Education meets Business or the other Way Round
Since the adoption of the Erasmus+ programme in 2014, the European Union finances Knowledge Alliances between universities and enterprises. Looking back on the projects approved after the annual application rounds, one question is whether the Knowledge Alliances stand out from previous EU support to co-operation between business and academia. Evaluations of the past EU programmes on such co-operation have pointed at the difficult exercise of building a sustainable and long-lasting partnership, without becoming routinized and self-confirming. In short: networks between business and academia need to be innovative and bring novelty.

Let us first recall that Knowledge Alliances are open to any discipline, sector and to cross-sectoral co-operation. The programme guide sets out that such projects between business and academia should have a short and long-term impact on a wide range of labour market stakeholders and institutions. It is further explained that a Knowledge Alliance may involve employers and labour market institutions in the design and delivery of training materials. See:

Development of learning materials, and thereafter?

One maxim of this funding action is that it should absorb very many experiences and practices into a Knowledge Alliance. So instead of providing a strict definition of a Knowledge Alliance, the Erasmus+ programme guide comes up with some examples of joint university-enterprise activities that may fall under the action:

* develop and make use of new learning and teaching methods;
* organise continuing educational programmes and activities with and within companies;
* introduce entrepreneurship education to provide students, researchers, staff and educators with the knowledge and skills to engage in entrepreneurial activities;
* study field-related activities in enterprises which are fully embedded in the curriculum, recognised and credited;

These examples clarify that a Knowledge Alliance is something more than a punctual intervention for joint development of learning materials, or for learning contents in general. Likewise, a Knowledge Alliance is more binding than a fluid encounter between project partners who scarcely know each other before the application is submitted. The solidity and sustainability of the partnership is therefore given considerable weight when it is decided which applications will be retained.

No networks with sleeping partners

This implicit plea for continuity and the strong expectations to past performance of a partnership asking for new funding, could reduce the renewal of partnerships in EU programmes. Hence, the difference between a punctual intervention and a network (often with many “sleeping partners”) has also been a thorny issue in previous EU programmes and actions for support to partnerships between academia and business.

We now see that Knowledge Alliances are about to find their specific identity between ad hoc projects for developing training of relevance for enterprises, and a cross-national network searching for funding of member activities that fall in line with EU policies.

The Knowledge Alliances approved after the 2016 Call for proposals can be seen here: