Cross-cohort collaboration: navigating success and learning from legacy in EIT HEI Initiative projects


Collaboration between EIT HEI Initiative projects from a single cohort is on the rise, but synergies between projects from distinct cohorts remains a relatively new phenomenon. In this interview with Ahmad Arabkoohsar, senior researcher and coordinator of the TREATY project, we delve into the advantages and unique aspects of inter-cohort collaboration.

Could you please tell us about yourself and your involvement with the EIT HEI Initiative?

My name is Ahmad Arabkoohsar. I am a senior researcher (associate professor) at the Technical University of Denmark and the coordinator of the TREATY project. This project is part of Cohort 3 in the EIT HEI Initiative, focusing on the global theme of ‘deep tech & green transition’. I was also a member of the Cohort 2 project DIN-ECO, but I had to step away from that project when I resigned from my position at Aalborg University in 2022.

Could you please introduce your project and its main aims and objectives?

TREATY is an innovative initiative with a primary goal of nurturing tech talents in sustainable energy, clean, and digital tech across Europe. The project is dedicated to promoting innovation, reshaping higher education institutions (HEIs), and expediting the transition to green energy and clean technologies.

The project focuses on two main target groups: students, by providing advanced knowledge and practical experience, and researchers, offering opportunities to join an innovative community in deep tech and green energy. The primary objectives include transforming HEIs’ mindset towards deep tech innovation, enhancing support structures for students’ skills, accelerating knowledge transfer to market and policymaking centres, fostering collaboration between KIC & non-KIC members, creating mechanisms for innovation-driven research and innovation, designing courses in sustainable technologies, and supporting continuous impact assessment of HEIs with a TechWatch structure.

Why did you decide to invite Inno-EUt+ and HEIght, two EIT HEI Initiative Cohort 1 projects, to your consortium meeting?

The decision to invite Inno-EUt+ and HEIght to the consortium meeting was influenced by their success stories, impactful results, and the strategic approaches they employed towards sustainability. These projects offered valuable insights for TREATY partners, guiding them in shaping long-term impacts beyond the initial implementation phase. This decision was also suggested as a good practice by our project officer, Catherine Laurent-Polz. Additionally, both partners being based in Cyprus played a role in this decision, aligning with the location of the second transnational meeting of our  project.

View photos from that meeting on TREATY’s Facebook page.

What were the most valuable insights you got from the interactions with C1 projects?

The interactions with Cohort 1 projects, specifically Inno-EUt+ and HEIght, provided TREATY partners with crucial insights, shaping their understanding of HEI projects and their long-term impact. From these interactions emerged significant learnings:

The impact assessment practices demonstrated by Inno-EUt+, such as the use of tools like HEInnovate self-assessment and qualitative evaluations, were appreciated by TREATY partners. These practices served as exemplary methods for assessing project impact at both institutional and project levels.

Strategic sustainability planning gained prominence through insights from both Inno-EUt+ and HEIght. TREATY partners learned about the development of sustainability plans focused on extending project activities and initiatives beyond the initial funding period, ensuring lasting impact.

Inno-EUt+’s successful integration of an entrepreneurial mindset in participating HEIs was highlighted. This involved the creation of entrepreneurial curricula, formal and informal training programmes, and activities like Climate Entrepreneurship Training.

HEIght’s overachievement of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) provided valuable insights into effective project management and implementation. The project’s success in building innovation and entrepreneurial capacity in HEIs, along with integrating training into curricula and product portfolios, offered practical lessons.

The significance of community building and partnerships was underscored by both projects. HEIght’s emphasis on Communities of Practice and Inno-EUt+’s collaboration within the ecosystem.

In summary, the interactions with C1 projects furnished TREATY partners with practical and strategic insights into impact assessment, sustainability planning, entrepreneurial integration, community building, and a realistic perspective on project implementation.

How have they inspired you for the continuation of your project?

The engaging interactions with Inno-EUt+ and HEIght during the consortium meeting have provided valuable inspiration for the next phase of the TREATY project. The strategic sustainability planning demonstrated by these projects has motivated us to develop a comprehensive sustainability plan for TREATY, ensuring the continued impact of key activities. Drawing inspiration from impact assessment best practices, we are committed to implementing an impact measurement framework to assess outcomes and institutional changes.

The successful integration of an entrepreneurial mindset within HEIs, as showcased by Inno-EUt+, has inspired us to amplify efforts in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship through targeted curricula and training initiatives. The emphasis on community building and partnerships, exemplified by HEIght’s Communities of Practice, encourages us to strengthen collaborative networks and alliances for sustained project success.

These discussions have instilled in us a realistic perspective on project implementation, prompting us to address challenges proactively and plan for the long term. Overall, the insights gained from these interactions will shape a more strategic and impactful approach for the next phase of TREATY, ensuring its continued success and contribution to the EIT’s Higher Education Initiative.

Are there any future collaborations between the projects coming up?

The discussions during the consortium meeting have illuminated several promising opportunities for future collaboration between TREATY, Inno-EUt+, and HEIght. Firstly, there is a mutual interest in sharing best practices and methodologies related to impact assessment, as both Inno-EUt+ and HEIght have demonstrated effective frameworks.

Additionally, TREATY is exploring the possibility of integrating aspects of Inno-EUt+’s entrepreneurial mindset initiatives into its next phase, aligning with the goal of fostering innovation within HEIs. Collaboration in the development of sustainable practices and strategies is a key focal point, with TREATY drawing inspiration from the success of HEIght in overachieving KPIs and embedding innovation and entrepreneurial training.

The potential for joint initiatives, such as joint proposals for future funding opportunities, has been discussed, leveraging the strengths and expertise of each project. Establishing a collaborative platform for continuous knowledge exchange and networking, as exemplified by HEIght’s Communities of Practice, is also under consideration.

These identified opportunities lay the foundation for dynamic collaboration, and the next steps involve further exploration, strategic planning, and concrete actions to materialise these synergies.

Share your experience with the EIT HEI Initiative and inspire higher education institutions across Europe to boost their innovation and entrepreneurship capacity.

Published on: 22 January 2024