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EUA highlights value of philanthropic research funding (European Forum for Philanthropy and Research Funding, 1-3 December)

16 December 2009

Organised by the European Foundation Centre and EUA as one of the partners, this month’s 'European Forum for Philanthropy and Research Funding' conference in London hosted by the Wellcome Trust brought together key actors from Europe’s leading foundations and universities to discuss philanthropy as a growing asset for research.

The conference provided an opportunity to discuss the role of philanthropic funding of research and what needs to be done to enhance further growth in philanthropy as a growing research asset for universities.

In the opening plenary session, David Drewry, EUA Vice President underlined that this can be a highly flexible funding source with less complex strings attached in comparison to other public funding sources. He also warned that philanthropic funding should not be seen by governments as a substitution for public funding but rather as an additional source.  He further stressed that autonomy is key for universities to attract other funding sources and that EUA is willing to contribute to further capacity building within institutions to increase philanthropic funding.

John Smith, EUA Deputy Secretary General argued that philanthropic funding should support “risk taking” in research and should be a source for investing in “out of the box” ideas and approaches. Tim Hunt, principal investigator Cancer Research UK and Nobel prize winner in Physiology/Medicine showed how such risk-taking can lead to crucial discoveries.

The conference also provided an opportunity to present the first findings from EUA's EUDIS project. Ian Creagh, Kings College London and Chairman of the project underlined the importance of incentive mechanisms if philanthropic funding is to grow in universities budgets. Shirley Pierce, Vice Chancellor of Loughborough University showed, with the example of the UK matched funding scheme, how governments can provide such an incentive mechanism.

In the concluding panel, Thomas Estermann, EUA Head of Unit was invited to discuss the findings of the breakout sessions with key stakeholders. He made the case that philanthropic funding should be a way of investing in research without the bureaucracy that other public funding sources often bring with them. He placed emphasis on the value of a continued dialogue and exchange between foundations and university leaders to increase the understanding of what is needed to enhance philanthropic funding for universities.

European University Association (EUA)

Brussels office:
Avenue de l’Yser, 24
1040 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0) 2 230 55 44

Geneva office:
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Case postale 3174
1211 Geneva 3
Tel: +41 22 552 02 96