impact;

Second to create six new KICs, in two waves, in areas of major societal challenges and with significant innovation potential such as: healthy living and active ageing; sustainable food supply chain; sustainable access to raw materials; added value manufacturing, urban mobility and smart secure societies.

And, finally, to further enhance the EIT's impact across Europe. Not only in terms of innovation but also of excellence in education.

We also want the EIT to play a central role in the development of the European innovation landscape.

Moreover, the EIT does not operate in isolation and building synergies with national, regional and other European initiatives is crucial in order to succeed. This is why the EIT is an integral part of Horizon 2020, the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

The message is clear: investment in innovation must be among our top priorities. The EIT is one of our main vehicles to do so.

In order to match the level of our shared ambitions, we have proposed a substantial increase in the budget of the EIT, more than ten times the current budget.

This illustrates the European Commission's firm commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship through the EIT.

The European Parliament and the Member States are currently negotiating the future budget of Horizon 2020 and therefore of the EIT which will determine the number of KICs which we will be able to launch. I can assure you of the Commission's intense efforts to secure a solid basis for the future of the EIT. Poland's active support in this endeavour is crucial.

In addition to the budgetary aspect, the European Parliament proposed a Regional Innovation Scheme, which builds on proposals from the Commission and which will allow the EIT and the KICs to disseminate further knowledge and excellence in innovation, share good practices and know-how and promote entrepreneurship in different parts of Europe.

Ladies and gentleman,

With the EIT and its KICs, we are changing the way we approach innovation in Europe. We are bringing a change of mindset towards a more entrepreneurial culture in Europe. We are fostering smart and sustainable economic growth at a time when it matters most.

Your support for the EIT is therefore crucial and I look forward to working in partnership with you in this spirit and to discovering in more detail about the EIT-related activities here in Krakow.

Thank you very much for your attention.


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