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1st September 2016, 8:45am
3.7 million Euros for European innovation research
Innovation Universities from seven European countries will help businesses embrace innovation as part of a 3.7 million Euro project to support regional development across Europe.  

The major research project, RUNIN (The Role of Universities in Innovation and Regional Development), will coordinate international research on regional innovation and the roles universities play in changing the processes of a business, or creating more effective products and ideas.

The University of Lincoln will deliver the UK strand of the project, which is being coordinated overall by the University of Stavanger with five other partner universities and nine regional development organisations.

RUNIN has been awarded grant funding by the Innovative Training Networks (ITN) scheme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. Only around seven percent of the applicants were successful.

The University of Lincoln will receive around £500,000 and will work with Lincolnshire County Council, the partner institutions, and economic development agencies across Europe. The project will last for four years. At Lincoln, a pair of PhD researchers will identify policies and practices already in place which could be adopted by universities, firms and regional stakeholders to improve innovation.

They will also explore how universities form regional networks with industry and how such connections encourage innovative performance and, as a consequence, contribute to the development of the region. The project will examine the impact such industry collaborations have in the local area, and how research at universities shapes public policy at a local and national level. Researchers will also examine what impact the economic and social characteristics of the region has on meeting innovation goals.

Professor David Charles from Lincoln International Business School, who will lead the University of Lincoln’s contribution to the project, said: “For businesses, being innovative – for example, implementing new ideas, creating novel products or improving existing services to name a few – is vital to prosper in an ever-competitive environment.
“This project addresses a core concern of policy-makers across Europe of how regions can prosper in the rapidly changing global economy. We want to create an innovation-friendly environment throughout Europe by revolutionising the way universities, public and private sectors work together.

“Universities have a key role to play in this; we are the producers of new knowledge, of a highly skilled workforce, and we can transmit that knowledge to firms, policy-makers and the general public. While in-depth knowledge about particular fields and specialities appears to be global, its production and transmission is often highly localised within micro-scale communities, coordinated through shared goals relating to that area.

“In this project, we will focus on how universities may strengthen the capabilities for firms and regions to be more innovative through providing new knowledge, building interregional networks and taking on broader developmental roles.”

Other university partners in the project are the University of Stavanger, Norway; Aalborg University, Denmark; University of Twente, Netherlands; Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain; Linköping University, Sweden; and University of Aveiro, Portugal.

The project will employ two PhD researchers in each of the seven countries who will have direct supervision from a partner university, a co-supervisor from another university in the network, and a mentor from a regional development company. In total, 21 supervisors and 11 mentors are involved in the project. Additional lecturers from each university will participate in training events, and the project also involves academic mentors who will provide supervision training for staff.

Professor Rune Dahl Fitjar from the University of Stavanger is coordinating RUNIN. "The competition for funding is incredibly tough, so we are very pleased with this outcome," he said. "This training programme will equip the next generation of innovation researchers with the skills they need to work across the sectors of the economy. The programme will give the candidates a solid research education, as well as building skills which will be useful in future careers in industry or the public sector.

"The proximity to the regional development organisations will enhance the practical relevance of the PhD students' research and enable us to train researchers who can contribute to regional development and innovation. The aim is to train innovation researchers who can work within this field in the academic world or as decision-makers at national or European level.”

For more on the project visit:

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