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

Thank you. So I speak here as the rapporteur on the opinion on the CULT committee, so I come at it from the education angle. But, you know, given my interest in science and technology and industry and so on, I also have ITRE ambitions in mind. So I have a few points. My first concerns the level of ambition as written in the legislation and I would like to say I found the legislation extremely concerning when I first read it because it doesn’t lay out too much ambition and it barely mentioned science in technology at all.

But having talked with the spoken with the Commission and with the director of the EIT, I’m reassured that the quality of the work that is going on in many areas is good and what I’d like to do is to see more of that written into the legislation and we will be working on that.

Without invention there’s nothing to innovate. So I do see that this that technical education is critical to the continuance of the EIT and we must remember this is an institute of innovation and technology. We’re not just selling ideas, we’re selling products and we’re selling ideas which can be used in daily life thinking about the spread and the widening which is absolutely critical to this. We need to have the EIT serving all member states or as many as possible, but we do need to acknowledge the need for high  ambition and high standards. They are also valid and with that in mind I would say we need to be front-loading education into the RIS (Regional Innovation Scheme) members where we have percentages of the budget to spend in the IRS. I would say 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, it’s just they haven’t had the years and years and years of the establishment of the education system. That’s what we need to be providing and encouraging. With that in mind, I would turn to funding. The new funding model seems very reasonable and, like everyone, I have a slight concern that the early models weren’t guided well and they don’t seem to be fully succeeding, but I ask everyone never to forget that at least 30% of the responsibility of the EIT and every KIC (Knowledge Innovation Centres) is education and 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 do have to work out how we can tally that with the need for quality education and quality research. Research itself doesn’t always 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, I agree this 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 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 had crossed my desk. This horrified me. Especially, it horrifies me in a different way now because I know the quality of the research that’s coming out, but the publicity and the visibility is appalling. I think we all need to look at the budget line for that. For the general public that will help with the push towards openness, because people aren’t going to apply for funds from an organisation that they’ve never heard of. They need to know it 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 be coming and giving us hearings and I would propose the ITRE requests at least one hearing from one KIC and researchers in that KIC every year. I put that two members of ITRE to consider. Finally we come to the CULT proposal or the proposal for a CCI (Cultural and Creative Industries)  KIC. I won’t say much here, but we mustn’t forget this is a Technical Institute and an innovation Institute and we mustn’t forget that most of the revenue from cultural and creative industries these days comes from movies and video games and streaming services. All of those require technical innovation and we should be working on that in the EU. We need to be, I mean, the UK has the Harry Potter movie facilities, you know Shepperton and they are amazing. We could have one of those in Slovenia or Romania. We should be looking at expanding the video games industry. It is a massive earner in the UK. It earns 10 times as much as a fishing industry, but it doesn’t have its own committee anywhere and I would suggest that this could be the same for the rest of Europe. So if anybody has any questions about the cultural and creative kick, please come to me, but otherwise I’m delighted hear everyone’s views and thank you for taking the time to get involved.

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