Entrepreneurs as the drivers of the knowledge triangle

Many Europeans believe that top class research and education per se lead to innovation. However, when taking a closer look at how research and education creates innovative chains of added value within the U.S. and more recently within the emerging markets, it is clear that the entrepreneur plays a crucial role within the “knowledge triangle” (business, education and research). He/she unlocks the knowledge and education found within R & D institutions to drive their potentials into new business creation.

Alexander von Gabain - Chairman of the EIT Governing Board
Innovative entrepreneurship is a rare species in Europe:teachers, students and graduates of European higher education institutions seldom see the opportunity to translate their knowledge and education into innovative products and services. This negative trend is facilitated by: 

  • a prevailing averse public mindset and culture towards entrepreneurship, ownership and risk taking,
  • lack of visible and outstanding entrepreneurial “role models”, like Gates (Microsoft), Zuckerberg (Facebook)
  • and Boyer (Genentech), serving as light towers in the USA’s innovative landscape,
  • lack of a supportive attitude by academia towards colleagues and trainees, who, instead of pursuing a career in academia, are seeking an entrepreneurial chance in their life, and
  • lack of incentive structures and risk capital; which is ironically counteracted by a surplus of red tape thwarting the set up of innovative businesses.

To overcome the above mentioned innovation gap, the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology), an independent body of the European Union, was set up in 2008 to implement Knowledge- and Innovation Communities (KICs). KICs, as legal entities, integrate public and private research organizations, innovative industries, higher education institutions, investors and spin offs.
The first three KICs bring together five or six European hotspots of excellence with strong records in research, education and focus on specific societal challenges, e. g. renewable energy. The EIT acts as a high impact innovation fund, by providing seed money to “Innovation factories”, the KICs, led and run by a CEO and on the basis of their respective business plans. This ensures that the innovation power of the integrated hotspots is optimally utilised to create innovative business and services within the KICs’thematic fields.
Students, trainees and professional experts working within a KIC are educated through degree programmes and courses on entrepreneurship that are awarded an EIT label. The EIT supports and fosters the KICs towards innovative entrepreneurship and at this stage, the first three KICs have been successfully implemented forming 16 hotspots spread across Europe. The EIT and the KICs are designed to continuously learn from each other and based on the learnings from the first round of KICs, the EIT is aiming for a second round of investment from 2014 onwards.
Alexander von Gabain - Chairman of the EIT Governing Board