St. Pölten : Founded in October 2020, the European University Alliance E³UDRES² (The Engaged and Entrepreneurial European University as Driver for European Smart and Sustainable Regions) is now celebrating the expansion of its consortium. The orientation of E³UDRES² towards a smart and sustainable future has proven attractive for other academic institutions, more than 20 universities from all over Europe have expressed their interest for joining E³UDRES². Fulda University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and Saxion University of Applied Sciences (The Netherlands) stood out in the selection process and will be the new members joining the E³UDRES² Alliance. Onboarding now as new “associated partners” and becoming full members of the consortium at the end of 2023, the E³UDRES² network already benefits from their large circle of new experts and thus from new innovative power in terms of teaching and research. Moreover, E³UDRES² also draws a positive and successful mid-term balance of its first project phase: Cohesion and collaboration between E³UDRES² institutions have been further consolidated and strengthened through projects and joint events partly based on completely new and innovative teaching and learning methods.
The E³UDRES² consortium has reason to celebrate: Aiming to co-create a European multi-university campus as a source of smart and sustainable innovations for small or medium-sized towns and their surrounding rural areas, the European University Alliance E³UDRES² has taken further steps towards a bright future and is going to expand its consortium.
NEW PARTNERS, NEW POWER
The impressive performance of E³UDRES² even in the first half of the project period caused a stir within the European acedemic community, and numerous institutions applied to join the E³UDRES² Alliance. But only two institutions were finally selected to become new members, after intensive discussions and selection procedures with the entire E³UDRES² Executive Board: Fulda University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and Saxion University of Applied Sciences (The Netherlands) are going to expand the consortium to a total of 8 partners. They have already become new “associated partners” as a first step and will join E³UDRES² as full members at the end of 2023.
“Fulda University is looking forward to joining forces with E³UDRES² as a driver for European smart and sustainable regions. Our university combines regional engagement, strong research orientation as a University of Applied Sciences, and commitment to the development of civic and entrepreneurship key competences with its approach of internationalisation for society”, states Karim Khakzar, president of Fulda UAS.
Saxion UAS is equally thrilled to join the E³UDRES² alliance, as the University of Applied Sciences’ president Anka Mulder enthusiastically comments: “Saxion is an internationally oriented UAS with a regional focus across the full range of our activities. We welcome becoming part of E³UDRES², which shares our regional commitment while maintaining a strong identity as a European university.”
Hannes Raffaseder, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at St. Pölten UAS and E³UDRES² project lead, adds contentedly: “With two new partners joining our alliance, the E³UDRES² network benefits from a large circle of new experts and thus from new innovative power in education and research. Above all, this significantly strengthens our USP, which has a clear focus on application and solution orientation for the manifold societal and economic challenges of diverse European regions.”
Due to its specific orientation and its extraordinary composition of the consortium, E³UDRES² has established itself as a future guiding alliance for other European academic institutions. As the E³UDRES² team has continued to refine the achievements already made, as well as set future goals and focus points in regular Future Casting Workshops, the profile of E³UDRES² has been sharpened within the first half of the first project phase: Its existing focus on rural and non-urban regions as well as on skills and innovation has been reinforced – but always in exchange and using knowledge transfer with regional ecosystems. This shows especially in E³UDRES² events like I Living Labs or Hackathons, where local institutions or companies provide e.g. real-life challenges, aiming to get creative solutions developed by the E³UDRES² community. It is the strong focus on the respective regions (“smart regions”) and sustainability that differentiates E³UDRES² from other alliances.
Another feature of E³UDRES² worth mentioning is the clear majority of Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) over universities in the consortium, as well as the fact that many institutions come from “widening countries”, thereby meaning countries that are relatively low performing in the area of research and innovation. The special mix of UAS and universities unites the unique skills of both types of institutions in one alliance.
During the past months, the E³UDRES²-community has also intensified its efforts to further consolidate and strengthen the cohesion and cooperation of the already existing partners in various areas. The way this has been achieved was mainly based on joint projects and events, some of which even used completely new learning and teaching methods.
Addressing the alliance’s main research topics, E³UDRES² projects from the three research networks have started their work (the “Change cornEr” in the research topic of “Circular Economy”, “MultiSense” in “Human Contribution to Artificial Intelligence” and “VirtualGym” in “Well-Being & Active Ageing”).
Cooperation and sustainability of E³UDRES² was also strengthened by the first sub-project E.I.N.S. (Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network for Smart and Sustainable European Regions) as well as by Ent-Re-Novators (kick-off in October 2022). E.I.N.S. co-ideates novel pathways for entrepreneurial universities, drives the development of entrepreneurial education, co-creates advanced support for innovation and business creation, and enhances collaboration across the knowledge triangle beyond the state of the art.
By developing new teaching and learning methods, as demonstrated by the E³UDRES² Hackathon or the E³UDRES² I Living Labs, E³UDRES² sets new standards for European students’ education resulting in empowerment of young people to develop analytic, creative and social skills to meet the needs of the labour market and to be able to compete in it. To illustrate this, the Hackathon delivered exciting solutions from student teams for real-life problems that have been brought to their attention by local stakeholders. The E³UDRES² I Living Labs have already taken place twice, teaching the students three different skill-levels – working in transdisciplatory teams, solving real-life problems and assuming the role of change agents in their own local communities – thereby providing them with a decisive edge for the job market.
Aditionally – and although challenging in times like these – even two face-to-face meetings on site were instrumental in strengthening and inspiring the togetherness (October 2021 in Austria at St. Pölten UAS, April 2022 in Latvia at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences).
SIDE BY SIDE
E³UDRES² is one of 41 European University Alliances – a flagship initiative by the European Union that provides innovative environments for the intended transformation of the European Higher Education, Research and Innovation Area towards future universities. The alliance aims to co-create a European multi-university campus that will act as a source of smart and sustainable innovations for small or medium-sized towns and their surrounding rural areas. Compared to other alliances, E³UDRES² combines several USPs: it consists of smaller universities, a majority of which are Universities of Applied Sciences (4 out of 6 at E³UDRES², while only 18 out of about 300 in total). Furthermore, the alliance is led by an UAS (only 3 out of 41) and the majority of the institutions are located within one of the so called “widening countries” (4 out of 6).
Finally, no institution is located in the respective countries’ capital, to address the innovation gap between metropolitan areas and all other parts of Europe (where still a majority of people live).
By the end of 2023, the alliance funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission will comprise eight higher education institutions that represent 92.500 students, 10.300 staff and 64 faculties from eight countries. Namely these institutions are: the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences (Austria), the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (Portugal), the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Hungary), the UC Leuven-Limburg UAS (Belgium), the Politehnica University Timișoara (Romania), the Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences (Latvia) and the two new members Fulda University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and Saxion University of Applied Sciences (The Netherlands).
Together as E³UDRES², the institutions aim to establish joint degrees and modules, research groups, living labs, innovation centers as well as pools of experts and open resources. They also will engage in activities that promote open and engaged knowledge exchanges that contribute and interact with regional communities.