EU set to decide on European Institute of Technology

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 2:48 pm    Post subject: EU set to decide on European Institute of Technology Reply with quote

EU set to decide on European Institute of Technology

The European Commission has had to scale down plans for a flagship project that was proposed as a way to compete with the U.S. in leading research projects and as a centre of excellence in innovation and education because of lack of interest from industry.

The European Institute of Technology (EIT), which proponents see as a European rival to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been strongly backed by European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, but industry across the member states has been lukewarm about the project, as have academics and several national governments.

Discussions within the EU executive have also seen divisions emerge between key commissioners over the EIT’s institutional form and role.

Proposals were scheduled to be agreed by the Commission’s 25-member "college" on Wednesday (Oct.11) but wrangling has knocked a decision back until next week.

The funding and the structure of the Institute is scheduled to be discussed — and Barroso hopes approved — at next week's European Community summit in Lahti, Finland.

Barroso had anticipated Euros 800 million ($1 billion) of funding for the project to come from industry, but has now accepted he is unlikely to receive a fraction of that from the private sector before 2010.

The proposed Euros 2.4 billion budget for 2008-13 will now have to come entirely from existing EU funds, with the Commissioner raiding regional and research budgets, according to a report in .

The report suggests about Euros 1.3 billion will come from structural funds, cash designed to develop poorer regions and train workers. About Euros 250 million would be drawn from discretionary money.

The Commission believes the EIT could generate up to Euros 200 million from its own products — such as income from commercial applications and academic studies — and the rest from the EU's proposed general research fund, which goes mostly to universities.

However, tapping the research budget could prove unpopular. "This will not gain the EIT any support in the research community. They would prefer to have funding for concrete projects than something that provides a promise for the future," a senior Commission official is quoted as saying in

The Commission originally proposed the EIT in September 2005, but it refined the idea again earlier this year with more detail following a public consultation that produced over 700 contributions.

Academics throughout the Community were generally sceptical of the idea, many suggesting it would take public funding away from universities, and duplicate the work of the European Research Council (ERC), established last year to award and monitor research funds across the member states.

However, Barroso believes the EIT would be complementary to the ERC, not a competitor for funding.

The aim is for the Institute to have a core staff of about 60 who will fund and manage "knowledge communities", clusters of researchers working across Europe.


This story was first posted on 13th October 2006.
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