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Excellence and the gap between East and West two foci of Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities launch

The new Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities will officially launch with an opening symposium on the 21st of November 2016 in the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels.

Composed of eighteen of Europe’s leading universities from across thirteen countries, the Guild is able to draw from fresh perspectives from all parts of Europe. Thus, at its official launch the Guild notes with alarm that despite new instruments in Horizon 2020 to support low-performing countries in research and innovation, the research and innovation gap between European universities has widened in recent years. The Guild thus calls for an urgent, critical evaluation of how we support excellence in Europe. Affirming the importance of excellence as a criterion for funding decisions, the Guild notes that every country (and every global ranking) has framed research excellence in different ways.

The Guild cites evidence from a research team at the University of Oslo which shows that the institutional prestige of an applicant (and not just the proposal itself) has been conducive to grant success. In addition to these ‘soft’ factors, the University of Babes-Bolyai in Romania recently pointed out in an open letter that under EU funding rules it could only pay a Senior Professor the local rate of €7 per hour; but at this level it is clearly impossible to attract internationally mobile researchers, even if facilities are world-class.

Professor Jan Palmowski, General Secretary of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities said:

Outstanding research and innovation depends on collaboration and exchange. It cannot be in anyone’s interest if current funding mechanisms enhance, rather than reduce, the science and innovation divide in Europe. Current Horizon 2020 funding is reflective neither of national differences in R&D spend, nor of the science divide as measured by international citations. As a result, it is important to evaluate how funding is currently framed, to see what effects this has on fostering excellent science and innovation in the most effective ways.

The Guild also stands for enhanced support for basic collaborative research throughout Europe. It is concerned that currently, Horizon 2020 encourages applied collaborative research in relation to Europe’s Societal Challenges – and yet, the most radical innovation comes from unexpected findings through basic research. Strengthening basic collaborative research across European borders speaks to a core added value of European research funding.


Research excellence, and the question of how universities can spearhead new forms of open innovation and science so that they are at the heart of economic, cultural and social change, will be the foci of the launch Symposium

The symposium will:

· discuss how Open Science involves a change of culture towards the sharing of information: if science is to be based on openness and collaborative participation, it means that scientists, institutions and funders will have to moving away from the standard metrics that govern appointments, careers, and – in some countries – research funding, towards different ways of evaluating excellence in science.

· consider new types of training and skills which universities need to provide, to enable students and the wider public to engage in open science and open innovation; for instance skills around data analytics and text mining will become much more important for future scientists, irrespective of discipline.

· Explore how citizen participation in science and innovation can help bridge a gap between ‘experts’ in universities, and society.

· Examine the critical role of universities in pioneering new ideas for the benefit of society, as they can facilitate the co-creation of applied knowledge with users and the providers of technology in often unexpected ways.


Marking its launch, the Guild has just issued a statement emphasizing that Universities are key to addressing deepening social and cultural divisions and disaffection in Europe, noting that universities are unique facilitators of relationships between different parts of society and the different geographies of Europe. The Guild calls for a new dialogue between policy makers and universities, and points to the potential of our students in realizing their ideas about how new forms of communication and debate can be fostered throughout society. It notes that “Recent elections and plebiscites have provided rich evidence of stark societal divisions, with cultural, social, economic and generational divides reinforcing each other in Europe and beyond.”

The full statement can be found at:

As a consequence, the Guild will focus some of its early work on considering how universities can better engage with society, not least by framing in new ways how research and innovation matter. It is critical that we are better able to show to politicians and the wider public that research and innovation are indispensible for Europe’s future prosperity, and that they are no less critical for fostering social and cultural cohesion.

Guild Chair Ole Petter Ottersen – Rector of the University of Oslo said:

The Guild has been created because at this time, the voice of European Universities is more important than ever, and it needs to be strengthened. The Guild will add to current social and cultural debates through the engagement of its scientists and students. It will add to debates about European research and innovation through the unique history and expertise of its members. And it will lead by example, improving the research, education and governance of its members through exchange and collaboration. In this way we seek to challenge ourselves as we learn from each other how we can become more inclusive in our universities, and in how we engage.”

On open science the Guild’s launch conference agenda notes that:

“We are grateful for all the work that has gone into many aspects of the Open Science agenda from the Commission and other Research Networks, including the EUA, Science Europe, and LERU (amongst many others). We will support initiatives to ensure that open access will benefit science, rather than the publishing industry; we support the Open Cloud to enhance, rather than undermine, resources for basic research; and we welcome the inclusion of all subjects in the Open Science initiative: Open Science must complement, rather than replace, previous initiatives to develop e-infrastructures (e.g. under the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures). And we will engage with our institutions and our national bodies to see how Open Science can be better promoted and recognised.”

Professor Jan Palmowski, General Secretary of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities said:

“Universities are crucial curators of the Ecosystem that allows Open Innovation – defined as co-creation in the application of knowledge – to succeed. We educate the students that are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and innovators, and train the scientists who will produce the next breakthroughs – in companies and at universities. We fully support the European Commission’s drive to the creation of a European Innovation Council, and trust that Universities will have an important voice in it.”

17th November 2016

Further information, contact:

Jan Palmowski, Secretary General of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities


jan dot palmowski at the-guild dot eu


Luke Walton, International Press Officer

+44 (0) 2476 150 868

+44 (0) 7824 540 863

L dot Walton dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk