European Institute of Innovation and Technology
This article relies excessively on references to primary sources. (March 2023)
|Established||11 March 2008|
|Focus||Innovation & Technology|
|Chair||Nektarios Tavernarakis (Governing Board)|
|Head||Martin Kern (Director)|
|Budget||€3 billion for 2021-2027|
|Members||27 Member States|
|Address||Infopark - Building E
Neumann Janos utca1117 Budapest
Hungary and across the EU member states
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is an independent body of the European Union (EU) in 2008 to strengthen Europe’s ability to innovate. It does so by nurturing entrepreneurial talent and creating sustainable growth and skilled jobs. The EIT delivers solutions, talent, and a supportive environment for innovation to thrive. Through its multidisciplinary network of partners from business, higher education, and research, the EIT provides opportunities for students, innovators, and entrepreneurs across Europe. Its core activities are:
· Entrepreneurial education
· Developing innovative projects
· Business creation and acceleration
The EIT is an integral part of Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under Pillar 3 ‘Innovative Europe’ with a budget of €3 billion.
Since 2008, the EIT has created the largest innovation community in Europe. Notable achievements to date include:
· Designating 9 EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs)
· Establishing more than 70 on-the-ground locations (Co-location Centres) across Europe
· Educating more than 4, 600 Masters and PhD graduates through EIT programmes
· Partnering with more than 3, 200 European businesses and academic institutions
· Creating more than 1, 600 new products and services
· Supporting more than 5, 600 ventures who have gone on to raise more than €6 billion
· Creating more than 17, 400 jobs
The EIT’s official mission is set in its founding document: Regulation (EU) 2021/819 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2021 on the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (recast). It states:
The EIT’s mission is to contribute to sustainable Union economic growth and competitiveness by reinforcing the innovation capacity of the Union and Member States in order to address major challenges faced by society. It shall do this by promoting synergies, integration and cooperation among higher education, research and innovation of the highest standards, including by fostering entrepreneurship, thereby strengthening the innovation ecosystems across the Union in an open and transparent manner. 
The EU Parliament and the Council update the EIT’s objectives and agenda every 7 years, the current agenda being for the 2021-2027 period.
The Governing Board
The EIT Governing Board is the principal governing body entrusted with the strategic leadership of the Institute and the overall direction of its operational activities. It is autonomous in its decision-making and is responsible for the selection, evaluation, and support given to the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs).
The EIT Governing Board has 15 members (experts in higher education, research, business, and innovation at the EU level) as well as one independent observer from the European Commission.
EIT management team and executive directors
The EIT Director is supported by the Director’s office and the Legal section, together with the Heads of Operations I, II, and the Administrative Unit. The current Director of the EIT is Martin Kern.
Participation and Funding
The EIT is part of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 2021-2027. At the start of 2021, it became part of Pillar 3 - Open Innovation of Horizon Europe. The Horizon Europe Regulation states that the KICs are institutionalised European Partnerships and, as such, they shall deliver clear impacts for the European Union and their citizens.
The EIT Member State Representatives Group (MSRG)
The new EIT Regulation and the EIT Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027 established the EIT Member State Representatives Group (MSRG). The MSRG advises the EIT Governing Board and the EIT Director on strategically important issues, such as the extension or termination of the EIT’s partnership agreements and the conclusion of a memorandum of cooperation with each KIC. It also facilitates interaction between EIT Community and national or regional activities, sharing information about potential national and regional co-financing.
The MSRG is composed of a representative and a substitute from each EU Member State and each Associated Country to Horizon Europe. They are delegated at the invitation of the European Commission. Members come from ministries or national authorities responsible for the EIT and must demonstrate relevant knowledge and understanding of Horizon Europe, as well as national and EU-level innovation policies.
The MSRG meets at least twice a year and is co-chaired by the EIT Director and a Representative nominated by the MSRG. Representatives of the European Commission (from DG EAC), the EIT Governing Board, and the CEOs of the KICs may be invited to attend the meetings to align better the work carried out by the group.
Foundation and Objective
On 11 March 2008 the European Parliament and the Council signed the Regulation (EC) No 294/2008, establishing the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The goal was to foster the integration of the knowledge triangle — higher education, research, and innovation — across the European Union. The rationale behind the establishment of the EIT was the EU’s attempt to re-launch its Lisbon Strategy, signed in 2000, focusing on a ‘growth and job’ agenda. The EIT was, therefore, an attempt to redefine the European Commission mandates and governance of higher education institutions as part of a knowledge-based economy route to economic and social development.
On 18 June 2008, HQ were established in Budapest, Hungary and on 15 September 2008 the inaugural meeting of EIT Governing Board was held. There, Martin Schuurmans was elected Chair of the Board.
Initial Phase (2008-2011)
As determined in the Regulation establishing EIT, within 12 months after its creation the Governing Board had to submit the draft of the first rolling triennial work programme and within a period of 18 months select and designate two or three KICs.
The topics of the first wave of KICs (climate, energy, digital) were selected based on the criteria for selection described in Article 7 (“Selection of KICs”) in December 2009. Article 7 was open to some degree of interpretation and the Governing Board working group was essential in shaping a common understanding of each potential KIC. For instance, the concept of EIT Climate-KIC was defined as climate change mitigation and adaptation; KIC InnoEnergy (now InnoEnergy) was focused on sustainable energy sources; and EIT ICT Labs (now EIT Digital) put emphasis not only on digital technology but on the future of social information sharing and communication.
The EIT’s main goal for 2012 was to move from an initial start-up phase to a consolidation of activities with the existing three KICs, as well as to start preparations for an enlarged KIC portfolio in the future. Scaling up was done through the pilot implementation of EIT-labelled degrees with the goal of creating role models for the kind of education it wanted to promote. That meant hands-on entrepreneurial education that addressed topical issues such as the climate crisis, finding alternative power source solutions, and technological advances to improve people’s lives.
All three KICs accelerated the enlargement of their project portfolio through MSc, Master’s, and Doctoral programmes. During these two years, EIT-labelled programmes allowed the EIT to raise awareness of its activities and value proposition for society among external stakeholders.
EIT as part of Horizon 2020 (2014-2020)
Horizon 2020 was adapted in 2013 to reduce the fragmentation of European research and industry and refocus their efforts on UN SDG-related issues. Its implementation would be partly carried out by the EIT, who would use the KICs to overcome Europe’s fragmentation. The EIT’s budget was expanded to €2.7 billion for the 2014 to 2020 to meet Horizon 2020 objectives.
Based on the Strategic Innovation Agenda (SIA) of the EIT for 2014-2020, a call for proposals was announced in 2014 with two distinct thematical areas. One was for innovation for healthy living and active ageing (EIT Health) and the second was raw materials - sustainable explorations, extraction, processing, recycling, and substitution (EIT RawMaterials). The SIA also set the themes for 2016 and 2018 calls to establish an additional three KICs in the themes of Food4Future (now EIT Food), added-value manufacturing (now EIT Manufacturing), and eco-friendly urban mobility (EIT Urban Mobility). During this period, the eight KIC EIT structure was established to contribute to a larger EU policy agenda and, specifically, Horizon 2020.
Additionally, the RIS Scheme was introduced as an answer to underrepresentation of innovation start-ups and education for entrepreneurs in non-EU countries. The scheme seeks out and nurtures new partnerships with research and education institutions in RIS countries. Its funding mobility programmes offer students, researchers, and entrepreneurs of any age the chance to gain new skills. In 2017, the EIT expanded the total EIT RIS countries to 18.
That same year, Forbes chose 18 EIT Community members for the annual ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list.
In 2018, the EIT and its KICs established the EIT Global Outreach Programme, the first EIT Community-coordinated effort at the global level. It expanded the reach of the EIT Community to non-European partners.
In 2020, the EIT launched the EIT Crisis Response Initiative which mobilised 60 million in additional funding for the Community to launch new projects dealing directly with the COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic fallout.
EIT as part of Horizon Europe (2021-2027)
For the budget period of 2021-2027, the EIT was mandated by the EU Parliament and Council to deliver on Horizon Europe objectives.
Between 2021 – 2027, the EIT should:
- Increase the impact of its activities
- Create two new KICs:
- Cultural and Creative Sectors and Industries (already established in June 2022) and
- Water, Marine and Maritime Sectors and Ecosystems
- Put more emphasis on the regional dimensions of its activities by providing targeted support to countries who lag in innovation performance
- Launch a new pilot initiative to increase the entrepreneurial and innovation capacity of higher education institutions.
In March 2021, the EIT opened its liaison office in Brussels, ensuring close working ties with stakeholders like the EU Commission and the EU Parliament. 2021 also saw the launch of the HEI Initiative: Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education, addressing one of the key objectives of the EIT’s SIA 2021-2027. The HEI Initiative helps coordinate cross-sectoral activities related to education and gives a wider circle of future entrepreneurs access to the EIT Community’s experience and knowledge. Several projects were developed through this initiative: Skills for Future, Girls go Circular, and Women in AgriFood.
In light of a full-scale war against Ukraine started by Russia on February, 24, 2022, the EIT together with several KICs initiated activities to help Ukrainians. These included providing traineeships and professional development, as well as initiating projects aimed at post-war reconstruction.
In the EU Parliament and Council Decision of 20 May 2021, which sets the 2021-2027 EIT Agenda, the budget needs of the EIT were set at €2.965.000.000 €2.854.000.000 (96% of the total EIT budget) is envisaged to fund existing and new KICs, of which:
- at least 10% and a maximum of 15% shall be dedicated to the RIS
- a maximum of 7% shall be dedicated to cross-KIC activities, including support for KICs, for which the partnership agreement is expired or terminated
- a maximum of 3% shall be dedicated to a pilot higher education initiative of three years.
The EIT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with several European organisations:
- The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training, formerly known as European Police College (CEPOL) (27 October 2014)
- The Joint Research Centre (JRC) (22 September 2016)
- The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) (8 October 2020)
- The European Innovation Council (EIC) (8 January 2021)
- The European Investment Fund (EIF) (20 September 2021)
- The European Investment Bank (EIB) (20 September 2021)
- Agencies of the European Union
- Lisbon Strategy
- European Research Area (ERA)
- European Research Council (ERC)
- Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development
- Science and Technology in Europe
- Joint Research Centre (JRC)
- European Innovation Council (EIC)
- European Investment Fund (EIF)
- European Investment Bank (EIB)
- European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
- European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL)
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- ^ "European Investment Fund and the European Institute of Innovation & Technology join forces to boost innovation in Europe”, European Investment Fund, September 20, 2021, https://www.eif.org/european-investment-fund-and-the-european-institute-of-innovation-technology-join-forces-to-boost-innovation-in-europe.