‘Within the ECIU we're are happily married and this year, on our 20th anniversary, we renew our marriage vows.’
With these words, the president of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) and the president of the UT executive board, Victor van der Chijs, opened the ceremony celebrating 20 years of ECIU in Brussels yesterday.
Representatives and alumni of all the twelve member universities gathered in hotel Leopold, next to the European Parliament, to raise their glasses to twenty years of international university partnerships.
‘To actually survive twenty years as a network of universities means a lot. To leave a network, that’s easy. But to keep it together, that takes commitment, perseverance, prioritization and mutual respect,’ says Van der Chijs in his welcoming speech. ‘We have spent the last twenty years developing our shared interests and progressing our joint activities with a willingness to make compromises and longstanding commitment of all members.’
Van der Chijs sets out the importance of the consortium when it comes to the new European programs. ‘The ECIU has a rich experience contributing to European policy debates. And with the new ECIU office in Brussel and Olga Wessels as the head of it, we have ambitions to strengthen and intensify ECIU’s presence in the upcoming policy debates and offer our modern, innovative view on policy developments.’
Of course it’s also time to look back when you exist twenty years. Van der Chijs goes back to 1996 and tells that Aalborg, Dortmund, Hamburg-Harburg, Warwick, Twente and Barcelona came together to form ECIU. ‘Our marriage has been so successful because shared common values brought us together. Innovation and entrepreneurship are in the DNA of our institutions.’
Besides their specific DNA, all ECIU universities are key players in the regional development system, emphasizes Van der Chijs. ‘We are creating significant impact at regional, national and international level. We are the engines of regional transformation and of creating a regional knowledge economy. Is renewing our wedding vows just an excuse for this party? It’s not. We are more committed than ever to challenge conventional thinking.’
After the speech, eleven ECIU innovative showcases were outlined. Each university presented one result of of its research, which covers everything from a FOODsniffer for checking meat and fish products, to EnduraGel, an injectable hydrogel for the treatment of brain aneurysms.
The University of Twente went home with the award for innovative education. The UT minor ‘Smart ways to make smart cities smarter’ was selected as the winner out of seven candidates. The jury especially appreciated the high level of interdisciplinary approach of the module and its connection to external stakeholders.