(1) JOINT EFFORTS BETWEEN UNIVERSITIES AND ENTERPRISES: tackling societal challenges and strengthening the economy and labour markets in Europe


The EU programme Erasmus+ offers an opportunity for higher education institutions and enterprises to develop joint training in the form of Knowledge Alliances. I have on several occasions been among the external experts assessing proposals to set up such alliances. Other partnerships are formed in Sector Skills Alliances (SSA), which have broader partnerships for aligning vocational training to labour market needs in specific sectors. SSAs are also financed from Erasmus+ and may comprise universities and other higher education institutions.

For the first time in 2018, the European Union launched the European Universities initiative with a higher budget for stimulating networks of excellence between all kinds of higher education institutions. Having assessed proposals within this initiative, I noticed that it particularly mobilised research universities that want to deepen their ongoing collaboration, while involving more partners around broader societal challenges. Compared with the Knowledge and Sectors Skills Alliances, fewer enterprises take however part in European Universities projects.

In addition, the profile of the applications within the European Universities Initiative is different from what found in the small-scale university projects, called Strategic Partnerships in the field of higher education. I have for some years assessed applications for such partnerships on behalf of the Norwegian national Erasmus+ Agency and, during this work, a certain pattern appears; they are frequently used by a university from one country to initiate cooperation with a few foreign partners.

A next step can therefore to be enlarge the partnership in the frame of a Knowledge Alliance, a Sector Skills Alliance, or even in the frame of the European Universities initiative. Along this line of thought, two Norwegian universities were partners of projects approved after the first call for applications under this initiative, and these two Norwegian universities have sound experiences from partnerships in previous Erasmus+ activities.