European Institute of Innovation and Technology Launched

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An inaugural meeting of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)'s 18-member strong Governing Board marked the official launch of the institute's activities. "I am very pleased that the EIT formally begins its work today", said Commission President José Manuel Barroso on 15 September. "It will become a breeding ground for new ideas and help turning innovative ideas into reality." It is now up to the Board to attract private sector money as well as the most innovative businesses and the best research organisations, he added. However, businesses, which are expected to contribute billions of euros to EIT, have made it clear that they will only embark on the venture once proposals for concrete projects are on the table and if they find them attractive. KICs are the main operational blocs of the institute and are expected to integrate the EU's fragmented research, education and innovation efforts. They are set to bring together the departments of universities, companies and research institutes to perform education and innovation activities in inter-disciplinary strategic areas. Among the planned focus areas for KICs are climate change, renewable energy and the next generation of information and communication technologies (ICT). The idea, launched by Barroso in February 2005, to establish a European equivalent of the successful Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faced much criticism from both the Commission's own services and EU research and education stakeholders. Some thought it would overlap with the EU executive's existing innovation efforts, while others feared it would be financed at the expense of already established and well-functioning programmes. The Commission's original proposal to build a single campus and require universities and businesses to detach entire departments for the institute was therefore significantly watered down. Finally, the institute will be a mere virtual network of those willing to do projects and educational activities together.