Pilot Phase conclusion event fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in European higher education

The EIT HEI Initiative celebrated the conclusion of its Pilot Phase with a highly anticipated event in Brussels on 3 and 4 June 2024. This pivotal gathering brought together stakeholders from across the EIT HEI Initiative network and the European academic community to reflect on the achievements, share lessons learned, and foster community and collaboration. The event celebrated the initiative’s journey, showcasing the transformative impact of innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education.

The event provided an engaging and collaborative environment for the 222 participants from 33 countries, including representatives from all three project cohorts. The attendees, comprising 134 higher education institutions and 43 organisations from across the knowledge triangle, engaged in inspiring plenary session, networking opportunities, panel discussions, and poster presentations as well as select topic presentations. This dynamic platform facilitated knowledge exchange and new cooperation opportunities, reinforcing the initiative’s role in driving pan-European collaboration.

One focus of the event was on the deep tech landscape in European higher education, reflecting the synergy between the EIT HEI Initiative and the Deep Tech Talent Initiative (DTTI), which aims to skill 1 million individuals in deep tech by 2025. The integration of deep tech themes underscored the importance of equipping the next generation of innovators with the skills needed to thrive in the evolving landscape of technology and business.

The event commenced with a celebratory reception and remarks from the initiative management team. Dr Dolores Volkert, head of the EIT HEI Initiative at EIT RawMaterials, set the stage with insightful background information and highlighted the journey of the initiative, showcasing the achievements of the 65 pioneering projects. Dr Volkert emphasised the collaborative effort, stating, “Let’s build this movement together to share our knowledge with other HEIs. As a community, we have the power to drive innovation.” A key highlight at the reception was the introduction of the Initiative’s Alumni Community by Kateryna Skytalinska, which provides a platform for EIT HEI Initiative project beneficiaries to establish new connections and facilitate collaboration opportunities.

The plenary session on 4 June was opened by Mr Normunds Popens, Deputy Director General from DG EAC (Directorate-General for Education and Culture), who enriched the discussions with his perspective on the importance of the EIT HEI Initiative within the broader European policy landscape. He stated, “We want the EIT HEI Initiative to continue, and we want to keep working together to ensure the future is bright.” The session continued with remarks from Dr Prof Heinrich Arnold, Board Member of EIT, who emphasised how the EIT has mastered bringing together the essential elements for fostering innovation: identifying and strengthening educational competencies at universities, effectively linking these competencies with various industries, and strategically using investments to build businesses.

The first panel discussion moderated by Dr Volkert hosted panellists from the policy level and aimed at showcasing the role of the EIT HEI Initiative in supporting HEIs in driving innovation and entrepreneurship forward. Experts shared insights, strategies, and predictions, exploring how the EIT HEI Initiative can navigate challenges and maximise opportunities in the quest for a more innovative and entrepreneurial society and provided valuable insights into the initiative.

EIT HEI Initiative: 2024 Pilot Phase Conclusion Event

Keynote speaker, Dr Valtencir Mendes, Chief of Education at UNESCO Regional Office Chile, emphasised the importance of a global perspective, the connection between micro-level projects and the larger picture, and the value of industry networks for HEIs. He also highlighted the motivation for continued involvement and the critical role of deep tech in education. He stated that “To train the future generation of change makers, HEIs need to foster local ecosystems while taking into account the global mindset, but also create communities of practice to harness knowledge sharing”.

The keynote was followed by the second panel discussion with representatives from the initiative partners. The panel explored the integration of innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education institutions (HEIs). Discussions focused on overcoming barriers to innovation, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and the role of deep tech in education. The panellists emphasised the need for HEIs to adapt quickly to emerging technologies, integrate entrepreneurial skills, and leverage cross-sectoral partnerships. They also highlighted the importance of continuous, lifelong education and making deep tech approachable to address global challenges.

Participants of the event had the opportunity to connect through the event’s networking platform, b2match. The platform was well-received, with over 170 participants registering and creating profiles. Additionally, more than 60 meetings were scheduled to take place during the event or virtually afterward, facilitating valuable interactions and collaborations.

The event also featured an interactive poster presentation session, where approximately 65 project posters from all cohorts as well as some posters with initiative level highlights were on display which are made available on Resource Hub and visible on b2match platform. This session facilitated networking, idea sharing, and a deeper understanding of the ongoing efforts within the EIT HEI Initiative.

Following the dynamic networking and poster session, participants were invited into select topic discussions. These six sessions were highly interactive and hosted by facilitators from the initiative’s partners or external experts. Specialist presenters were chosen specifically to match topics such as smart specialisation, knowledge triangle integration and institutionalisation. Through the use of the b2match platform, attendees had the opportunity to select their session of preference therefore maximising the value of the event for attendees.

The event concluded with final remarks from Dolores Volkert, Head of the Initiative, who hinted at exciting opportunities ahead for continued involvement. Stay tuned for more details and ways to stay engaged.

The successful Pilot Phase Conclusion Event further solidifies the EIT HEI Initiative’s role in building a vibrant community committed to innovation and entrepreneurship in European Higher Education. As the EIT HEI Initiative continues to evolve, it strives to inspire and empower more institutions to embrace the transformative power of innovation, get involved in a project or the community, and foster a collective vision for the future.

Published on: 27 June 2024