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In science, 18 is the atomic number of argon. This summer, however, it is also the number of innovation and technology: the 18 members of the governing board of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) were officially appointed on 30 July, following the recommendations of an ad-hoc independent Identification Committee. The process had been preceded by public consultation. The chosen ones are European professionals with a collective balance of experience and knowledge in the fields of business, research and higher education. All have widespread reputations in their area of expertise and many have a dual academic-industrial background (see press release for their bios).
The Board will hold its inaugural meeting in Budapest on 15 September 2008. As reported in the June edition of the ACA Newsletter-Education Europe, Hungary had outbid the other candidates in the race for the EIT seat. It will now witness the Board’s first major task to select and establish the first two to three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) by the end of 2009 or early 2010. The KICs will bring together departments of universities, companies and research institutes to form integrated partnerships which are supposed to cover the areas of information and communication technologies (ICT), climate change and renewable energy.
The EIT project, which had originally been proposed by Commission president José Manuel Barroso in 2005, has been in the cross fire of supporters and opponents alike ever since it was conceived. The main criticism is the half-hearted funding, but concerns were also raised about the lack of the kind of networking culture that brings US business and academia together. The EIT’s success will hence depend to a large degree on the Board’s ability not only to bridge these gaps, but to convince the masses of stakeholders of its vision.