The University-Business Forum took place in Sofia on 22-23 February 2018 under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It celebrated 10 years of existence with more than 250 participants from over 20 countries and high-level speakers from business, higher education and local and national governments.
In his opening speech the Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Dr Petar Nikolov, stressed the contribution of higher education institutions to regional development and the importance of a fruitful cooperation with the business sector in this process.
The acting Director-General of the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Audiovisual and Culture, Mr Jens Niland Christensen, recalled one of the great challenges faced by all institutions in the educational process – adequate training of students in view of their opportunities for professional realisation. This topic was also mentioned in the statement of Ms Margarita Popova, Vice President of the Republic of Bulgaria in the period 2012-2017 and Deputy Chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Association. She emphasised the need for attitudes and opportunities for lifelong learning.
The Forum focused on the following three topics: Leadership, Management and Governance; Driving Regional Innovation and Development; Entrepreneurship Education.
Among the Forum’s key results, which will be published soon, are the calls to:
- Further deepen and incentivise co-operation between universities, enterprises and the wider environment;
- Strengthen and sustain emerging initiatives towards an innovative and entrepreneurial university;
- Involve students in the ongoing modernisation of higher education;
- Create conducive policy frameworks for a stronger engagement of universities, academics and students in knowledge exchange; and
- Remove barriers between start-up ecosystems and universities.
The Forum was organised by the European Commission in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Rectors’ Conference and the Bulgarian Industrial Association.
It is an excellent platform for exchanging ideas and sharing good practices. It is the founding base of the HEInnovate tool, which was created as a result of discussions during one of the previous editions of the Forum. The tool is inspired by the desire to provide higher education institutions with the opportunity to assess their own potential and, on that basis, to make informed decisions when developing their own strategies. Today, the HEInnovate initiative is becoming increasingly popular not only in Europe but also in the USA and Asian countries. In 2014 Bulgaria became the first country to have a thorough overview of the level of entrepreneurship in the higher education system.
The meeting in Sofia was the first time that a Presidency of the Council of the EU hosted the Forum, reflecting the policy priorities of Bulgaria and the increasing importance of university business collaboration. The next event on the Presidency calendar devoted to innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education (HEInnovate) will be held in Ruse on 14-17 June 2018.