Research & Innovation

Towards the European University of the Future: Politecnico at the VIII Unite! Dialogue

PoliTO delegation for UNITE!

On September 19-21, PoliTO delegation gathered for the Alliance’s 8th Dialogue at Wrocław Tech, focused on “Unite! Ecosystems” to emphasize the importance of fostering collaboration to drive innovation within the Alliance.

Firstly, for what concerns Alliance’s governing bodies, a workshop focused on research gathered the Presidents and Rectors of the nine partner Universities. All participants, organized into three groups, were asked the same questions: which initiatives are to be maintained, which ones should end, and which are about to start.

It was truly interesting to observe how the three groups similarly converged to the same key words, commented Professor Roberto Zanino, PoliTO Key Liaison Officer (KLO) for Unite! particularly on the fact that future Unite! research agenda must keep its focus on early career researchers – Ph.D students and post-docs – as well as on mapping and implementing best practices to evaluate their research and career progression, and on sharing research infrastructures between partner Universities. The strengthening of the IRIS network to support research and innovation within Unite! was also a key point of the discussion.

During the Governing Platform meeting, Rector Guido Saracco advanced a proposal for the revision of the future Alliance’s governance, which intends to place a Vice Presidents’ team alongside the present Executive Board to support it. During this occasion, it was also agreed to undertake a lobbying action within the Member States to maintain the European Universities Initiative’s sustainability, for instance thanks to the Rector Conferences held in each partner country.

Roberto Zanino, PoliTO Key Liaison Officer (KLO) for Unite!

This proposal would mean – specified Professor Zanino – to structure accountability processes at Alliance’s level – going beyond the single partner Universities – by focusing on each of the main missions (teaching, research, innovation, social impact, internationalization, and so on) with the goal of trying to overcome the current vision mainly focused on Unite! project, which is very reductive compared to the transformational ambitions of European Alliances”.

Unite! Steering Committee also deepened the discussion on the possible new format for future Dialogues: their semesterly periodicity was confirmed, while the upcoming Dialogues’ main goals and structure are still under discussion.

“Among the various proposals, – concluded Zanino – particular emphasis was put on the opportunity of developing interfaces aimed at a growing synergy between the Alliance’s working groups. Once again, the goal is to overcome the current project vision and start developing a model European University of the future”.

Before and during Dialogue days, participants immersed themselves in various working group meetings, where they shared experiences, deliberated on ongoing projects, and showcased best practices related to collaboration. This exchange of ideas encouraged the cross-fertilization of concepts and the initiation of innovative ventures within the Unite! ecosystem. Student participation was not only a vital component but a driving force throughout the event, highlighting their invaluable role in shaping the alliance: a diverse group of students, representing SURE!, actively engaged in working group meetings alongside faculty and staff, providing fresh perspectives and insights.

Dialogue between participants

Transversal and plenary sessions, enlivened with poster showing and additional socializing activities, displayed project results while promoting cross-pollination of ideas, and encouraged the development of innovative initiatives thanks to the direct participation of numerous interested people. The opening plenary session presented the main outcomes of Unite! H2020 project and the resulting upcoming actions of Unite! Widening, as well as possible synergies with other competitive projects in which Unite! has recently gained success: MSCA Unite!Energy, aUPaEU, DigitalEU GreenChips. The closing plenary meeting retraced the main advancements achieved by all the working groups during the Dialogue. The whole Unite! delegations were also involved in a brief meditation exercise, to foster group cohesion and wellbeing.

The VIII Unite! Dialogue in Wrocław also provided an opportunity to strengthen collaboration with Ukrainian Higher Education representatives already collaborating with Wroclaw Tech in the fields of green transition and open innovation. This convergence of efforts marked a pivotal moment to establish new connections and discuss prospective collaborative projects, particularly in the realm of green transition. Additionally, Wrocław Tech hosted nearly 60 students from seven Ukrainian universities alongside the Dialogue, offering a range of 12 different workshops selected by students based on their preferences.

Once back, PoliTO delegation further discussed Alliance’s advancements and challenges. Each local representative from both E+ and H2020 projects enlightened the most recent developments, also commenting on needed improvements aimed at harmonizing all Unite! teams and activities.