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EC proposal: one step further towards the setting up of the EIT?

The European Commission adopted on 18 October a “proposal for a regulation of the European Institute of Technology”. The proposal follows on two earlier communications (February and June, see respective editions of the ACA Newsletter – Education Europe) and on a wide public debate (and criticism). The proposed organisation of the EIT is in the form of a two-layer structure, composed of a small central governance body and a network of “Knowledge and Innovation Communities”:

  • The EIT itself, overseen by a Governing Board (GB): the EIT as a legal entity will consist of the GB and a very limited number of around 60 scientific and support staff. The GB will be composed of 15 high-profile people from business and the scientific community, plus 4 further members from among the EIT’s staff, students and Knowledge and Innovation Communities. The GB will set the EIT’s overall strategic priorities and select Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) to address them. 
  • Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs): joint-ventures of partner organisations representing universities, research organisations and businesses who come together to form an integrated partnership 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. They should be integrating innovation, research and education dimensions. Approximately six Knowledge and Innovation Communities should be set up by 2013, addressing “strategic long-term challenges in fields of key potential economic and societal interest for Europe”.

The estimated budget of the EIT would be up to € 2.4 billion for the period 2008-2013, to be financed by public and private sources.

The proposal does not substantially change earlier approaches – one of the most visible changes is the compromise for the name of former “Knowledge Communities”, which EUA had wanted to baptise “Innovation Communities”. The novelty is rather that it is (1) a proposal for a concrete regulation, which (2) builds upon an impact assessment discussing several possible EIT setups. The ambition of the European Commission’s President Barroso is to have the EIT – his brainchild - up and running before the end of the mandate of his Commission. If the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers adopt the proposed legislative text before the end of 2007, the EIT could become operational in 2008, with the first two Knowledge and Innovation Communities set up in 2010.

The informal EU Summit which took place on 20 October in Lahti, Finland (see following article) discussed the European Commission's proposal and gave the "green light" to the Commission's initiative - with, however, many open questions.