Final countdown for housing of European technology institute
28.04.08 @ 09:25
BRUSSELS - The final countdown has begun on where to place the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU's flagship innovation and education project, as the official application deadline expired at the end of last week.
Four applicants are keen to host the administrative headquarters of the institute - Hungary's capital, Budapest, the Polish city of Wroclaw, Spain's Sant Cugat del Valles, while Slovak capital Bratislava has joined forces with Austria's Vienna in launching a cross-border bid.
The EIT is meant to bridge the innovation gap between the 27-nation EU and its major rivals, the US and Japan.
In practice, it should result in a network of universities, research centres and companies in order to transform education and research while developing commercially successful results - as well as to attract the best young brains from within and beyond Europe.
Slovakia-tailored 'twin city headquarters'
For the institute to be up and running from January next year, the 27-nation bloc must unanimously agree on its future seat. The Slovene EU presidency expects this could be done during a meeting of ministers in charge of competitiveness on 30 May.
But none of the EIT-hopefuls has so far gathered clear majority support around the table, shifting backstage talks into high gear.
Slovakia is setting its hopes on the idea of a twin-city headquarters, pairing Bratislava and Vienna - cities only 60 kilometres apart and well connected to other EU capitals.
By uniting the capital of a "dynamic new EU state and an experienced old one", the project argues it is tailored to demonstrate a "Europe-without-borders way of thinking."
According to the Slovak ministry of education, the twin-city approach is also an example of turning the institute's very goal - stronger ties and better networking between the union's top universities, research facilities and businesses - into practice.
While Bratislava is home to approximately 75,000 students, Vienna accommodates some 130,000 students. There are also some 25,000 researchers working in the two capitals.
Hungary, Poland and Spain
The biggest competition to the joint EIT bid comes from nearby Hungary, as its nominee, Budapest, also offers similar benefits concerning its geographic location.
Budapest is "a traditional educational, scientific and research centre ... at the same time, one of the most important logistics and business centres in the Central-Eastern European region," reads the official candidacy paper.
The country also underlines its network of several research institutions affiliated with universities and industry as well as the fact it has produced a total of 14 Nobel Prize winners over the years.
Poland has also voiced its interest in hosting the EIT headquarters and nominated the city of Wroclaw - a well-known academic centre, home to 27 higher education schools, two scientific institutions, over 150,000 students and 9,000 academic teachers.
However, some diplomats suggest that the country has a smaller chance of succeeding in its bid, as it already houses Frontex, an EU agency responsible for security of the bloc's external borders.
Sant Cugat del Valles in the Spanish region of Catalonia closes the list of contestants. The town often described as a rich suburb of Catalonian capital Barcelona has several education centres, and is also active in the field of high technology.
It is estimated that the total cost of establishing the EIT could reach some €2.37 billion. Brussels is set to contribute €309 million of that figure for the 2008-2013 period, with the rest coming from national grants and industry investments.