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Industry Committee backs creation of a European Institute of Innovation and Technology

A proposal to set up a European Institute of Technology was backed in a first-reading report by the Industry Committee on Monday evening.

However, MEPs want the EIT's name to include “innovation” and say it should be established only after a pilot phase in which two or three “Knowledge and Innovation Communities” run projects, to test its feasibility. MEPs also want the Council to negotiate the EIT's funding with Parliament. “Innovation is Europe's Achilles' heel. It should be our main objective to increase our innovation capacity. We need more innovation in Europe to remain globally competitive in the future and to guarantee growth in jobs. The EIT could help us to realise that goal”, said EP rapporteur Reino Paasilinna (PES, FI).

Solve budgetary problems
“I hope Commission and Council will come up with a realistic solution for the budget soon. The Council has already expressed its wish to establish the EIT but before we can adopt the proposal in plenary, we have to make sure that there is a stable financing concept”, Paasilinna added. The institute's overall budget of an estimated €2.4 billion for the first six years is to be funded from a combination of private and public sources. The committee agrees with the Commission that €308.7 million should come from the Community budget.

However the Budgetary authority (Parliament and Council) has yet to agree on a budget line from which to take the funds. As plans for the EIT did not exist when the 2007-2013 Financial Perspective was decided, the Commission proposed taking the necessary amount from the “margin under the ceiling” of the “Competitiveness for growth & jobs” heading, i.e. appropriations that have not been assigned to a given policy. MEPs propose further sources, such as unspent funds that would otherwise be returned to the Member States, or loans and contributions from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The Commission also suggests financing the EIT partly through existing Community instruments such as the Framework Program for Research, the Competitiveness and Innovation Program or the Lifelong Learning Program. Committee members, however, stress that applications from Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) or their partner organizations should in no way be privileged over other applications. Furthermore, funds stemming from those programs should not finance establishment and administration costs directly associated with the EIT or the KICs but rather the mobility of researchers or research programs.

KICs should be legally autonomous from the EIT
The committee decided to rename the EIT “European institute of Innovation and Technology” so as to reflect its primary focus on innovation. The EIT will have a two-tier structure: a Governing Board that selects higher education institutions, research organizations, companies and other stakeholders to form partnerships called “Knowledge and Innovation Communities” (KICs). In contrast to the Commission's plans, Industry Committee MEPs want KICs to be “legally autonomous from the EIT”. Although KICs will have “substantial overall autonomy to define their internal organization and working methods”, MEPs do lay down some basic rules for their composition: Every KIC should consist of at least three partner organizations, situated in at least two different participating states and including at least one higher education institution and one private company.

EIT label on qualifications
MEPs reject the Commission's proposal for the EIT itself to award degrees and diplomas. Instead they ask for an EIT mark to be added to qualifications awarded through the higher education institutions within the KICs.

Pilot phase with two or three KICs
Committee members also introduce the idea of a “pilot phase” into the text. At the latest two years after the entry into force of the regulation establishing the EIT, the Governing Board would select two or three KICs “in areas that help the EU to face today's and tomorrow's challenges, such as climate change, sustainable mobility, energy efficiency or the next generation of ICT”.

The EIT could select additional KICs after the adoption of its first “Strategic Innovation Agenda” (SIA), a concept also incorporated in the text by the Industry Committee. This SIA should identify the EIT's long-term strategic areas “in fields of key potential economic and societal interest which are likely to generate the greatest innovation added value”. The EIT would have to draw up an SIA by the end of 2011 at the latest and thereafter every seven years. Acting on a proposal from the Commission, Parliament and Council shall then adopt this agenda. (EP Press)