Congratulations were the order of the day across Europe when it became clear that the project had been successful in its application to Horizon 2020, the EU's major Research and Innovation programme. RUNIN (The Role of Universities in Innovation and Regional Development) was awarded more than 3.7 million Euro by the Innovative Training Networks (ITN) scheme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie research programme, which is part of Horizon 2020. Only around seven percent of the applicants were successful. RUNIN will coordinate international research on regional innovation, more specifically on the role of universities in innovation and regional development. The University of Stavanger (UiS) is coordinating RUNIN. Seven universities and nine regional development organisations are partners, and a total of seven European countries are involved. The project is embedded within ECIU (European Consortium of Innovative Universities), of which six of the university partners are members. "The competition for funding is incredibly tough, so we are very pleased with this outcome", said Professor Rune Dahl Fitjar of UiS. He is the coordinator for RUNIN. Training innovation researchers"This training programme will equip the next generation of innovation researchers with the skills they need to work across the sectors of the economy. The programme will give the candidates a solid research education, as well as building skills which will be useful in future careers in industry or the public sector", said Rune Dahl Fitjar. A total of 14 PhD students will participate in the project. The PhD students will be enrolled in PhD programmes at the respective universities, but several candidates will either work permanently or spend time on secondment at regional development companies in their respective regions. Each candidate will also participate in two secondments at other universities or regional development companies in the network. "The proximity to the regional development organisations will enhance the practical relevance of the PhD students' research and enable us to train researchers who can contribute to regional development and innovation", said Fitjar. "The aim is to train innovation researchers who can work within this field in the academic world or as decision-makers at national or European level," explained Fitjar. All of the PhD students are assigned a supervisor from their own university, a co-supervisor from another university in the network and a mentor from a regional development company. In total, 21 supervisors and 11 mentors are involved in the project. Additional lecturers from each university will participate in training events, and the project also involves academic mentors who will provide supervision training for faculty members.
The university partners in the project are the University of Stavanger, Norway; Aalborg University, Denmark; University of Lincoln, United Kingdom; University of Twente, Netherlands; Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain; Linköping University, Sweden and University of Aveiro, Portugal.
With the exception of the University of Lincoln, all of these universities are members of a network for innovative universities — ECIU (European Consortium of Innovative Universities). A common characteristic of all ECIU institutions is that they are a key player in the regional innovation system. They are relatively young, have close ties with the industry and contribute to regional development and innovation.
They are based in regions where major industries have declined and have consequently made a significant contribution to the regeneration of their regions. This is evidenced in the close collaborations between university, industry, business and the public sector in the respective regions and in ECIU institutions being early proponents of technology transfer, knowledge exchange and entrepreneurship activities. Therefore, the ECIU member universities are not only located in regions, they consider themselves as being active parts of regions.
"RUNIN will strengthen the collaboration between the innovative universities within ECIU, and reinforce the universities' pivotal role in society and their potential as a driving force in their respective regions," said ECIU speaker, Professor Lluis Tort, vice-rector of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Regional organisations in all seven of the regions will be pivotal, as the researchers in the project will conduct research on regional innovation and the role of the universities in innovation and regional development.
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Professor Rune Dahl Fitjar of the University of Stavanger