Connecting the needs of universities and business is a vital growth–boosting strategy for the European economy
Roundtable: enhancing the role of universities in science and innovation
Identifying good practices and challenges in linking universities and businesses through innovation and technology transfer – this was the focus of the round table "JRC-Universities: how to increase the contribution of universities to science and innovation", held today in Brussels. The event attracted nearly 100 senior representatives from academia and research organisations, industry, liaison offices, member states and regional authorities, as well as EU officials.
JRC Director-General Dominique Ristori, his counterpart at the Directorate General for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Jan Truszczyńsky, and the Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the Commission, Anne Glover, opened the event. The key challenges of connecting scientific research and the needs of industry were discussed at the roundtable.
In the first session, contributors explored the possibilities for the development of an innovation-friendly environment for universities. The following session focused on the needs of the business sector and the areas which lack research to support the development of new products and services. In the final session the participants addressed tools, instruments and necessary conditions that can enhance cooperation between scientific research and businesses.
In his closing remarks, the JRC Director General affirmed that organised cooperation among all actors is key to put the EU back on track to economic growth. "Strengthening the connection between all the key stakeholders from academia and businesses is fundamental," he said, stressing the need to reconcile the interest of universities with the demands of businesses through structured dialogue. “Europe has no shortage of potential”, Mr. Ristori said, highlighting its world leading researchers, entrepreneurs and companies. "We have the largest home market in the world and many world changing innovations can be tracked back to Europe. But we can do better."
In this direction, he highlighted the series of initiatives the JRC has undertaken to better connect academia and industry. The European Forum for Science and Industry was established to foster a dialogue and cooperation on the scientific needs of industry. The European TTO Circle, which involves 25 leading European public research organisations, was created to support technology transfer within the Union, while the initiative on Science Parks supports thi role of intermediaries in the innovation chain.
Cutting-edge science and first-class education curricula provided by European universities is reinforced by their strong basic research achievements. Applied research is also of crucial importance, given that research outputs with potential commercial impact attract business interest and facilitate funding to universities. The European business sector needs innovation to drive its competitiveness and economic growth. Connecting the needs of universities and business therefore represents a growth–boosting strategy vital for the European economy.
To achieve this, a series of challenges have to be overcome. The fragmentation of the public science and research landscape in Europe has to be tackled. The disparities between European universities in terms of technology transfer rates have to be addressed. The links between the universities, SMEs, and industry have to be strengthened. An appropriate use of intellectual property should be combined with creating a local innovation friendly-environment.
Technology commercialisation can be an important tool to achieve the above-mentioned goals. The process of transferring technologies, new methods of manufacturing, and new materials amongst universities and businesses could ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users, who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications or services. This is a complex process but if successful, it can produce high dividends for both society and universities.