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Martin Kern

Interim Director

European Institute of

Innovation and Technology (EIT)


am delighted to have this opportunity to address you in this foreword

to the June edition of

Pan European Networks: Science & Technology,

and to share some of the conclusions from INNOV


2016, the EIT’s

innovation forum. INNOV


took place in Budapest, Hungary, on 25-26

April and gathered more than 350 entrepreneurs and innovators from

across Europe. We were joined by leading European decision makers

including Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, responsible for education,

culture, youth and sport; Commissioner Carlos Moedas, responsible for

research, science and innovation; and members of the European

Parliament Paul Rübig and Eva Kaili.

Two days of inspiring discussions and presentations of promising

European innovations emerging from our innovation communities led to

two main conclusions on what is needed to strengthen innovation

capacity in Europe: firstly, all key actors from the European innovation

landscape need to effectively join forces for innovation and work together

in a structured way to make innovation happen. Secondly, social

innovation and education must be an integral part of European innovation

policies and activities to boost entrepreneurship.

Let me start with the first conclusion – the importance of working

together. Europe has excellent business, higher education and research

organisations, but great ideas are still too rarely transformed into

successful innovative products and services. Europe still lags behind its

global competitors. Why? At the EIT, we believe that part of the answer

is the insufficient co-operation between key players in the innovation

landscape. And that’s precisely where the EIT comes in.

With more than 800 excellent partners from business, education and

research, and 30 innovation hubs across Europe, we have created

Europe’s largest innovation community – a community that makes

innovation happen. Our community, which supports entrepreneurs across

Europe to turn their best ideas into products, services and jobs, has

already developed more than 900 business ideas, almost 200 innovative

start-ups, and around 150 new products and services. The students

graduating from our courses are now becoming entrepreneurs and

EIT-supported start-ups are growing.

This would not have been possible without the strong pan-European

co-operation of universities, research organisations and business. And

this is just the beginning. I believe it is crucial that we all look to improve

collaboration both within our communities and with new stakeholders,

to continue to accelerate the innovations that meet the needs of

Europe’s citizens and society as a whole to address major challenges.

Only together can we change Europe’s mindset to be more innovative

and entrepreneurial.

This brings me to the second conclusion from INNOV


2016: the

importance of social innovation and education in boosting European

entrepreneurship. Let me share the story of the EIT Change Award 2015

winner, Govinda Upadhyay. Upadhyay took part in an EIT educational

programme. Following graduation from the KIC InnoEnergy Master

School, he decided not to search for a job but to create jobs. He followed

his vision of providing every child around the world with a light to study

by, and with the support of the EIT Climate-KIC business accelerator

programme, LEDSafari became a reality. LEDSafari is a social start‐up

based in Lausanne, Switzerland, that distributes an easy to make, cheap

solar lamp and provides a programme for trainers who are now teaching

children across the world to make their own. Last year, Upadhyay won

USD 100,000 (~€88,161) from Forbes as a finalist in the Forbes 30

Under 30 competition for the world’s most promising entrepreneurs.

Upadhyay is one of more than 500 graduates of EIT educational

programmes; programmes that are fully focused on the development of

entrepreneurial and innovation skills; programmes that change mindsets

and empower top entrepreneurs and the leaders of tomorrow. We believe

this is exactly what Europe needs: this is a role model for European

education and the most effective way to boost entrepreneurship and

innovation in Europe.

This year, five of the 30 young social entrepreneurs featured by Forbes

in its 30 Under 30 Europe list were supported by the EIT community and

three of them graduated from our educational programmes. This brings

us back to the importance of working together. All our educational

programmes are created in close co-operation with leading higher

education, business and research institutions, and there are currently

more than 1,000 students enrolled in our entrepreneurial education

programmes who, upon graduation, will join our alumni community. All

are people with vision, great ideas and the ability to turn these ideas into

sustainable solutions for Europe, and thus with the ability to help guide

Europe’s future.

Pan European Networks: Science & Technology