European Innovation Ecosystems

Universities contribute to the development of regional innovation ecosystems in various ways, such as enhancing regional innovation performance through their research activities, playing a crucial role in developing, attracting and retaining human talent, promoting business, and improving social equity. Their direct and indirect contributions go far beyond marketable products, including innovation in education, culture and social welfare.

That is why EUA is working closely with members across Europe to reinforce regional networks, foster university-business collaboration and support regional innovation initiatives, including smart specialisation strategies. The Association is doing this in close consultation with its Expert Group on Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation through a number of events and activities involving university leaders, regional and national policy makers and other stakeholders interested in regional innovation.

Promoting European innovation ecosystems is also a key priority area of the Ninth Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon Europe). In this context, EUA is working to strengthen the strategic role that universities play in innovation ecosystems, specifically through its dedicated project on the topic, and to contribute to the shape of research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation beyond 2020. Its main recommendations for actions to improve the effectiveness of European regional research and innovation initiatives are formulated in the EUA policy position on smart specialisation strategies and in the EUA statement on the future of innovation ecosystems.

  • Smart Specialisation

    Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) have been a useful tool in developing innovation ecosystems in many regions in Europe. Smart specialisation is an innovative approach that aims to increase economic growth in Europe, by helping regions to identify and develop their own competitive advantages. Through its bottom-up approach, smart specialisation brings together universities, businesses, public authorities and civil society around various priorities aimed at regional development.

    Within the EU Cohesion Policy, smart specialisation is an enabling condition for regions to receive funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds. The purpose of this prerequisite is to allocate funds in more efficient way and to reinforce synergies between different EU, national and regional policies and funds.

    EUA is actively involved in promoting the role of universities in the design, implementation and evaluation of RIS3 strategies. The Association gives also crucial importance to the need to achieve greater synergy between the future Horizon Europe programme and the European Structural and Investment Funds to support research and innovation activities. In order to support the active involvement of the university sector in the creation of European innovation ecosystems, EUA set up an Expert Group on Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation.

  • University-business collaboration

    Facilitating access to knowledge by sharing research results and improving knowledge transfer between research institutions and industry is a key for creation of innovation ecosystems. It was also identified as one of the objectives of the European Research Area.

    One of EUA’s main priorities is to find ways to strengthen university collaboration with the business sector. The need to establish a more “trust-based partnership” between universities and businesses is key to turning more research results into goods and services for the benefit of our society.

    EUA has developed a substantial amount of work in university-business partnerships, specifically through the EUIMA-Collaborative Research project and the Responsible Partnering Initiative. 


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