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EIT still up for debate: proposal for different structure

The European Institute of Technology, a project proposal conceived by the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, was recently analysed by an independent UN expert group which concluded that the present proposed form of the EIT would suffer from too many constraints. Instead of structuring the EIT as a decentralised non-physical institution around so called ‘Knowledge and Innovations Communities' (KICs) (university, research, business joint ventures in specific fields), the expert report proposed an alternative ‘Cluster EIT’ model. The Cluster EIT would support existing local and regional strongholds in research, education and innovation. These regional strongholds would promote the use of the EIT as a brand name for a flexible number of very high quality, centrally funded research institutes, each of which could be called the European Institute of Technology in a specific field. Whereas the previous model relied on networks as opposed to physical institutions, this model would create gradually up to maybe 20 European Institutes of Technology, each of which would have around 300 scientific and engineering staff and an annual budget of up to € 70 million. The main criticisms of the old proposal include:

  • the 135 million euro budget is insufficient for the dispersed nature of the network. A better mix of public and private funding should be a target;
  • the EIT should be a ‘place’ to which students and researchers will migrate. Students feel greater loyalty to a place than an illusive network;
  • the KIC's might be confused with the reserach networks already created under the Commission's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The report also advocates the creation of a European Innovation Fund. This fund could transfer the annual unspent Community budget to the EIT instead of returning it to national treasuries, a model already practiced in Canada with great success.

Assessment of feasibility