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Earma 2019: Shift in mindset needed to win EU funding

Universities may have to fundamentally change how they approach technology transfer if they want to continue to benefit from the tens of millions of euros of funding channelled through EU programmes, research managers have been warned.

At the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators conference in Bologna, Italy, Michael Browne, head of European research and innovation at University College London, warned, “Most universities I have seen are not structured to deal with European funding in a convincing way”.

Increasing amounts of EU funding is moving away from the heavily university-dominated project teams of the sixth and seventh iterations of the EU’s Framework programme, he said. The eighth programme—Horizon 2020—showed an increasing need for industry partners, and Horizon Europe may go even further in this direction, said Browne.

Politicians and funding agencies want to see results of research much more quickly, he said. He added that while early stage project investment was a normal thing 10 years ago, this is no longer the case.

“This is a challenge for universities. The more into the future we go, the more need there is…to provide results in a shorter time,” he told the audience at Research Professional’s Question Time event on 27 March. Research Professional, the publisher of Research Europe, is the official media partner for Earma.

“Universities need to do more. They need to structure themselves differently,” said Browne.

Institutions should build pan-European networks of researchers and companies that have real substance, rather than groups put together for the purpose of bidding for grants, he said. This will involve a shift in mindset towards open innovation and will need different structures than those seen in the traditional technology transfer office, which focused on exclusively owned patents.

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