The EIIT began life in 2006 as a surprise proposal from EU President José Manuel Barroso to create in Europe something like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the US university famed for its effective system of moving ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace. But the plan immediately provoked opposition from Europe’s leading research universities, who feared it would simply become another hungry mouth trying to get fed by EU research funds.
Eighteen months later, the plan has been radically revised – and is now to start life as a pilot programme for a “virtual” university. Its central governing board will simply coordinate multi-partner research projects – so-called Knowledge and Innovation Communities – to involve academia and industry. Plans for it to grant degrees were scrapped, and an early fight over its possible location led to the decision to make it virtual, rather than endowed with a full bricks-and-mortar campus. Its small administrative office, the Parliament said, should be located close to an existing centre of research and learning in Europe.