Commission reveals plans for
European Institute of Technology
The Commission has presented its plans for the establishment
of a European Institute of Technology (EIT) by 2009. Universities
and the Commission's own research advisory group have strongly criticised
The idea of a European Institute of Technology (EIT)
was originally proposed by Commission President Barroso as part of
the relaunched Lisbon agenda and the ambitious growth and jobs strategy.
The aim of such an institute would be to strengthen Europe’s
knowledge-triangle of research, education and technology transfer
by providing critical mass and a world-class model for teaching and
research and through partnerships between the academia and businesses.
A stakeholder consultation on the EIT’s key missions,
objectives, added value and possible structure took place in autumn
2005. The purpose was to inform the Commission on whether to take
the idea further.
The Commission revealed its plans for a European Institute
of Technology on 22 February 2006. The plans describe the overall
framework for the establishment of such an institute but do not include
any reference to its geographical location. A 1-2 billion euro budget,
coming from the EU, member states and industry, is proposed for 2009-2013.
The EIT would be a two-level organisation consisting
of a central governing body, a system of knowledge communities and
other partnering organisations. The government board, composed of
'top personalities' from the science and business sectors, would decide
on the strategy and the budget of the EIT and select and evaluate
the knowledge communities.
The knowledge communities would bring together departments
of universities, companies and research institutes to perform research,
education and innovation activities in inter-disciplinary strategic
areas. These departments and their personnel would be seconded to
the EIT and thus cease to be part of their home organisations for
a certain period. The EIT would have its own legal personality and
be independent of national regulation. Strategic research areas would
include at least nanotechnology and information and communication
Compared to the European Research Council (ERC), which
funds research projects on basic research, the EIT would be 'a knowledge
operator', not a funding agency, seeking to educate, conduct research
and apply the outcomes of research to commercial ends.
"Excellence needs flagships: that’s why Europe
must have a strong European Institute of Technology, bringing together
the best brains and companies and disseminating the results throughout
Europe," said the Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
He also referred to the establishment of an EIT as a "soft revolution
"If Europe is to remain competitive, then we must
ensure that we improve the relationship between education, research
and innovation," said Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture
and Multilingualism, Ján Figel.
MEPs Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Parliament's rapporteur on
CIP, and Jerzy Buzek, Parliament's rapporteur on FP7 welcomed the
Commission's proposal but asked for clarification on a number of issues.
The MEPs questioned, for example, the time-frame of 10 to 15 years
set for the knowledge communities to deliver results as they think
think that longer-term research should be left to the ERC and that
the EIT should concentrate on applied research delivering short-term
Chairman of the Parliament's committee for industry,
research and energy, the MEP Giles Chichester said, "The Wim
Kok review of the Lisbon agenda pointed to the fundamental weakness
of proliferating priorities and too many objectives. This EIT proposal,
coming on the heels of the ERC concept within the FP7 and alongside
Mr Verheugen's multi-faceted industrial initiatives and high level
groups suggests to me that the Commission is in danger of doing the
same thing over again. However, he continued, "one mitigating
factor would be if the suggestion to locate this proposed Technology
Institute in the European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg were
to be adopted. Then we MEPs could stop meeting there and the money
saved could help pay for the Institute!"
The European University Association (EUA) supported
the establishment of an EIT on two conditions: the establishment of
a European Research Council (ERC) "must be the first priority"
and an EIT must be built with "fresh money" that does not
deprive the ERC.
According to the League of European Research Universities
(Leru), the models proposed for the EIT "militate against competition,
will be unable to deliver the short and medium term benefits sought,
are narrow and unimaginative in scope and are of doubtful sustainability."
The Coimbra Group universities stated that "it
is doubtful that the creation of an EIT, be it in a virtual or a physical
form, will be directly beneficial to the creation of a European knowledge-based
economy and the Lisbon strategy." These universities think that
"the purpose assigned to a potential EIT can be better achieved
through the ERC."
Eurochambres is not "convinced of the need for
an EIT in the conventional sense. The only added value would be in
the integration of knowledge, commitment and power of world class
researchers AND enterprises. In addition, "should there be an
EIT, the European Chambers are of the opinion that its primary focus
must be on improving the commercial exploitation of research within
an integrated approach of teaching, research and technology transfer."
The Commission's own advisory group on research policy,
the European research advisory board (EURAB), said that plans to create
a US-style high-tech institute are too ambitious. The group has warned
the Commission that a "world-class research institute cannot
be created top down" and that "a successful EIT can only
grow out of existing research communities, supported by incentives
for research and innovation."
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has
said he supports the idea of building a network of existing universities
rather than creating a new institution.
The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, supports the creation
of an EIT.
The French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, wants
the EIT to be based near Paris in France. France might go ahead with
building its own EIT irrespective of any EU decision.
Some MEPs see the establishment of the EIT in the European
Parliament premises in Strasbourg as a solution to end the parliament's
'travelling circus" between Brussels and Strasbourg.
Latest & next steps:
The next European Council will discuss the Commission
communication on EIT on 23-24 March 2006.
The Commission will present a formal proposal before the end of 2006.
If the legal instrument establishing the EIT can be adopted in 2008,
the governing board could be appointed in early 2009, along with the
The identification of the knowledge communities should start in 2009.