EU tech institute holds inaugural meeting

The governing board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, our intended counterpart to MIT, held its first meeting on Monday

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology formally began its work on Monday.

The institute (known as EIT) is Europe's answer to the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology (MIT), the US-based technology research powerhouse. The establishment of the EIT has been a lengthy process — first proposed in 2005, the institute got the green light in June 2006, and its structure was agreed last year.

On Monday, the first meeting of the EIT's governing board took place in Budapest, the institute's host city. "I am very pleased that the EIT formally begins its work today", said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, on Monday. "By attracting and retaining the best and most talented students, researchers and staff from across Europe, and worldwide, the EIT will bring significant value added to the EU's research and innovation landscape."

The EIT will involve business funding, to supplement around €300m (£240m) that will come from the Commission itself. In his speech, Barroso said the lack of business-funded research and development (R&D) in Europe explained "almost 85 percent of the [technology R&D] gap between the EU and the USA".

"Over time the EIT will contribute to boost research and development in Europe, close the business-funding gap, and bring the proportion of GDP spent on R&D closer to the three percent target that the member states have set themselves," Barroso said.

The EIT's R&D work will stem from the creation of "knowledge and innovation communities" (KICs), which are subject-specific partnerships between businesses, academic institutions and other stakeholders. The selection of the first two or three KICs is scheduled to take place in early 2010, with likely focuses to be climate change and renewable energy.