31st August 2009 - ‘2020’ seems like a magical year. Everyone in Europe is developing goals on diverse topics that must be reached at that time. From all the topics under discussion I would like to invite you to take a closer look into one of the most pressing issues for the social-economic well-being of Europe: the revitalisation of the Lisbon strategy.
What strikes me most in the current debate is the shift in focus. Of course, in order to realise a competitive knowledge-based economy, much attention has already been given to an improvement and intensification of research & development and innovation. But recently the debate has changed. And, as I would like to propose, indeed for the better.
There is a growing consensus that focus on R&D and innovation as such is no longer enough. Instead, we should take the whole knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation into account, and more specifically, put education on top. Higher education is more and more seen as the linking pin in the knowledge triangle that ensures more and better research-based knowledge, innovations and entrepreneurship. It is interesting to see how important European actors put this.
For example, the Ministers at the Leuven conference: “Higher education should be based at all levels on state of the art research and development thus fostering innovation and creativity in society. We recognise the potential of higher education programmes, including those based on applied science, to foster innovation”.
But also the Swedish EU presidency stated: “The current debate about the knowledge triangle tends primarily to focus on the relationship between research and innovation. This conference will focus on the central role of higher education in the knowledge triangle and for European competitiveness”.
These comments put higher education into the place it deserves. They support the idea of a standard linkage between education and (demand-driven) research in practice, and the overall importance of higher education for societal development. Therefore the road for good measures and targeted investments in higher education is now open to the European governments. Their challenge lies in tapping the full potential higher education has to offer, in order to tackle the knowledge paradox and deliver new knowledge, applicable innovation and entrepreneurship.
by Doekle Terpstra, president of the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (HBO-raad)