EUROPEAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (6844/06,
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
MP, Minister for Life-long Learning, Further and Higher Education,
Department for Education and Skills
Your Explanatory Memorandum dated 16 March was
considered by Sub-Committee G on 30 March.
We acknowledge that these are very important
proposals which require extremely careful consideration, and which
we will want to examine more closely.
At first sight, we share some of the Government's
caution. We have also seen the critical debate in the media over
the idea. Although the Commission have identified many of the
relevant problems, we are not yet satisfied that their Communication
has demonstrated that the EIT would be an effective solution.
It is regrettable that the conclusions of the
March European Council were taken before the Commission's Communication
could be given adequate Parliamentary scrutiny. We trust that
those conclusions will not be regarded as a foregone political
conclusion in favour of the idea and would welcome your report
and comments on the discussions at the Council about this.
We need more time to consider the highly detailed
analysis of the Commission's questionnaire and the Government's
response to it. But we note that the questionnaire appeared to
assume that the EIT was necessary and did not seem to ask searching
questions about how effective it was likely to be in practice
or whether the desired results could be better achieved in other
We would welcome your comments on the methodology
used by the Commission in their consultation, about which we have
Much more hard information will be needed on
the way that the EIT is supposed to work in practice and how it
will be funded. We share your concerns over the possible opportunity
cost to other EU education and research programmes and will want
to see evidence to support the apparent assumption that the EIT
would attract sufficient funding from business, non-official grants
and revenue-raising activities. Searching questions will also
need to be asked about the legal base for the Institution, its
operational structure and how the proposed "knowledge communities"
are supposed to work, including how intellectual property rights
will be handled.
Although we note that the Commission will be
expected to produce more detailed proposals by June of this year,
it is not clear from your EM how much work the Government plans
to do on the Proposal in the meantime. We would be glad to know
whether you intend to carry out further consultations at this
stage with the academic, research and business communities in
the UK, as well as with the Commission and other Member States.
We will hold this document under scrutiny pending
30 March 2006
Letter from Bill Rammell MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 30 March in response
to the Explanatory Memorandum on developing a European Institute
of Technology (EIT). You asked for a report on the March European
Council discussions on the Commission's communication.
As you know, this communication was discussed
by the European Council on 24 March. The conclusions of that discussion
noted the significance of the Commission's communication, recognised
that an EIT would be an important step to fill the existing gap
between higher education, research and innovation, and invited
the Commission to submit a proposal on further steps by mid-June
2006. We will continue to encourage the Commission that those
next steps should involve bringing together both universities
and the business community to explore the options.
We think this is important, not least because
we share some of your concerns about the Commission's consultation
last year and whether the model being proposed by the Commission
is necessarily the most effective way forward. We also agree that
there needs to be much more clarity about how the project would
work in practice, the scale of resources needed for it and where
that funding would come from.
It is however very clear that one of the real
deficits in terms of the performance of European universities
when compared to their US counterparts is the extent to which
the outputs of research are exploited commercially. An initiative
which successfully improved networking and collaboration between
universities and business across Europe would be of real benefit.
Finally, you asked in particular about the further
consultations that we are planning on this proposal. Although
the proposal is still at a very early stage, we have been informally
seeking views from a number of stakeholders, including the CBI
and Universities UK, and we are encouraging the Commission and
other Member States that the next steps should include some further
consultation with leading higher education institutions and leading
research and development intensive businesses.
25 April 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
Thank you for your letter dated 25 April which
was considered by Sub-Committee G on 4 May. We are grateful for
your report on discussion of the Communication at the European
Council on 24 March. You will see from my letter to you dated
30 March that we were concerned that the Council's statement could
be interpreted as a foregone political conclusion in favour of
the EIT concept. We are therefore glad to know that the Government
support the need for the concept to be explored more thoroughly
in full consultation with universities and the business community.
I am sure you would agree that the need for
that thorough examination was amply borne out by some of the contributions
to the Debate in the House on Lord Patten's Question about the
role of British and other European universities in the promotion
of research and development on 27 April.
During that Debate the Chairman of Sub-Committee
G, Baroness Thomas of Walliswood, drew attention to some of the
deficiencies in the Commission's web-based questionnaire which
we understand was their sole, means of formal consultation. In
my letter to you dated 30 March I said that we needed more time
to consider the Commission's analysis of the results of that consultation.
Having done so, we thought it might be helpful if we were to share
with you some of our preliminary impressions of that analysis,
which are enclosed. Your comments would be most welcome.
You will see that our impressions tend to bear
out some of the initial concerns about the consultation which
I raised in my letter dated 30 March and which suggest serious
shortcomings in the Commission's methodology. We would be glad
to know whether you regard this as a valid or sufficient way for
the Commission to carry out their obligation to consult and to
know how much weight you think should be given to their findings
in the circumstances.
We are glad that the Government has now started
to seek views from UK stakeholders, including the CBI and Universities
UK and is encouraging the Commission and Member States to take
parallel steps. We hope, however, that your informal consultations
will range more widely and include not only universities but also
independent research bodies, learned societies, professional institutions
and organisations like the Skills Councils so as to give an assessment
that is as wide and authoritative as possible not only on the
need for the Institute but also on the best way of using it to
achieve the desired result of improved co-ordination between higher
education, research and innovation in making the most of European
scientific and technological expertise.
We will continue to hold the Commission Communication
under scrutiny and look forward to your further report in due
5 May 2006
Results of the public consultation on
a concept of a European Institute of Technology (EIT)
1. In March 2005 the European Commission
published its Mid-Term Review of the Lisbon Strategy, which proposed
a "European Institute of Technology" (EIT). After consideration,
the European Council instructed the Commission to develop its
proposals further. Subsequently a public consultation was organised
between September and November 2005 and 741 responses were submitted
via a web-based questionnaire. In March 2006, the Commission published
its analysis of the consultation. This paper presents its key
findings and provides a critique of the European Commission's
conclusions on the EIT.
2. The European Commission in conducting
this consultation did not select a representative cross-section
of the European Research and Development (R&D) sector. The
sample was therefore entirely self-selecting, for example giving
equal weight and credence to both the University of Cambridge
and any interested private citizen. It is worth noting as an example
of its unrepresentative nature that almost one third of all respondents
were individuals from Poland and Italy (12 per cent and 18 per
cent respectively). Only 4.7 per cent of total respondents were
from the United Kingdom (see Annex 1).
3. Universities, research organisations
and business constituted only a minority of respondents (28 per
cent), while individuals comprised 72 per cent of the total. This
indicates a genuine failure of the consultation to seek a thorough
and empirical assessment of the views of the established R&D
sector. For example, the research and education sectors are considered
jointly for organisations but separately for individuals. Further
examination of the results reveals that private businesses made
up only 18 per cent of respondents and that within the research
and education sector specifically only 6 per cent of respondents
were from the private sector.
4. The report also grouped responses from
EU Member States and non-EU countries into five separate categories
for the purposes of analysis (Southern, Central, Northern, and
Eastern Europe; as well as Candidate and other countries). However,
the grouping of responses is based purely on a geographical location
and does not accurately reflect existing R&D links between
EU Member States. The UK and Ireland for example are arbitrarily
included in the same category as the Scandinavian countries of
Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
5. The European Commission's analysis of
the results also has some alarming weaknesses and inconsistencies.
For example, it attempts to extrapolate qualitative conclusions
from quantitative results, based on a subjective interpretation
of sample responses. Also included in the qualitative analysis
were 22 position papers submitted separately to the Commission
in a different format, further weakening the integrity and validity
of its conclusions.
Question One: What should be the main objective
of the EIT?
|EIT Mission||% of responses
|Research and research training||17
|Commercial exploitation of research results
6. The most significant weakness of this public consultation
is that it did not ask respondents whether the EIT should be established
by posing a straightforward and unambiguous question that would
elicit a clear answer. The consultation simply proposed four options:
education; research and training; commercial exploitation; or
the "knowledge triangle". The last option complicates
accurate analysis as the European Commission defines the "knowledge
triangle" as combining education, research and technology
transfer (ie: commercial exploitation). It is effectively an option
for "all of the above", while assigning no relative
value to the three sides of the triangle.
Question Two: How can the EIT best contribute above and
beyond current provision in this area (teaching, research and
|Added Value||% of response
|Networking between Higher Education Institutes
|Promoting intra-EU mobility||7
|Creating economies of scale in research
|Building synergies with the EU Research Framework Programme
|Promoting innovation and knowledge transfer
|Best practice dissemination||7
|Encouraging collaboration between research and industry
|Developing commercial opportunities for research products
|Supporting SMEs and local and regional development
7. The question states the EIT must add value to each
area of the "knowledge triangle" or a combination of
all three, and provides eleven multiple choice answers to achieve
this objective. However, the respondent is unable to allocate
an answer to any one of the individual areas, providing only a
generic answer for three very different activities. In addition,
respondents were given the ability to choose two answers from
the eleven options but no facility to rank or weight their answers,
further weakening the robustness of the data.
|Added Value||% of response
8. The report also separated the data collected into
and "academic impact"
by subjectively grouping four answers together in each category.
In practice though, the answers overlap so considerably and are
so generally applicable that they could conceivably be included
in either industrial or academic impact. The report inaccurately
concludes that industrial impact is valued more highly than academic
impact, despite respondents not being made aware of this distinction
in the questionnaire.
Question Three: Which type of institutional format would
best allow the EIT to achieve these goals?
|Structure||% of responses
9. The consultation proposed four options for the structure
of the EIT. These were a single institution; a small network (4-6
institutions); a large network (15-25 institutions); or a "label."
The consultation provided very limited information about the nature
or scope of these options and this contributed to no clear majority
in favour of any option. While the report admits "no clear
preferences are discernable from the replies", it goes on
to conclude that "integration is relatively preferred".
It reaches this conclusion by combining the positive responses
to both the small and large network options. Once again, the report
seeks to artificially conflate answers to multiple proposals in
order to support a weak assessment.
Question Four: How should the EIT organise its teaching/research/transfer
|Priority||% of responses
10. Respondents were asked whether the EIT should divide
its activities based on issues, disciplines, themes or by industry
sector. However, two problems arise from this approach. First
is that the terms are broadly defined and have considerable overlap,
for example wind power generation is given as an issue but "green
energy" as a theme. Secondly, the issue of structure will
affect what types of research the EIT conducts, ie a small network
could be more suited to addressing a narrow problem, while a large
network would perhaps be more inclined to tackle wider policy
issues. In addition, the recurrent problem of combining three
distinct activities (teaching, research and transfer) does not
allow respondents to reflect accurately the specialist and varied
requirements of each activity. It is worth noting that, in any
case, no majority was in favour of a particular organisational
11. The report concludes that there is a positive attitude
to the establishment of an EIT. This is unsurprising given the
wording of the questions and the absence of an option to register
opposition. Furthermore, the report states there is general agreement
that the EIT's main mission should be to integrate the "knowledge
triangle". In the questionnaire, this is defined as teaching,
research and technology transfer, yet in the general conclusion
it is defined as research, education and innovation. Altering
the components for the professed main objective of the EIT during
the course of the consultation underscores its characteristic
of poorly defined terms and weak analysis.
12. The conclusion then goes onto to outline how the
EIT could provide education and award degrees yet does so without
clear agreement from the existing higher education sector about
the preferred structure. It is also undermined by the fact that
only a tiny percentage of respondents (4 per cent) thought the
EIT should provide education services. Many of those who raised
concerns during the consultation referred to the danger of the
EIT crowding out private and public finance and setting up rival
programmes that undermine existing national education institutes
or established European networks.
UK GOVERNMENT VIEW
13. The Government notes that there is a "high degree
of scepticism" exhibited by UK Universities and states it
"shares some of their doubts". It comments that a new
institution may not be the best way of addressing the European
Union's R&D weaknesses and expresses concern over its impact
on existing European research programmes. The Government calls
for further discussion and consultation with businesses and universities.
UK organisations that responded to the European Commission's
public consultation on the European Institute of Technology:
EuroMotor Project, University of Birmingham.
European Consortium of Innovative Universities.
Liverpool Hope University.
Liverpool John Moores University.
Marinetech South Ltd.
Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Royal Society of London.
The National Business-to-Business Centre, University of Warwick.
UK Computing Research Centre.
University of Cambridge.
University of Lincoln.
University of Strathclyde.
Letter from Bill Rammell MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 5 May and your Committee's impressions
of the Commission's analysis of the results of its consultation
on the concept of a European Institute of Technology (EIT). I
am writing to provide a progress report on recent developments
and, particularly, to follow up your concerns about consultation.
Following the European Council on 24 March, the Commission
has continued to work on the EIT concept with a view to preparing
a new Communication for the Spring Council on 15-16 June. We are
pleased that this has involved an extensive consultation process
with Member States and stakeholders over the last few weeks and
that the Commission has shown that it is open to feedback and
suggestions from all possible stakeholders. Our understanding
is that general agreement is emerging from these consultations
on the Commission's background analysis of gaps and needs and
the need for a concerted effort to harness Europe's capacity in
the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation.
During the consultations we have made it clear that we believe
that a well-focused and well-designed EIT could be an important
step to fill the existing gap between higher education, research
and innovation, but that we have a number of concerns as to whether
the model being proposed by the Commission is necessarily the
most effective way forward. A number of other Member States have
shared our concerns. We are looking to the new Communication due
later this month to provide additional information on the concept
and to address the main concerns that have been expressed by Member
States and stakeholders. We expect the Commission to continue
to consult widely with Member States and stakeholders over the
14 June 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell MP
Thank you for your letter dated 14 June reporting progress
on the Proposal. This was considered by Sub-Committee G on 22
We understand from your officials that the Commission produced
the expected new Communication for the Spring Council on 15-16
June. We presume that this will be submitted for scrutiny shortly
by the Department, together with an accompanying EM, which we
look forward to examining. In the meantime, we will continue to
hold the Commission's present Communication under scrutiny.
We would also like to take the opportunity of drawing your
attention to a reference to the EIT in the Report of the Committee's
Inquiry on the European Research Council which was published on
9 June (HL Paper 182). We note with interest what your colleague
David Sainsbury had to say about the EIT proposal to that Inquiry.
I attach a copy of the relevant extract from the Report, (not
23 June 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell MP
Your Explanatory Memorandum (EM) dated June 2006 was considered
by Sub-Committee G on 13 July.
You should be aware from our previous correspondence about
the original Commission Communication (6844/06) of our scepticism
towards this Proposal and our dissatisfaction with the Commission's
failure to produce a convincing substantive evidence-based case
for it. We were therefore very surprised that the Government should
have gone along with the statement in the conclusions of the 15-16
June European Council which reaffirmed the importance of the EIT
and appeared to treat it as a foregone conclusion. When Geoff
Hoon gave oral evidence to the Select Committee today we asked
him to look into this, but we would also welcome your views.
The mildly cautious approach of your EM does not seem to
us to be consistent with clarity expressed by your Ministerial
colleague David Sainsbury in giving evidence to the Committee's
Inquiry on the European Research Council, to which I drew your
attention in my letter to you dated 23 June. The extract from
the Inquiry Report (HL Paper 182) which I enclosed with that letter
records David Sainsbury as describing the EIT project as "unhelpful...
simplistic... and naive". He thought it would be more sensible
to build on the EU's existing world class universities than attempt
to start another one. Here again, your views would be welcome.
You should also be aware of the considerable opposition which
this Proposal has provoked from leaders of academic opinion in
the UK. That opposition was reflected in some of the contributions
to the debate in the House on Lord Patten's Question about the
role of British and other European universities in the promotion
of research and development on 27 April, to which I drew your
attention in my letter to you dated 5 May.
In that same letter I passed on some of our preliminary impressions
of our own analysis of the Commission's initial consultation about
the project which seemed to be defective in numerous respects
and not least because it started with the questionable assumption
that an EIT of some sort was necessary.
For all these reasons, we are disappointed that the Government
should not have adopted a far more rigorous questioning approach
to this Proposal. We see a real danger that the Council may be
drifting through seeming acquiescence into an ill-conceived venture
that risks diverting attention and resources from the very serious
and pressing problems which the Commission has outlined.
We find the Commission's latest Communication no more convincing
that the previous one. It offers no objective analysis of the
pros and cons of the Proposal. It reads more like a superficial
sales brochure and is stuffed with jargon, hackneyed references
to "flagships", sloppy thinking and unarticulated concepts
about the "knowledge triangle" and "knowledge communities"
that inspire neither respect nor confidence.
To some extent the EIT project appears to be a rather grandiose
and less well-considered version of the new UK Institution of
Engineering and Technology and we wonder whether would be in the
national interest for the Government to support what may well
turn out to be a rival body.
In your letter to me dated 25 April you said that the Government
was starting to seek views from UK stakeholders on the Proposal.
In my reply to you dated 5 May I urged you to extend that consultation
more widely. We look forward to hearing what progress you have
made in those consultations.
We also urge that the Government should press the Commission
directly, and in consultation with other Member States, for a
much more rigorous and objective assessment of the merits in this
Proposal than it has so far made.
We believe that searching questions must be asked about the
reasons why this model might be more successful in remedying the
problems identified by the Commission than alternative solutions.
We need to be clear how the project would work in practice and
how much initial funding would be needed from the Community and
Member States. Any assumptions about the added value which the
EIT might yield would need to be tested against the possible opportunity
cost to other EU education and research programmes, including
the European Research Council.
The Commission must be required to demonstrate the grounds
for their belief that the EIT would succeed in attracting sufficient
high-quality expertise and adequate counterpart funding from business,
non-official grants and revenue-raising activities. We will also
want to see a clear justification for the proposed awarding of
degrees and diplomas and to know how they will be awarded and
administered. As I have mentioned in earlier correspondence, we
will also need to see more concrete proposals for the legal status
of the EIT and its "knowledge communities", and how
such issues as intellectual property rights would be handled.
It is not clear from your EM whether any discussion is expected
in Council Working Groups in the Autumn on the new Communication.
But we note that the Commission have promised to continue to consult
with Member States and stakeholders over the coming months and
we trust that this will give the Government the opportunity of
pressing the Commission to justify their case on all these aspects
before more formal proposals for the EIT are produced.
Because of the importance of the underlying issues and the
inadequacy of the Commission's Communications to date, we are
considering the possibility of carrying out a short Inquiry on
the EIT project when Parliament resumes in the Autumn. It would
therefore be most helpful to know as soon as you have clearer
indications of the likely timing of the Commission's formal proposals
and the expected timetable for Council consideration of them.
In the meantime, we are clearing the previous Commission
Communication (reference 6844/06) from scrutiny. We will hold
the new Communication (reference 10361/06) under scrutiny pending
14 July 2006
Letter from Bill Rammell MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 14 July and your Committee's
comments on the latest communication from the Council on the EIT.
I am writing to clarify the Government's position.
First, it may be helpful to set out what I understand to
be the latest position on the Commission's proposal. In line with
the conclusions of the European Council in June the Commission
is working on further developing their ideas with a view to producing
a formal legislative proposal in October to the Council of Ministers
and the European Parliament. Prior to this in September there
is expected to be a further round of consultation meetings with
both Member States and other stakeholders.
It is important to keep in mind that, as there has not yet
been a formal Commission proposal, there has been no opportunity
for any detailed discussion in the Council of Ministers or its
working bodies. The Commission's formal proposal, which will be
accompanied by a full impact assessment, is not expected until
As I explained in my letter of 14 June, we have made it clear
from the outset, including in our response to the original Commission
consultation last year, that we believe that a well-focused and
well-designed EIT could be an important step to fill the existing
gap between higher education, research and innovation. It would
however need to demonstrate that it could help to generate reform
of the university sector, increase Europe's innovative capacity
and add value rather than duplicate existing initiatives.
We therefore recognise the potential benefit of an initiative
that would improve colloboration between universities and business
in the area of knowledge transfer. And I fully agree with you
that, if an EIT is to add value, it needs to focus on building
on and developing existing partnerships which are already working
well and helping them to move into the excellent class. It would
be the focus on knowledge transfer and research-based innovation
that would distinguish an EIT from other activities, such as the
newly created UK Institution of Engineering and Technology.
We have, however, had, and continue to have, a number of
concerns as to whether the model that has been proposed by the
Commission to date is necessarily the most effective way forward.
I would suggest that it is in this context that Lord Sainsbury's
comments to the Inquiry in February need to be viewed, particularly
as they were made before the Commission had even presented its
initial communication on developing the EIT. I am also well aware
that we share these concerns with the UK higher education and
business sectors as well as a number of other Member States. That
is why we were pleased to see the Commission acknowledge in its
latest communication the complexity of the issues concerned and
recognise that it will need to continue consulting widely with
Member States and stakeholders.
I wish to assure you that the Government has adopted a rigorous
questioning approach throughout the consultations and has been
working closely with other Member States to try to influence informally
the Commission's further development of the proposal. We have
involved representatives of both the higher education sector and
the CBI in developing the position we should take to lobby the
Commission and other Member States and we have ensured that UK
stakeholders were involved in formal consultation meetings with
the Commission on 25 April and 18 May. We will continue to consult
informally with our key stakeholders as necessary.
I can also assure you that the particular issues that you
have set out in your letter are precisely those that the Government
raised at meetings with the Commission and other Member States
on 24 April and 17 May. Together with several other Member States,
we sought clarity on how the EIT would work in practice, what
funding would be needed and where it would come from, and what
the added value of the EIT would be in the light of other EU initiatives.
We will continue to press the Commission on the specific
issues you have raised and on our other concerns, including at
the next formal consultation meeting on 8 September.
25 July 2006
Building synergies with the EU Research Framework Programme;
Promoting innovation and knowledge transfer; Encouraging collaboration
between research and industry; Developing commercial opportunities
for research products. Back
Networking between Higher Education Institutes; Promoting intra-EU
mobility; Attracting talent; Creating economies of scale in research. Back
Explanatory Memorandum on a European Community Document (6844/06
+ ADD 1), see E/05-06/G323 (SCR). Back