What is it?

The European Commission supports links between higher education and business at the European level through a series of initiatives. Closer links between business and academia can:

  • encourage the transfer and sharing of knowledge
  • create long-term partnerships and opportunities
  • drive innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity

Closer cooperation with business helps higher education institutions (HEIs) develop relevant curricula and approaches to teaching and learning that meet the needs of both students and society. This helps give graduates the right skills and mind-sets for the job market as well as in their personal lives.

There are many examples of successful cooperation between academia and industry in Europe. However, the level of co-operation varies considerably between different countries, HEIs and disciplines.

How does the EU support this?

The University-Business Forum

The University-Business forum, held regularly in Brussels since 2008, brings together:

  • higher education institutions
  • companies
  • business associations
  • intermediaries
  • public authorities
  • policy makers

The Forum brings them together at a European level, to network and exchange ideas and good practice. Over a day and a half, the event examines the current situation of university-business cooperation and at the policy initiatives and programmes needed to support it. The last Forum took place in Brussels in April 2017 (report available below) and the next one is expected in the spring of 2019.

Thematic Forums are held on a more regular basis in cooperation with Member States to address key topics at national and regional level. Most recently Thematic Forums took place in Vienna, Helsinki and San Sebastián (see below for conference reports) and the next one will take place in Croatia on 19-20 October 2017.

A key element of successful UBC is people and the connections between them. As one of the ways to encourage this, a discussion forum on University-Business Cooperation was established using the Yammer platform (new users need to register).

Two major policy initiatives to have come out of the University-Business Forum discussions are HEInnovate, the self-assessment tool for HEIs and the Knowledge Alliances.


HEInnovate is a self-assessment tool designed to provide HEIs with advice, ideas, and inspiration to manage institutional and cultural change. Developed in partnership with the OECD it helps HEIs identify areas for change and innovation and drives holistic institutional change. Find out more on the HEInnovate website.

Knowledge Alliances

Knowledge Alliances are EU-funded partnerships between higher education institutions and companies. Together they work on projects that promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship by developing new approaches to teaching and learning across all subject areas.

The aim is to:

  • create new multi-disciplinary curricula
  • promote transferable skills and entrepreneurship within and through education
  • encourage a more systemic culture of cooperation between business and academia

Studies and reports

7th University-Business Forum (April 2017)

6th University-Business Forum (March 2015)

5th University-Business Forum (June 2013)

Thematic Forums

Innovation in higher education

Measuring the impact of university-business cooperation

Examples of successful cooperation between academia and industry

Review of the state of university-business cooperation in Europe

Individual reports on the state of University-Business Cooperation (2013) are available for the following countries:

Austria Ireland Spain
Belgium Italy Sweden
Finland Netherlands Turkey
France Poland United Kingdom
Germany Portugal