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Innovation work from a European perspective

Image of Europe map as a jigsaw puzzle.

The EU is now focusing efforts on innovation work – and it is also important for LU to pick up the pace!

The question “How can a university sharpen up its innovation environment”, was on the agenda at the LERU meeting “Policy group enterprise and innovation” recently. Universities in Europe have started to position themselves more clearly in terms of the role the universities can, and perhaps simply must, play in future innovation work.

On this question, Lund University has every reason to utilise its own well-established work on external engagement matters and to apply lessons from it regarding innovation work. The new concept to bear in mind in this context is “innovation districts” and I will return to this in more detail at a later date.

The 20 or so universities represented in the League of European Research Universities (LERU) meet twice a year to discuss innovation matters. The meetings are for pro vice-chancellors responsible for external engagement, those with responsibility for innovation at higher education institutions etc. This time it was Trinity College, Dublin that acted as host (digitally). Among the topics that are more or less always on the agenda for both the LERU universities and the EU is: how can even stronger innovation environments be created in Europe?

LERU works closely with the EU and the managements of the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the European Institute for Innovation and Technology  (EIT) both took part in this meeting. These two organisations began a collaboration some time ago in which the EIC, as previously, focuses on enabling ground-breaking innovations to be scaled up globally – their favourite example of a company they have helped to fund is the Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt.

EIT works more via major initiatives for Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) in which the collaborative environments of universities, companies and public sector organisations join together in large networks to drive development.

One interesting observation is that even when the “giants” EIC and EIT present new ideas, they, too, arrive at the need for well-developed lifelong learning. To be continued!

But, back to LERU. It is interesting to discuss with other major international universities that have extensive research and education commitments just how similar the challenges appear concerning the drive to develop more innovation. The traditional, relatively strong role that universities have had regarding innovation and innovation systems is up for discussion. There are many who look enviously at the opportunities for Swedish higher education institutions provided by the teaching staff exemption, i.e. teaching staff and researchers (not the university) owning the rights to research results. The teaching staff exemption has advantages and disadvantages, but does it perhaps provide a partial explanation for Sweden’s No 1 ranking on the European Innovation Scoreboard 2021?

/Kristina Eneroth

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This text is published in LU News No 5 - 2021