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European Platform of Universities in Energy Research & Education
EUA-EPUE

A first step in mobilising the European university community in tackling the EU energy challenge was the creation of the European Platform of Universities in Energy Research & Education (EUA-EPUE) in 2009. EUA-EPUE followed an initiative of EUA, which had been invited by the European Commission in 2008 to become an observer in the Executive Committee of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) on behalf of European universities.  In 2012, the EUA-EPUE comprised 171 universities from across Europe who demonstrated research and education capacity in the energy field, ranging from science, engineering and technology to bio-sciences and medical/life sciences and from economics to social sciences and humanities.

To take account of the strengths and capabilities of universities in the energy field, EUA launched an exploratory survey of university activities in 2010, which eventually led to the launch of EUA-EPUE at an inaugural meeting at Delft University of Technology in 2012.

EUA-EPUE has, since 2009, been actively involved in the SET-Plan process by contributing to the SET-Plan Roadmap on Education and Training and the SET-Plan Integrated Roadmap. EUA-EPUE has played a lead role in the SET-Plan Education and Training Initiative through the mobilisation of almost 100 university experts to the 12 thematic-area working groups and through the creation of specific mirror groups. Importantly also, it led the horizontal group on ‘Coordination of education and training systems’ in the energy field.

The EUA-EPUE Energy Platform is currently conducting its activities through the FP7 UNI-SET project.

Objectives

EUA-EPUE aims at being a central forum in Europe for universities to share ideas for new research and education projects and find interested partners in the field of energy. It intends to strengthen the voice of the university sector in European policymaking in energy by reinforcing the dialogue with its universities and by providing an interface between European universities and European institutions.

EUA-EPUE, therefore, seeks to:

  • Pool the richness and diversity of university expertise to direct efforts towards addressing the EU challenge for the transition to a low-carbon society.
  • Make visible the substantial contribution of European universities in the implementation of the SET-Plan and EU energy strategies.
  • Give to universities the opportunity to have a collective voice in consultations on European energy matters.
  • Act as a sustainable open platform that facilitates the creation of synergies between universities and fosters intra-European and multi-disciplinary collaboration.
Support the creation of multidisciplinary innovative energy-related Master, Doctorate and research programmes for better employability of university graduates all over Europe.

At the Belgian EU Presidency Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) Conference on 15 November 2010, the European University Association announced its intention to develop a European Platform of Universities in Energy Research & Education (EPUE). Professor Torbjørn Digernes (former Rector, Norwegian University of Science and Technology) announced that EPUE’s main task would be “to provide a strong ‘single’ voice for Europe’s universities in EU energy research by establishing a platform to facilitate the full participation of competitive European universities and their networks in achieving the goal of the SET-Plan for a low carbon emission energy future”. He emphasised that “for the successful realisation of EU energy policy goals, European universities’ strengths in fundamental research and training capacity for new skills development required by the energy sector must be tapped through EU research strategies”.

EPUE is being developed by EUA while involved as an observer within the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) of the EU SET-Plan. EUA was invited to join the EERA Executive committee as an observer by the European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation.

 

EUA’s decision to participate in the EERA initiative was based essentially upon the recognition that it represented a pilot of a new type of European policy instrument under development – that of ‘joint programming’ – and that Europe’s universities could not afford to be outside the learning process. In the case of EERA, where national research institutes for energy research were taking the lead, there was a real risk that universities would be regarded as secondary partners. The major task for EUA was to demonstrate that university-based research and, importantly, postgraduate training programmes (at Master and Doctoral levels), and the uniqueness of university multidisciplinary research environments, were key elements in tackling the ‘grand challenge’ of achieving a low-carbon society.

EUA Council has reviewed regularly the progress of EUA’s involvement in EERA and provided input and advice on its efforts to build a European Platform of Universities in Energy Research & Education. At its March 2010 meeting, Council appointed EUA Research Policy Working Group member, Professor Torbjørn Digernes (former Rector, Norwegian University of Science and Technology), to serve as the EUA observer on the EERA Executive Committee and as the Chairman of the EUA-EPUE Steering Group. 

 

The 2010 Survey of Universities Energy Research & Education activities

distribution of universities taking part in the 2010 eua-epue survey

EUA-EPUE has been developed following a survey questionnaire sent to all EUA member universities.The questionnaire has yielded an important initial mapping of European universities’ research and training capacities in the energy field in terms of faculty expertise, research projects, collaboration with external research and industry partners and Masters and Doctorate programmes.

The 2010 EUA-EPUE survey allowed a first overview of research and education activities in the energy field. Based on 171 responses, the survey outcomes showed that universities maintain more than 1,400 research groups involving 20,000 people, and offer more than 600 Doctorate programmes and no less than 900 Master programmes related to the energy field. This sample demonstrated the relevance of universities as crucial actors tackling the human resources gap to move towards a low-carbon society. It also illustrated the substantial research and innovation capacity of the university sector in many areas related to energy, both technological and non-technological. Research and education programmes also show extensive cooperation with external partners, particularly research institutes and industry.

The main results of the 2010 EUA-EPUE Survey are summarised here.

setplan eua epua survey graph

Figure 2 University Interest in European Energy Research Alliance (SET-Plan) Priority Research Areas (2010 EUA-EPUE Survey).




setplan eua epua survey graph2

Figure 3  Partnerships in Research and Doctoral Areas and Master Programmes (2010 EUA-EPUE Survey).

The inaugural meeting at Delft University of Technology in February 2012 achieved validation for EUA-EPUE as a platform for the university sector in the energy field from both the EUA university membership and the European Commission (DG Research and Innovation). The EUA-EPUE event attracted 180 participants from 106 universities and 8 other stakeholder organisations in 26 countries. Several tasks were recommended as well as the main foci for the platform’s functions and activities. Importantly, the initial survey data base needed to be updated on research capacity, research projects and education programmes as it had been put into the field two years ago. The opportunity provided by the platform for bringing together universities that are active in specific topics was underlined, including especially in interdisciplinary fields. EUA-EPUE could operate as a driver for a new generation of education programmes, their coordination, and collective development, as well as the exchange of learning materials, including e-learning.

The target audience of the inaugural meeting consisted of academic leaders with expertise in energy research and an overview of their university’s capacities and interests in the energy field as a whole. The inaugural meeting was a unique initiative to bring together European universities’ research and education capacities to address a high priority ‘grand societal challenge’ field at the EU level. 

Its purpose was to discuss the potential role and development of the European Platform - “from concept to implementation” - and to consider a range of activities addressing the following missions:
  • establish a strong voice for university energy research and education at the European level;
  • ensure that characteristic university attributes such as fundamental research and training, and collaborative activities with industry partners, are properly included in forthcoming EU energy activities in the next Research Framework Programme, entitled Horizon 2020;
  • facilitate competitive European university groupings to participate in the realisation of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) in cooperation with the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA);
  • promote multidisciplinary cooperation integrating all scientific fields (or areas of knowledge), from the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, to Bioengineering, Life Sciences and Medicine, Economic and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts;
  • speak for long‐term thinking in European research agendas and initiatives, with due consideration given to a balance between top‐down and bottom‐up research strategies.

uniset logoThe UNI-SET (UNIversities in the SET-Plan) project aims to mobilise European universities to contribute to the ambitious European energy goals spelled out in the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), the European Energy Union and the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

For EUA, UNI-SET is a step in further developing the European Platform of Universities in Energy Research & Education (EUA-EPUE). UNI-SET is mapping existing energy-related Master, Doctorate and Research programmes at European universities and will collect empirical data about the range of university activities in disciplines and scientific fields related to the SET-Plan. It is also identifying the skills and professional profiles needed in the current and future European energy sector.  By these means, it aims at identifying opportunities for universities to engage in new research projects tackling energy-related challenges, and also to foster the creation of new multidisciplinary Master or Doctorate programmes according to the evolution of knowledge and technologies for better employability of university graduates. UNI-SET seeks to provide important background knowledge for the future development of energy-related research activities and to reduce fragmentation of European universities’ research, education and training capacities in the energy field.

Additionally, UNI-SET aims to provide opportunities for universities to contribute to policy discussions and engage in dialogues on the development of the SET-Plan, Horizon 2020 and to participate in consultations on European energy matters and related areas.

UNI-SET is a Coordination and Support Action funded by the European Commission’s (EC) Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). It started in September 2014 and will last three years. UNI-SET is coordinated by EUA and implemented jointly with KU Leuven, representing the universities in KIC InnoEnergy.

Policy positions

EUA has issued the following policy positions in the area of energy research and education:

EUA-EPUE has contributed to the SET-Plan Roadmap on Education and Training and to the SET-Plan Integrated Roadmap.

 

European University Association (EUA)

Brussels office:
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