New EIT initiative HEI to boost innovation in higher education

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is launching the HEI Initiative: Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education - a new initiative to unlock the full innovation potential of higher education institutions’ (HEIs) by increasing their entrepreneurial and innovation capacity whilst integrating them into Europe’s largest innovation ecosystem.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: "Higher Education Institutions play a key role in our society to nurture the talents of the future. Therefore, the new EIT Regulation contains a new pilot initiative focusing on the innovation and entrepreneurial potential of European HEIs. I am proud that today this new pilot initiative will kick off with the publication of a first call. The EIT will work with HEIs and their leadership to equip them with the right tools to support innovation across their campuses and beyond. I am looking forward to the results of this initiative that will give our universities an even larger role in Europe’s innovation landscape."

Gioia Ghezzi, Chair of the EIT Governing Board added: "Embedding higher education into the innovation ecosystem is a distinct EIT feature and I welcome the launch of this new initiative to strengthen our collaboration with HEIs. The EIT Community will now have the opportunity to engage with higher education at all levels to help boost their innovation capacity. I am confident that we will see the emergence of even stronger and more entrepreneurially equipped universities whose guidance and expertise will support Europe’s ability to innovate."

The initiative is a joint EIT Community activity coordinated by EIT Raw Materials. The Pilot Call for Proposals invites European higher education institutions to design institution-wide action plans that will improve their entrepreneurial and innovation capacity across all institutional levels. By supporting such activities, this new EIT initiative will create systemic impact, empowering HEIs to become regional engines of innovation and foster sustainable growth and jobs across Europe.

EIT Digital is as member of the EIT Community also involved in the HEI Initiative. Roberto Prieto Chief Education Officers EIT Digital underlines the relevance of innovation and entrepreneurship within universities. “Innovation and entrepreneurship is needed to boost a digital Europe. Especially interesting is that this initiative is further accelerating the integrating of the so-called knowledge triangle: the interaction between research, education and innovation. I am delighted to bring in the expertise that EIT Digital had been gaining for the last ten years to create together a knowledge based society that globally can compete in the digital era.

23 pilot projects will be selected and implemented over 24 months from July 2021. Each pilot project could be awarded a maximum of EUR 1.2 million with up to EUR 400,000 for Phase 1 (July−December 2021) and up to EUR 800,000 for Phase 2 (January 2022 - July 2023). Activities can focus on several themes, including:

  • Fostering institutional engagement and change
  • Strengthening partnerships between higher education, business and research organisations
  • Developing innovation and business support services
  • Enhancing the quality of entrepreneurial education
  • Creating and disseminating knowledge

The deadline for submitting proposals is 25 May 2021, and the selected pilot projects will be announced in June 2021. To learn more about this initiative and how to apply, visit and see factsheet.

The HEI Initiative: Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education is a key objective for the EIT as part of its new strategy, the EIT Strategic Innovation Agenda (SIA) 2021-2027. The initiative aims to support higher education institutions with expertise and coaching, access to the EIT innovation ecosystem, and funding, enabling them to develop innovation action plans complementing the needs of individual higher education institutions.

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