On 16 June 2020, Movetia took part in the webinar “Minding the gap – higher education, research and innovation in international cooperation” organised by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) in cooperation with three European agencies. The discussion focused on European funding projects and initiatives in which new synergies at institutional, national and European level are used to intensify exchange and cooperation between higher education, research and innovation.

Even before the corona pandemic, the European Higher Education Area showed a gap between higher education, research and innovation. The current challenges related to Covid-19 indicate that the form of cooperation in higher education now needs to be changed. In cooperation with its members and the EU Commission, the ACA drafted the reflection report “Minding the gap – higher education, research and innovation in international cooperation” which presents possible solutions for strengthening synergies in the knowledge triangle. The findings from the webinar will be used in the finalisation of the report.

Student mobility as a key factor

The knowledge transfer of research results, their integration in teaching and studies, and the transfer to society have become even more important in view of current global problems. International cooperation in higher education makes complementary knowledge accessible and enables the joint development of solutions. It is important – one of the conclusions of the webinar – that higher education institutions are empowered to try out new synergies among themselves. The mobility of students, researchers and university staff are key factors here. The more support there is from the education policy side, the more successfully education, research and innovation can be combined.

It is also clear from the initiatives presented that it is easier for students to decide whether they want to go into research if they can get involved in a research project early on. Support programmes for PhD students who can complete research internships worldwide can create incentives for more exchange and mobility; universities of applied sciences benefit greatly from support programmes in which they can develop research projects together with SMEs. The resulting transfer of knowledge and innovation benefits students, university teaching and companies, as well as educational institutions that are unable to conduct research themselves.

European Universities with even more intensive networking after Covid-19

Research funding is considered by the European Commission to be one of the most effective instruments when it comes to combating Covid-19. With new ad hoc programmes such as "Erasmus Recovery Action", initiatives and projects for new solutions are now to be promoted in the second half of 2020. Everyone agrees that increasing the budget for Erasmus+, supporting cooperation and above all strengthening synergies between existing programmes such as Horizon, Digital Europe and Invest EU create good conditions.

In particular, the aim is to develop a fully functional, digitally developed, inter-university European campus for the existing and already synergetic “European Universities” network which, thanks to a uniform infrastructure, will offer joint courses within the campus and externally in cooperation with companies and cities.

In view of the new Erasmus+ generation, the European Commission is placing great emphasis on strong synergies with research and wants to accelerate the change towards the “university of the future”. This will only be successful if all existing EU support programmes together pull in the same direction and do not overlap too much. In the future, Erasmus+ students and lecturers are to participate in research projects financed with Horizon Europe through internships, workshops, etc. The emphasis is on improving access to cross-sectoral mobility funding. New mobilities for doctoral students and university staff enable international stays from 2 days to 12 months. In order to ensure that the latest research findings are incorporated into teaching more quickly and in an inter- and transdisciplinary manner, researchers are to receive more intensive advice and support for their teaching practice.

Organisation / Panel

  • Ulrich Grothus, ACA President
  • Irina Ferencz, ACA Deputy Director
  • Christian Schäfer, Head of Unit Research and Studies, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Germany
  • Stephane Faignet, Team Lead Department Support Enterprises & Program Coordinator Collective Research Projects, Flanders Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), Belgium
  • Sabine Menu, European university EPICUR, Liaison Officer, Belgium
  • Torill Iversen Wanvik, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education (Diku), Norway
  • Karla Zimanova, Deputy Director, Slovak Academic Information Agency (SAIA), Slovakia
  • Fernando Galàn, Cosortium Manager, Arqus European University Alliance
  • Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Unit, Higher Education, Directorate General for Education and Culture, European Commission
  • Apostolia Karamali, Head of Unit, Academic R&I and Research Organization, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, European Commission