Judith Bunting – Speech in ITRE about European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

I speak here as Rapporteur for the CULT committee for the Strategic Innovation Agenda for the EIT, 2021 – 2027, so I come at this work from the education angle. However, given my interest in science, technology and industry, I also have ITRE ambitions in mind.

My first concern is the level of ambition as written in the legislation.  When I first read the legislation, I found it rather weak. It does not lay out much in the way of ambition. And, in addition, it barely mentioned science and technology at all. This will be changed through the amendments which I shall be putting forward.

Having spoken with the Commission and with the director of the EIT, I am reassured that the quality of the work underway in many areas is excellent, but we should see a requirement for high quality written into the strategic agenda and accompanying legislation.

Without invention there’s nothing to innovate. So, technical education is critical to the continuance of the EIT and we must remember this is an institute of innovation and technology. The end result of the knowledge triangle should not just be to sell ideas, we are selling products and we’re selling services which can be used in daily life. Thinking about the spread and the widening of EIT areas of operation is absolutely critical to this. The EIT needs to be serving all member states, or as many as possible, and at the same time as acknowledging the need for high  ambition and high standards. With this in mind, we need to be front-loading education in the RIS (Regional Innovation Scheme). I would say, also, that we need to be encouraging technical education and entrepreneurial education in the RIS states … people are just as bright in Romania as they are in the UK and in Germany, they just haven’t had years and years and years of an established, quality education system. That is what the RIS should be encouraging.

With this in mind, I will turn to funding. The new funding model seems reasonable. Like everyone, I have a concern that the early models for KICs were not well guided and, financially at least, they don’t seem to be fully succeeding. I ask everyone, however, never to forget that at least 30% of the responsibility of the EIT and every KIC (Knowledge Innovation Centres) is education.

Education should never be driven as a profit-making activity. So for all we want every KIC to be making money and to become self-financing we must work out how we can tally this with the need for quality education and quality research. Research itself doesn’t usually make money until the innovators get their hands on it, so we need to be cautious in our demands for continual profit making and independence.

On the question of openness, the EIT should not be a closed shop. This links directly to the question of visibility and the fact that, before I arrived in Parliament and was given this file, I am sorry to say that I had never heard of the EIT. I worked as a science journalist for more than 30 years in Britain and not one piece of research from the EIT ever crossed my desk. This  horrifies me now because I know the quality of the research that is generated, but also this is a poor testament to the EIT’s publicity and visibility. We need to increase the budget  for publicity, which will help with the push to openness. Researchers and smaller companies are not going to apply for funds from an organisation they have never heard of. People need to know the EIT exists before they can apply to take part in our schemes and, equally, in Parliament, if the EIT want to keep our support then they need to talk to us about their work. I suggest researchers should come and give presentations, I would propose ITRE requests at least one hearing from one KIC and researchers each year. I put this to members, here, to consider.

Finally we come to the proposal for a CCI (Cultural and Creative Industries)  KIC. Most of the revenue from cultural and creative industries these days comes from movies and video games and streaming services. All of these are currently driving technical innovation and we should be leading in this area in the EU. Why can Slovenia or Romania not create a high tech movie facility, along the lines of Pinewood Studios or Warner Brothers, Leavesden, where harry Potter was filmed? We should also promote technical education with a view to expanding the video games industry, which earns 10 times as much as a fishing industry, in the UK, and I suggest the same could be achieved elsewhere in Europe. I

I am delighted here everyone’s views, now, and thank you for taking the time to get involved.

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