Challenges with regard to education for innovation
European universities were mainly focusing on research. Only recently, about 30 years ago, some universities became also active in research and development or innovation, contract research with companies, spin offs, science parks, incubation centres, etc. Last decade, DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission has stimulated innovation projects at the universities in cooperation with the industry and all members states have research and innovation programmes.
Where is the place for education and training in this innovation agenda?
A strong impetus for knitting together research, innovation and education is given by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT, since 2008). EIT is organising research and innovation as well as education and training in selected areas as Energy, Climate, ICT Labs, Healthy Living and Active Ageing, and Raw Materials. The Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) deliver education and training for innovation: MSc programmes, doctoral programmes, but also leadership, executive and short specialization programmes. These innovative programmes are based on partnerships between different universities, companies and research centres that collaborate closely and offer double degrees, international and cross-sectorial mobility experiences, as well as applied innovation and entrepreneurship education. The KICs offer examples on how education for innovation can be organized for an innovation sector.
Although European universities are now developing research and innovation as core activities, education and training for innovation are still under-developed. Education for innovation also entails for example continuing professional development and domain-specific open knowledge networks for professionals or business sectors; OERs and MOOCs and other new modes of learning; and courses and curricula, labeled by the university and its stakeholders as education for innovation for a particular area. Where today emphasis is on entrepreneurship, most professionals ask as well for knowledge updating (content) in specialized areas.
As a consequence, education for innovation has to be flexible to reach the target groups envisaged. Hence, new educational formats or needed, many of them being online to ensure flexibility, accessibility and interaction with staff and peer professionals.