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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Budapest to house EU Techonology Institute – the Europe’s answer to MIT.
RENATA GOLDIROVA, June 19, 2008 EUobserver/Brusells.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Hungary’s capital, Budapest, has been selected to house the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the union’s flagship project to boost innovation, research and higher education.

On Wednesday (18 June), ministers in charge of competitiveness met in Brussels to put an end to the wrangling over the institute’s seat. Last month, they failed to agree due to a Polish veto on the matter.

Slovene education minister Mojca Kucler – who was responsible for steering the dossier through the European Council, which represents EU states – praised “efforts invested by member states for the common good of the EU” and described the institute as “a special milestone in the European research policy”.

The European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has also welcomed the ministerial deal, saying that the EIT will add to Europe’s capacity to bridge the innovation gap with its major competitors, the US and Japan.

In 2006, the 27-nation EU invested 1.85 percent of GDP into research and development, far from its 2010 goal of three percent. By contrast, the US spends around 2.7 percent.

According to EU education commissioner Jan Figel, the work of the institute would be organised through so-called knowledge and innovation communities – partnerships of universities, research organisations and companies.

The commission believes that such networks could help transform education and research and attract bright young brains from within and beyond Europe.

“It is not going to be one dot on the map,” Mr Figel told EUobserver, referring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which inspired the EIT concept. “We offer co-operation so the EU becomes more innovative,” he said.

Budapest was the only applicant able to meet the two criteria set by ministers – that the winner should be a “new” member state and not already be home to an EU agency.

But regarding the latter point, EU diplomats feared Poland’s behaviour at the negotiation table.

The country, also bidding for seat, had previously threatened not to withdraw its own application, unless it won some level of participation. It wanted, for example, the new institute’s governing board to meet in the Polish city of Wroclaw, one diplomat told EUobserver.

Besides Budapest and Wroclaw, three other applicants were keen to host the administrative headquarters of the institute – Germany’s Jena, Spain’s Sant Cugat del Valles, while Slovak capital Bratislava joined forces with Vienna in launching a cross-border bid.

The Budapest-based institute will operate with a total budget of €2.37 billion from 2008-2013, with €308.7 million of that coming from EU coffers. The rest of the monies are supposed to come from public and private partners as well as from the new institute’s own activities.

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We hope that, for the sake of coherence, the Budapest headquarters of EIT will find ways to cooperate with the Bratislava-Vienna group also. The Wroclaw push seemed out of place and was rather a clear effort at grand-standing.
We realize that   the City of Wroclaw is involved in such issues as the organisation of a European Citizens’ Forum (over two days) entitled: Towards a Europe of solidarity, but we insist that an EIT will have to deal with such technical issues as the development of technologies in view of changes that will have to happen because of global warming/climate change.   The institute will need laboratories and not just talk-estivals. Poland seems to have misread this intent.

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