02 Jun 2016   |   News

New university lobby group to campaign on next EU research programme

Nine universities team up to talk up research in Europe and boost the profile of several countries’ capabilities

A new network of European universities is banding together to influence policy behind the next EU research programme, set to begin in 2021.

The Guild of European Research Intensive Universities brings together universities with the aim of collaborating on "innovative solutions to some of Europe’s most intractable scientific and social challenges".

The network was founded by a group of universities in Brussels yesterday and is set to formally launch in the city on November 21.

The new Guild aims to boost the research profile of a broader pool of universities in Europe.

Nine member universities have been announced so far: Bologna, Glasgow, Göttingen, Groningen, Oslo, Tübingen, Warwick, Uppsala and Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

Stanisław Kistryn, vice-rector for research and structural funds at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, told Science|Business that building a broader network of universities is needed, because “Europe has more than 20 excellent universities.”

Kistryn says that the new Guild wants to “foster with more energy” the interactions between universities and the EU, and wants to be involved in the negotiations for the next research framework programme after Horizon 2020, provisionally referred to in Brussels as FP9.

“We can have a look at what is proposed and express the wishes of the Guild,” he says.

Previous EU framework programmes were “perhaps not created with deep enough consideration for the history, politics and the size of [several EU] countries,” Kyrstin added.

But the Guild aims to allow its members in central, eastern and southern Europe to work with the Commission on shaping the next framework programmes, and on improving research teaming and twinning, and other instruments "in order to increase everybody's capacity, not just driving north-western European institutions forward," Ole Petter Ottersen, rector of Oslo University told Science|Business.

"As we see it , there is a need for better coordination of EU structural funds and infrastructure investments with Horizon 2020 instruments. [...] We also see room for improvement in the way we link innovation to research projects, among other things," Ottersen said.  

Ottersen will chair the group while Anton Muscatelli, principal of the University of Glasgow, has been appointed vice-chair of the board.

Stanislaw Kistryn, vice-rector for research and structural funds at Jagiellonian, is treasurer and Warwick’s Jan Palmowski will serve as secretary general.

The Guild is planning to get up to 20 universities before the official launch and hopes to continue expanding.

The founding members have already approached universities in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Baltics, and in Portugal and Spain.

The Guild will join other groups operating in Brussels such as EuroTech, which counts four European universities specialised in science and technology as members, CEASAR, which represents some 50 institutes, the European Universities Association, which speaks for 850 universities, and the League of European Research Universities (LERU), which covers 21 universities.

Kistryn emphasised that the Guild doesn’t see itself as competing with any of the existing network of universities and future collaborations would be considered.

“We support any kind of group that can join us in the battle in Brussels for fundamental research and education,” said Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of LERU. “And we would welcome the opportunity to join forces.”  

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