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Promoting excellence in education and skills development
Commitment 2-B
Knowledge Alliances and Skills for Innovation
Innovation Union commitment text

"The Commission will also support business-academia collaborations through the creation of "Knowledge Alliances" between education and business to develop new curricula addressing innovation skills gaps (see also commitment 3 on e-skills). They will help universities to modernise towards inter-disciplinarity, entrepreneurship and stronger business partnerships."

Employement in Knowledge-intensive Activities (KIA) as % of Total Employment, 2009
  • What is the problem?
  • What is our objective?
  • Implementation
  • Milestones
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Many efforts have been made at EU level to strengthening the relation between research and innovation and between research and education. The EU has also shown political determination to enhance relations between business and academia, e.g. as one of the core elements of the modernisation agenda for universities and in the context of the European Higher Education Area. However, the actual implementation of this ambition has, so far, been a lot less structured and systemic; whilst education is now widely accepted as an essential element of a truly integrated innovation strategy, the relation between education and innovation has been left behind, the neglected link of the knowledge triangle. The vital contribution of education to innovation needs to be further emphasised and developed at European, national, regional and local levels.

  • The University-Business Forum has provided a much needed space for dialogue between these two worlds. Allowing them to look at how they can work more closely together, the Forum has demonstrated that there is a real desire on both sides for partnerships focused on education, with a view to ensuring that education delivers high-quality and highly valued skills, underpinned at all time by a high degree of adaptability, entrepreneurship and creative and innovative capacities. As such, the EU has already recognized the important role of businesses in the modernization of education systems in general and curricula in particular.

As part of the integrated approach advocated by the Europe 2020 Strategy involving the development of synergies and combined actions between research, innovation and education policies (the so-called "knowledge triangle") the Commission has launched a pilot project known as the Knowledge Alliances (nb. to distinguish from European Innovation Partnerships).

Knowledge Alliances should be structured, results-driven co-operation ventures, that bring together businesses and higher education/training institutions in order to deliver new curricula and courses that develop new and innovative ways of delivering education and knowledge. The aim at all times should be to ensure that graduates in all fields emerge from their education with in-depth knowledge of specific research issues as well as with high levels of "transversal" ("T-")skills, ensuring high employability, adaptability and entrepreneurial, creative and innovative attitudes. Ultimately, the Knowledge Alliances will help European education systems to better meet the demands of European employers by developing the flexibility and innovation capacity of the European workforce.

  • A first call for proposals was launched during 2011 with a view to funding three Knowledge Alliances. This call met with a very positive response; the Commission received more than 90 proposals (for a three project budget capacity). Organisations from all 27 Member States of the European Union were involved in these applications.
  • These first three Knowledge Alliances will establish partnerships where a solidly structured consortium involving large and small companies, higher education institutions, research centres and training institutions will deliver new curricula and courses alongside new ways of delivering education (e.g. internships in industry and business involving trans-national mobility to offer on-the-job learning opportunities; e-courses; interactive learning methods and real-life problem solving).
  • These Alliances should lead to long-term, sustainable partnerships that bridge the gap between business and academia in order to ensure better cooperation between these two worlds in order to develop a coherent educational policy that meets the needs of both sectors, now and in the future.
2011 Support mechanism: pilot
Type: Financial support
Lead Directorate-General/Unit, Head of Unit

Directorate General Education and Culture, Unit C2, L. Recalde

Other Directorates-General/Units associated

DG Research and Innovation, Unit C4 Stefaan Hermans

Key external partners

Stakeholders from the fields of higher education, research and business

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