02 MAY 2019

From 10 to 12 April, Sorbonne University hosted the annual EUA conference on "Stimulating Innovation in European Universities".

EUA welcome
Sorbonne University hosts the annual EUA conference

Sorbonne University is an open, European and global university. It is firmly committed to the free movement of people and the freedom of the arts and sciences, European values par excellence.

Alongside its partners from the European University Association (EUA), Sorbonne University is actively involved in the construction of the European Higher Education, Research and Innovation Area. Today, as the European Union decides on its major political and budgetary directions for the next seven years, universities need to make their voices heard more than ever.

At the crossroads of research, education and innovation, Sorbonne University and European universities are pushing the frontiers of knowledge, educating the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and feeding fertile ecosystems where ideas become solutions.

Given Sorbonne University’s commitment to Europe and the reaffirmation of universities as a key players in innovation it was only natural that it hosted the annual conference of the EUA. Jean Chambaz, president of Sorbonne University, opened the first plenary session on Thursday, April 11th.

Véronique Perdereau, Vice President for Europe, takes stock of these three days during which Sorbonne University was at the heart of the European community of higher education, research and innovation.

What did it mean for you to host the annual EUA conference at Sorbonne University?

V.P. : It gave us very high visibility. The EUA does not only bring together the universities from the Europe Union of the 28, but it represents Europe in the broadest sense: in the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area. Nearly 400 leaders and university representatives from 46 countries were present on our campus. Hosting this annual conference was also a way to promote the new university that we have just created. Our young university was admired by our guests, and we were grateful for the opportunity.

Sorbonne University is the result of the merger of Pierre and Marie Curie and Paris-Sorbonne universities. What is expected of this new institution?

V.P. : Innovation is part of Sorbonne University’s DNA, in the merger (on January 1, 2018) of two universities that were already innovative. This merger will enable us to reinforce our capacity for innovation, by exploiting expertise at the interfaces of various disciplines. It is by working with the communities of our three faculties (Arts & Humanities, Medicine and Science & Engineering) that we will be best able to respond to major societal challenges, to which Sorbonne University intends to propose more than a single solution, but various contributions.

What are the assets of Sorbonne University to position itself in the same rank as American and Chinese universities in terms of innovation and teaching?

V.P. : In European universities, and more specifically at Sorbonne University, we are pursuing research excellence. We support all research communities and allow all talents to express themselves in a context of real academic freedom. This is a unique benefit of universities: leaving all ideas open enables the exploitation of unexpected potential that can lead to innovation. At Sorbonne University, research is intensive, multidisciplinary and it is visible in all directions.

How does Sorbonne University stand out in the European teaching, research and innovation community?

V.P. : Several flagship projects and actions are emblematic of Sorbonne University's position within this network. Since October 2018, Sorbonne University has spurred the creation of the 4EU + alliance. This university alliance brings together six leading European research universities (with the universities of Charles (Prague), Heidelberg, Warsaw, Milan and Copenhagen) and has initiated a new model of a global European university. In addition to its influence on the "old continent", 4EU + also aims, in the coming years, to position itself internationally.

In terms of innovation, Sorbonne University will host a research and innovation center on its Pierre and Marie Curie campus in 2021. Called Paris Parc, it will be the emblem of the university's entrepreneurial ecosystem, bringing together in one place, all the actors of the innovation chain. The goal is for research developed within Sorbonne University to be transformed into solutions and that we take our students into this entrepreneurial logic from the beginning of their studies.

Sorbonne University is also home to the European research infrastructure EMBRC (European Marine Biological Resources), whose headquarters are located on the Pierre and Marie Curie campus. The pillars of the French part of the infrastructure, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Roscoff and Banyuls-sur-Mer marine stations are jointly managed by Sorbonne University and the CNRS and make the university one of the most recognized institutions for research marine on a European scale.

Sorbonne University is an active participant in the European Framework Program for Research and Innovation. For example, it coordinates collaborative projects, such as DREAM (Deferred Restructuring of Experience in Autonomous Machines), cited at the EUA conference. This extremely ambitious research project, involving many key partners involved in European research [1], aims to integrate sleep and "dream" time in the architecture of robots in order to optimize their ability to learning.

What important proposals have come out of the debates from the annual EUA conference?

V.P. : European universities must unite their forces to respond to major societal challenges. Research must be done in relation to the economic world. The solutions of tomorrow will be developed by involving all the actors of the innovation ecosystems, in which the universities have a central role.

Plurial and diverse, they offer great wealth to develop innovation. If feedback has shown that establishing partnerships is not easy, the results are well worth it. We need to change our practices, including investing more in open science, one of the topics discussed at this conference.

 

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[1] Sorbonne University (coordinator), CNRS, ENSTA ParisTech, Free University of Amsterdam, University of Edinburgh and and University of Corunna.