EIT HEI Initiative’s successful third IVAP workshop fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in European higher education, emphasizing collaboration and deep tech

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s Higher Education Institution (HEI) Initiative recently concluded its highly anticipated third Innovation Vision Action Plan (IVAP) Workshop in Prague, Czechia, which served as a pivotal gathering for stakeholders within the EIT’s HEI Initiative network and the European academic community. The workshop, held on May 31st and June 1st brought together representatives from cohort one, two and three projects, serving as an inspiring event to onboard cohort three projects while showcasing the ongoing efforts and achievements of cohort one and two projects. Additionally, the workshop emphasized the crucial role of deep tech and its link to the initiative’s goals, specifically in the third call for proposals, underscoring the significance of equipping the next generation of innovators with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the evolving landscape of technology and business.

The workshop offered an engaging and collaborative environment for attendees, empowering them to explore effective strategies for long-term impact and sustainability. Throughout the event, participants actively contributed to discussions and activities designed to enhance the HEIs’ innovation and entrepreneurial capacities. The workshop celebrated the pioneering spirit and commitment of the projects, igniting enthusiasm for their continued journey towards innovation and entrepreneurship.

Aligned with the third call for proposals and the most recent cohort of projects, this year’s workshop had a special emphasis on deep tech, reflecting the significant synergy between the EIT HEI Initiative and the Deep Tech Talent Initiative (DTTI), a pioneering effort by EIT to skill 1 million individuals in deep tech by 2025. The programming of the workshop emphasized the intersection of Deep Tech and Higher Education.  This was especially pertinent for the newly selected projects from cohort three, which all have a direct link to deep tech, either by offering innovation and entrepreneurship training to deep tech students or by providing deep tech training to innovation and entrepreneurship students, among other initiatives. This integration of these themes ensures that emerging talents and future innovators are well-equipped to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology and business.

With an impressive attendance of 237 participants from 35 countries, the IVAP Workshop provided a dynamic platform for academics, researchers, businesses, and organizations to connect, exchange knowledge, and explore opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe. Among the attendees were 175 representatives from HEIs and Universities, and 35 representatives from institutions across the knowledge triangle – various NGOs, non-profit organizations, research institutions, and small-medium enterprises. There were 180 different institutions or organizations represented at the workshop.

Dr Ruskin Rakhmatullin, education officer at EIT, Ms Merel Leppens, policy officer in DG EAC of the European Commission, responsible for European cooperation on education and innovation, and Dr Dolores Volkert, the head of the EIT HEI Initiative, kicked off the plenary session on the first morning, setting the stage with insightful background information and policy context for the initiative. The esteemed keynote speaker, Dr David Olivia Uribe, founder of the Mexican centre for European collaboration in education research and technology, EUMex-Connect, further enriched the discussion by sharing his expertise on European academic policy and deep tech.

During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to engage and pose questions in insightful panel discussions that provided valuable insights into the initiative. These discussions featured selected representatives from cohort one and two projects, who shared their project’s experiences, challenges, and successes. The first panel focused on the struggles and successes encountered by the projects in cohorts one and two, offering valuable lessons and inspiring stories of achievement. The second panel centred around the theme of deep tech, exploring the crucial link between the EIT HEI Initiative and the world of cutting-edge technology. These panel discussions fostered an environment of knowledge exchange and collaborative learning, with attendees listening attentively as the panellists shared their expertise and engaged in dynamic conversations.

An integral part of the workshop was the engaging breakout sessions, designed to encourage active participation and foster creativity among the attendees. Drawing inspiration from the concept of serious play, participants were invited to utilize Legos as a tool for brainstorming and visualizing concepts. In the first breakout session, which focused on trainings within the EIT HEI Initiative, participants were tasked with designing a new training program, considering the necessary components and desired outcomes. This activity sparked innovative ideas and collaborative discussions on how to enhance the Initiative and its projects.

In the second breakout session, participants were challenged to examine the current relationships across the knowledge triangle and envision the ideal state of these relationships. Again, using Legos as a medium for expression, attendees creatively mapped out the existing connections and explored ways to strengthen collaboration and synergies among academia, businesses, and research institutions.

The third breakout session, a roundtable discussion with top-level university management, provided a platform for in-depth conversations on the institutionalization of project actions within universities. Participants engaged in fruitful exchanges, sharing insights and strategies for embedding the EIT HEI Initiative’s programs into the fabric of HEIs, empowering attendees to explore effective strategies for long-term impact and sustainability.

These parallel breakout sessions provided attendees with opportunities to actively contribute and delve into specific areas of interest, fostering a collaborative and dynamic environment conducive to idea generation and problem-solving.

A highlight of the IVAP Workshop was the interactive poster presentation session, where attendees had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the innovative projects and connect with the pioneers driving change. Approximately 50 project posters, representing each ongoing project from cohorts one and two, were on display. This session facilitated networking, idea sharing, and deepened understanding of the ongoing efforts within the EIT HEI Initiative.

The successful third IVAP Workshop further solidifies the EIT HEI Initiative’s role in driving pan-European collaboration and building a vibrant community of academics committed to innovation and entrepreneurship. As the EIT HEI Initiative continues to evolve, it strives to inspire and empower more institutions to embrace the transformative power of innovation.

This summary was written by ChatGPT 3.5 based on inputs from Taylor Hall, EIT Manufacturing HEI Initiative Project Officer. The information provided has been fact-checked and verified by the HEI Initiative Project Management team. Graphs on attendance were provided by the HEI Initiative Project Management team. The photographs are event photographs from the 2023 IVAP Workshop, taken on site, by Veronika Rose Photography.