Half-time for the FIT FORTHEM project

Project of the European Universities FORTHEM Alliance will continue its successful activities over the coming 18 months

22 July 2022

The project FIT FORTHEM – Fostering Institutional Transformation of R&I Policies in European Universities – has reached the half-way mark of its funding period. The three-year project started in January 2021 and is being sponsored by the European Commission through the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Program "Science with and for Society" to the tune of EUR 2 million. The aim is to develop strategies for the fields of research and innovation within the FORTHEM Alliance, which is coordinated by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The network assesses various open science policies and maps out a shared research agenda for the now nine FORTHEM partners to effectively achieve the ambitious goals of the alliance.

"Together with our European partners, we have been engaged in strengthening the research and innovation dimensions of the FORTHEM Alliance over the past 18 months," emphasized Professor Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics at JGU. "We have been looking at shared features and differences in the R&I sector with regard to our partner universities and have considered best practice methodologies. We have managed to identify potentials and draw up action plans in the areas of research and innovation for all partners of the alliance that we now intend to implement over the next 18 months."

The FIT FORTHEM network relies on open knowledge transfer using the Quadruple Helix innovation concept that brings together science, business, administration, and civil society – in the discussion and consolidation of future research agendas, for example. By means of a large-scale survey of all FORTHEM partner universities, it has proved possible to evaluate the status quo with regard to the internationalization of research, knowledge transfer, and the dissemination of knowledge among the general population together with the working conditions of those employed at each university. On the basis of this extensive analysis, FIT FORTHEM will develop guidelines and strategies with regard to the key topics of internationalization, open science, collaboration with the social and economic ecosystem, and science communication. The project also aims to draw up novel concepts for engaged networking and further digitalization in science and research and will stimulate new forms of collaboration and exchange.

Research, innovation, and transfer

The sharing of infrastructures, technologies, information, and services are part of the concept to create a European University. Input by experts will be pooled through a new virtual office that will be set up to support collective activities, knowledge exchange, and joint project applications. By establishing this office, FIT FORTHEM will be putting in place an important cornerstone of the future research, innovation, and transfer mission of the FORTHEM Alliance. This mission will be spearheaded by the universities in Opole and Mainz together with the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu.

"Our intention for the remaining term of the project is to combine the strengths of the research, innovation, and transfer mission of the FORTHEM Alliance with the activities of FIT FORTHEM. We will take a productive, target-oriented approach to accomplishing our objectives," stated Dr. Nicole Birkle, Managing Coordinator of the FIT FORTHEM project at JGU. "Our main FIT FORTHEM activities to date were aimed at the assessment, evaluation, and extensive exchange of information. Now we will move on to an implementation and activation phase to exploit the existing potential provided by the combined resources of all partner universities."

About the European Universities FORTHEM Alliance

FORTHEM is one of now 41 European University Alliances funded by the EU Commission to create a European Higher Education Area by 2025 with learning, studying, and research easily transcending national borders. The idea behind the European Universities Initiative (EUI) goes back to the Initiative for Europe keynote address given by French President Emmanuel Macron on September 26, 2017, at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In that speech he proposed establishing a European University network by 2024.

The FORTHEM Alliance was founded in 2019 and is coordinated by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The other members include the University of Burgundy in France, Jyväskylä University in Finland, the University of Opole in Poland, the University of Palermo in Italy, the University of Latvia and the University of València in Spain. During the 2021 network meeting, the alliance members also signed a letter of intent with the University of Agder in Norway and the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu in Romania preparing their subsequent inclusion as full members.

The FIT FORTHEM project has been funded by the EU since January 2021. Based on the exchange of best practices in research and innovation as well as the joint concepts for mutual access to existing research infrastructures, FIT FORTHEM is drafting a long-term strategic program to further professionalize research management processes and expand the alliance's science communication. All partners expect to increase their visibility and impact and they simultaneously aim to open up new career paths in science, research, and research management.