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Our mission is to increase European sustainable growth and
competitiveness by reinforcing the innovation capacity of the EU.

What makes the EIT unique? (2/3)


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KIC co-location centres: a melting pot of knowledge and skills by José Manuel Leceta - EIT Director

from left to right: Alexandre Caldas (Head of Unit KIC Operations, EIT Headquarters), Jordi Currell (Director, DG Education and Culture, European Commission), Willem Jonker (CEO, EIT ICT Labs), Diego Pavia (CEO, KIC InnoEnergy), Mary Ritter (CEO, Climate-KIC) and José Manuel Leceta (EIT Director).

In stressing what makes the EIT approach so unique for Europe in this first series of editorials, the key role its founding Governing Board played in translating the political vision must be recognised. Indeed, during the EIT’s first years, high level individuals and collective wisdom brought the theoretical concept of integrating the knowledge triangle through Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) focused on societal challenges (c.f. first editorial) to life. The KICs’ distinctive and breakthrough features, such as their governance and management structures, fundamentally differ from any other existing innovation policy schemes to date!

Indeed, the EIT Regulation of 2008 did not establish some of the key defining requirements and concepts of today’s EIT. Instead, these were defined thereafter by the EIT Governing Board and include for example the setting up of KICs as autonomous legal entities, and the structuring of their activities through five to six so-called ‘co-location centres’. Similarly, the EIT Regulation did not specify that each KIC should be run by a CEO nor the principle of 25% EIT funding. This principle requires 75 % of a KIC’s funding to be from non-EIT sources, including not only contributions by KIC partners themselves but, equally important, also by other regional, national and European programmes, thus aligning multilevel innovation agendas.

These distinguishing features are the subject matter and the motivation for both this second as well as the third editorial that will follow.

Integrating explicit and tacit knowledge in practice

The first observation concerns the structuring of the KICs’ operations into five to six co-location centres. As opposed to most European-level R&D support schemes, which are managed via consortium agreements, the EIT’s KICs are unique as they offer ‘spaces’ where the collaborative strategies of the partners are fostered and facilitated, including an increased level of commitment by higher education institutions towards their ‘third mission’. In other words, each of the KICs´ co-location centres provides the environment for the union of both explicit and so-called ‘tacit knowledge’, a term first coined by the Hungarian philosopher, Michael Polanyi (1958).

Leveraging on existing capabilities is also a distinctive feature of the EIT reflecting, on the one hand, the fact that knowledge concentrates in given locations, and, on the other hand, that the EIT could hardly contribute to creating new capacities ex novo with the financial means available to it. In that connection, the founding Board members rightly stressed that the EIT should not become ‘another funding instrument’ but, rather an intelligent broker or ‘impact investment institute´, as envisaged in the EIT Governing Board’s proposal for its future Strategic Innovation Agenda 2014-2020, and in the text eventually submitted by the Commission.

Read the full editorial here.


*The ideas expressed in this editorial article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the position of the EIT.

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