Innovation is a key strategic priority for universities. First of all, it draws on their research and education missions as well as their role as an honest broker at the nexus of different sectors and communities. Universities are critical to developing, attracting and retaining human talent, promoting entrepreneurship, and facilitating uptake of new technologies through cooperation with business as well as through start-ups and spin-outs. The direct and indirect contributions of universities go far beyond marketable products, including innovations that promote sustainability and citizen engagement in partnership with society. The university sector is therefore ideally suited to “connect the dots” in innovation ecosystems due to its impartiality and the fact that it is driven by curiosity and long-term perspectives, rather than by commercial interests and short-term goals.

These achievements are showcased by the evidence base developed by EUA in 2021 through its first ever survey on universities and innovation. With data from 166 institutions in 28 countries, the survey provides a Europe-wide picture of innovation at universities in terms of their institutional capacity to engage in innovation activities, and of their specific contributions to the green and digital transitions. The resulting recommendations to policy makers, funders, and universities will drive EUA’s efforts to enhance universities’ innovation capacity and their contribution to European innovation ecosystems in future years.

This work was preceded by a major study on the “Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems” published in 2019. Its main recommendations for improving 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.

The results of this work will feed into the implementation of EUA’s Innovation Agenda 2026 and its three key priorities: promoting a comprehensive understanding of innovation, building institutional innovation capacity, competence and culture, and boosting universities’ honest broker role in innovation for a sustainable future. To achieve this, the Association is working closely with members across Europe, particularly its Expert Group on Innovation which advises on input to policy initiatives and the planning of activities with university leaders, regional and national policy makers and other stakeholders.


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    The EUA Innovation Agenda 2026

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    EUA response to the European Commission’s New European Innovation Agenda

    The European University Association welcomes the European Commission’s Communication on A New European Innovation Agenda, notably as an overarching innovation agenda is needed to tackle specific bottlenecks which stunt Europe’s innovation performance, and to achieve consistency and effective implementation of the various tools available for this purpose.

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