Higher Education Institutions can be drivers for transformation and innovation, above all when they engage with their environment, locally, at national and international level.
Collaboration between higher education institutions and the business sector is crucial for solving societal challenges, encouraging the exchange and sharing of knowledge, creating long-term partnerships and opportunities and driving innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity.
University Business Cooperation is key for boosting innovation in higher education institutions (HEI) and a vital part of the overall policy of DG EAC in the field of higher education. It develops and implements policies and specific initiatives to support innovation and entrepreneurial culture in and by higher education institutions, and their cooperation with business in a broad sense. It targets all kinds of higher education institutions, independent of their size and location, their faculties and disciplines, or their international positioning. On the business side it addresses companies (in particular SMEs), but also public authorities, regions, cities, NGOs, hospitals, museums etc. in the EU and Erasmus countries.
The European Commission supports University Business Cooperation with several instruments, such as the Erasmus+ Alliances for Innovation (formerly Knowledge Alliances and Sectorial Skills Alliances) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
In addition, it provides Member States and Stakeholders with support to enhance HEI's contribution to innovation and regional development (HESS – Higher Education and Smart Specialisation, in collaboration with the JRC) and to enhance the relevance and labour market outcomes of higher education by improving the match between the outcome of higher education systems and the needs of the labour market (LMRO initiative, in collaboration with the OECD.
In order to support EU Member States and stakeholders in their efforts to strengthen the cooperation between higher education and business, the Commission established in 2008 the European University – Business Forum (UBForum), a platform at European level for a structured dialogue between relevant stakeholders.
The UBForum is typically organised every two years in Brussels and a regular programme of thematic UB Fora take place in the Member States. This European platform for University-Business Cooperation has been key in bringing together higher education institutions, companies, business associations, civil society actors and policymakers at urban, rural, regional, national and international level to network as well as exchange knowledge, ideas and good practices in the field of UBC.
HEInnovate is one of the main outcomes of the UBForum.