‘EIT: social challenge champion’. Interview with Commissioner Navracsics

‘EIT: social challenge champion’ – interview with Commissioner Navracsics

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, explains how the European Institute of Innovation and Technology can help tackle Europe's social challenges.

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) in Budapest is an independent EU body set up in 2008. Its mission is to enhance Europe's ability to innovate by nurturing entrepreneurial talent and supporting new ideas. Last year you set up a high level expert group to review EIT's work. What were the findings?

The High Level Expert Group highlighted that no other EU programme or agency had comparable hands-on experience in creating start-ups, driving scale-ups and turning lab-based ideas into marketable products. And the experts stressed the EIT's strength in graduate education, the way it serves as a model of how to enable young people to develop high-end, specialist skills. This is crucial not only for these people's careers, but also for driving Europe's capacity to innovate and compete globally.

So far, over 1,100 students (Master's and doctoral) have graduated from EIT-labelled programmes, and EIT start-up alumni are making it onto Europe's lists of top young social entrepreneurs. The experts provided specific advice on how to make the EIT's educational programmes even more effective, for example by boosting the recognition of the EIT label. Implementing this will be a priority for me in 2017.

How can the EIT help to tackle challenges like the ageing population, food security or clean energy and climate action?

Innovation and education have a crucial role in helping us tackle those big societal challenges, and EIT-funded innovation partnerships therefore focus on some of the most pressing ones such as climate change and the digital transformation. These innovation partnerships bring together top players from the worlds of higher education, research and business, allowing them to share knowledge, good practices and resources. This leads to innovation and new ventures in each domain, and enables highly talented young people to contribute to a better future through their ideas and work.

Last November the EIT selected a team to set up a new partnership in the food sector. What is the idea behind this?

The food sector is crucial for the EU and its citizens but faces many challenges. The idea behind EIT Food is to ensure that citizens can enjoy safe, high-quality, efficiently and sustainably produced food, today and in the future - another of the big challenges facing our society. The universities, research organisations and businesses working in this innovation partnership will place the needs of consumers at the core of their work. At the same time, its focus on education and innovation will mean that EIT Food will help boost skills and entrepreneurial spirit in this sector, enable small and medium sized enterprises to thrive, create jobs and strengthen the EU's competitiveness.

Source: European Commission, Michael Scheerer

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