On January 24, Ulysseus European University hosted the conference “Beyond Europe: R&I Internationalization Strategies for European Universities. This online event gathered nearly 300 participants and it was organized by MCI | The Entrepreneurial School® (Austria), one of the eight partner universities of the Ulysseus alliance. “Beyond Europe” is part of the dissemination activities of COMPASS, a Horizon 2020 project which aims at establishing Ulysseus as a model of excellence for Research and Innovation.
In an increasingly globalized world, cross-border cooperation is one of the key cornerstones of the EU Research & Innovation agenda. The EU global approach is clear in this regard and it involves mobilising researchers and innovators as one of the crucial challenges for the well-being of future generations. In this line, the conference “Beyond Europe” offered all participants a unique forum to reflect on the challenges experienced by European University Alliances encounter when developing their internationalisation strategies beyond Europe. Although these alliances may have a mission-oriented approach towards establishing strategic partnerships through various R&I collaborations and projects, the process of building such partnerships must not only account for technical and organizational aspects, but must also encompass the respective partners needs and interests to ensure mutual respect, equity and transparency.
Andreas Altmann, Rector of MCI | The Entrepreneurial School® (Austria), opened the conference by welcoming the audience and emphasizing how key research and innovation are for future prosperity, future well-being and future cohesion. In his opening words, he underlined the need for higher education institutions to collaborate together to tackle all research and innovation challenges and to look for strategic partners from outside Europe to maximise efforts in this field.
Reaching Beyond Europe: Building Collaborations Outside the EU
The first part of the conference focused on addressing the various strategies and models of European Universities R&I collaborations outside the EU against the backdrop of developing and ensuring respectful, equitable and transparent partnerships. Although the majority of collaborations for European Universities happens here in the EU, all European University Alliances cooperate with partners all over the world.
During his presentation, panellist Franz Fischler and Former EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries underlined the need to keep embracing and promoting the European values not only in Europe but beyond, particularly in view of the political conflicts that dominate the world these days. He also underlined the need to strengthen and revive historical relations as part of the internationalization strategies and to pay special attention to cooperation with African countries, and more in particularly to develop a systematic exchange of students between Africa and Europe.
Additionally, panellist Frédérique Vidal and Former Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in France, shared her vision of the role of European alliances in international cooperation and the impact of close coordination between science and diplomacy. She put special emphasis on the importance to attract talent by recruiting the best professors, researchers, and students, making them highly employable and creating diverse communities to enhance the student experience. She also underlined the need for alliances to understand their synergies with potential partners to mutually benefit in the field of research and innovation. Finally, she concluded by mentioning that it is not only universities that must change their mindset in building international cooperation, but it is essential that countries and the EU become aware of the huge development potential that universities and alliances constitute.
With regards to the contribution of European universities alliances to regions, Frédérique Vidal pointed that is key for alliances to have a strong connection between universities, companies and stakeholders in general. Franz Fischler paid special attention to the need to professionalise international relations with strategic countries, such as partners in Africa, to move away from charity and find ways for all partners involved to mutually benefit from the partnership.
Sustaining International R&I Collaborations Outside the EU: Challenges and Success Factors
The second part of the conference addressed the challenges encountered by the actors of R&I not only at the organisational level, but also at the individual level. Furthermore, after identifying the challenges, the panel also discussed the success factors for strong and long-lasting partnerships.
The first presentation wad led by Stefan Bergmans, director of Research & Innovation at the European University Association. During his statement, he underlined three key priorities of the EUA Innovation agenda: amplifying the societal impact of university R&I, cultivating robust, diverse and collaborative R& I cultures and championing a well-designed R&I system.
Last, but not least, the last two presentations were led by Jessica Schüller, Project Manager & Research Associate at C-BERT and Jason Lane, Co-director at C-BERT. During their statements they talked on how to build and manage strategic alliances and international partnerships and covered different points such as the types of transnational education on all their possible shapes and forms.
COMPASS: Leading Ulysseus to become a European University excellence model through Research and Innovation is a Horizon 2020 project and the flagship for Ulysseus R&I agenda and strategy. This action, which is part of the Science with and for Society programme of Horizon 2020 (SwafS), will facilitate Ulysseus’ transformation process towards becoming a European university through a common R&I strategy that will in turn consolidate its Innovation Ecosystem.