The University of Trento has become a member of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities - ECIU, a network of thirteen young research intensive universities, of small-medium size, with an international attitude, innovation-oriented quality and research, great ICT and social science programmes and a strong commitment to entrepreneurship.
This rather young network, founded in 1997, is growing in popularity especially at European level, because it is seen as an ideal setting to explore new directions in innovation applied to higher education and research.
The fact that these universities are far from Europe's major cities is their point of strength, is what made them establish connections locally and invest in innovation and pilot projects to test best practices. They are more dynamic and inclined to networking than larger, traditional universities, and were able to contribute positively to the European debate with cutting-edge ideas and projects.
The participation of UniTrento in the ECIU network kicks off with a very ambitious goal: to create a European education area by 2025. The members aim to build a European campus where students, researchers and academics can study, work, conduct research in different languages, from different places, on different subjects.
The challenge that ECIU has taken on is part of a large pilot programme funded by the European Commission with 60 million euro whose objective is to encourage networking among universities. The Commission received 54 proposals from different countries to build this "European network of universities", including ECIU's. The proposals will be evaluated and selected in the summer, but expectations are high. All proposals had to focus on one of the sustainable development goals identified by the United Nations. ECIU's member universities decided to concentrate on goal 11: sustainable cities and communities, a strategic theme for the areas where the member universities are located.
ECIU's proposal highlights the cornerstones of the new European university: orientation to the needs of society and businesses, strong interdisciplinarity, variable duration of studies, mobility as a requirement, innovative programmes and research projects.
And it develops in concrete steps: adoption of non-aggregated courses with a "micro-credit" system structure; creation of a European platform where students and researchers, with institutions, companies and citizens, can collaborate to find innovative solutions; establishment of pop-up laboratories to test and innovate teaching and research practices; ideas to enhance physical and virtual mobility among universities. To facilitate relations among the members, three Challenge Innovation Hubs were set up (north: Linkoping, centre: Hamburg, south: Barcelona).
The proposal that ECIU submitted to the European Commission is backed by important industrial and business partners. Airbus, Cisco, Intel, Ericsson are already involved, and the University of Trento invited local institutions (the Autonomous Province of Trento and the municipality of Trento), and Hub Innovazione Trentino, Confindustria Trento, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica and Novartis – Sandoz Industrial Product Spa.
In the press release are statements by rector Paolo Collini and by the prorector for international development, professor Maurizio Marchese.