About Unlocking Innovation Potential At Universities

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The EIT Higher Education Institutions (HEI) Initiative aims to support HEIs with expertise and coaching, funding, and access to the EIT innovation ecosystem. The aim is to strengthen their entrepreneurial capabilities at all levels and unlock their innovation potential.

The EIT Higher Education Initiative’s pilot call will provide up to €27.5 million to support the innovation capacity of HEIs across Europe. This call for proposals invited HEIs and local partners across Europe to develop institution-wide action plans to improve their entrepreneurial and innovative capacities. The result: 23 winning consortia involving 135 higher education institutions and 140 non-academic organisations (companies, research centres, public authorities, and associations) from 32 countries will benefit from this first call.

Each selected pilot project is eligible for funding of up to €1.2 million, of which up to €400,000 for Phase 1 (July – December 2021) and €800,000 for Phase 2 (January 2022 – July 2023) if successfully completed. Here, projects can focus on several themes, such as improving the quality of entrepreneurship education, developing services to support innovation and business, or strengthening partnerships between higher education, business, and research organisations.

“We are delighted that the EIT could broaden participation of HEIs in our activities and look forward to more European universities becoming regional engines of entrepreneurship and innovation”, says Gioia Ghezzi, Chair of the EIT Governing Board. A second call for proposals will be launched at the end of 2021 for projects starting in 2022. By 2027, the initiative aims to reach 550 higher education institutions to foster European innovation in higher education and support the dual transition to a more sustainable, digital and competitive Europe.

“Where Europe can and must do better is at turning knowledge into innovation and this is precisely where the EIT comes in.”

Jean-Christophe Bienée

When asked why the pilot call and the EIT’s HEI initiative are particularly relevant at this point in time, the EIT explains that: “Given the central role that HEIs across Europe play in regional innovation ecosystems and in training the next generation, the EIT Community will now work closely with these institutions and develop concrete actions to increase their innovation and entrepreneurship activities. The new EIT initiative will create systemic impact, empowering HEIs to become regional engines of innovation and will help accelerate Europe’s transition.“

Europe has a diverse higher education system with many excellent higher education institutions. But how does Europe compare to other continents in terms of higher education? “Where Europe can and must do better is at turning knowledge into innovation and this is precisely where the EIT comes in. To help Europe increase its ability to innovate, the EIT engages all actors of the education value chain. EIT education programmes at Master and PhD level and online courses for lifelong learning are offered with our leading academic partners, equipping students and learners with crucial entrepreneurial and innovation skills. Now, with the new HEI initiative, there is also direct cooperation at institutional level with expert coaching and funding from the EIT Community to support HEIs in their transition to regional engines of innovation.”

Improving and modernising education is a key priority for the EU and its Member States, as is promoting entrepreneurship among EU citizens, businesses and organisations. The new HEI initiative is therefore a great opportunity for consortia to become engines of impact and support the realisation of a carbon-neutral, digital, circular and inclusive society.

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