University Collaboration in Regional Development S.. (UNICREDS)
University Collaboration in Regional Development Spaces
Start date: Dec 31, 2009,
End date: Dec 30, 2012
UNICREDS brings together deprived peripheral regions that view the development of decentralised, multi-university campuses in their territories as the key to their full participation in regional development through the knowledge economy. These 'collaborative universities' are seen as transformational developments; fundamentally enhancing territorial capital and potential well beyond their core educational functions. Developed in collaboration with regional authorities and the private sector, they are seen to provide a flexible template for regional development closely linked to local needs and opportunities – and an alternative to the classical education factory system - providing instead regional clusters of high quality competitive and innovative activities. These collaborations work together to drive forward a common agenda of increasing growth and jobs and have come to be known as the triple helix development model.There are now a number of regions where higher education institutions have combined to develop these new multi-study environments remote from the traditional, centralised universities.These new clusters have been developed to enable peripheral and/or excluded communities to access university education and research & innovation activities locally for the first time.They also use the combined strength of a number of universities to better serve the needs and catalyse a diverse range of enterprises. As large-scale developments in their own right, they attract high numbers of students and staff into peripheral areas and have significant direct economic, demographic and environmental impacts.The core objective of the network is to further develop and demonstrate how the triple helix model can assist the transformation of failing peripheral regions into centres of excellence in research and innovation and to propose this approach as a model for future EU regional development programmes.Through work package meetings, conferences and dissemination events, each focussing on sequential stages of the triple helix regional development model developed so far by this partnership; the project will capitalise on the existing work undertaken by the more experienced partners, and refine and adjust the model according to all partners' input and further testing, mostly in the new member states. The result will be a transferrable model for regional development in peripheral or failing economies. All partners will be responsible for integrating the new model into local, regional and national policy structures and a special 'regional policy influence group' will offer the model to the EU as a sustainable regional development alternative.New member states have shown great interest in the model. Many are currently in the process of developing university/private and public sector collaborations of their own, and want to participate in the further work of the partnership. Achievements: The aim of UNICREDS is to transform regions with underperforming economies into centres of research and innovation, through the creation of a new model for economic development. UNICREDS is studying two key elements: 1) the interaction between universities, government organisations and the private sector as a good governance model which allows growth and employment; 2) the ways that a decentralised higher and further education system gathered in a partnership strengthens the effect of the previous element. Partners from seven regions across Europe meet regularly to share experience, identify good practices and to develop a new, transferable toolkit for economic development through the creation of a regional knowledge economy. Five themes are being considered through seminars, surveys and other research, each led by a different partner. The results are shared and discussed further during conferences with input from key policy makers and influencers, and the results published.The project launched in Cornwall in April 2010, giving partners the opportunity to better understand the problems faced by each region and to start work on the first theme: design of a decentralized higher education model to meet specific physical and social characteristics of underperforming regional economies in peripheral areas. In June 2010, the partners met in Skellefteå, Sweden to focus on the geographic and community fit of the different models of higher education found within the partner regions. Good practices were identified to show the different ways to bring university-level education to a region, including joint campuses, using local learning centres and existing further education institutions as a base for HE, distance learning, and the creation of a new university; and to exemplify the assessment of a regions social and geographical characteristics in order to plan higher education provision to develop high-value business sectors.In January 2011, the conference in Sofia, Bulgaria concentrated on the development of successful partnerships between the higher education institutions, the public sector and industry to build a successful economy. These university-industry-government collaborations can start a partnership even in a region where there is currently no university presence. As the partnership develops, work can be undertaken in knowledge transfer, graduate employment, skills improvement for the existing workforce, and the development of new areas of industry that create new types of job in a region. The partners met in Skye, Scotland in June 2011 to discuss ways of ensuring that the benefits of an improved knowledge economy are really making a difference in the lives of the communities they support. Smart specialisation was a key theme for this conference, drawing on the partners experiences in identifying regional strengths and spotting potential for new growth areas within their regions.In Skye, work began on the fourth theme: Nuturing an innovative business culture and reaching isolated groups. The triple helix model was developed to include a fourth strand in the helix - communities - as a key player in regional activities. Findings from WP4 highlighted the importance of communication: future initiatives should make a greater effort to uderstand the needs of local businesses and communities in isolated areas; to ensure that two-way communication becomes the key tool for developing innovation systems; and to ensure that isolated businesses and communities are made fully aware of the opportunities and benefits of innovative practices, collaboration and cooperation, and funding for collaborative innovation projects. The reports and good practices from our work so far can be found on the project website at www.unicreds.eu. UNICREDS will organise conferences about innovation, business culture and research excellence in June 2012.
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