Issue: Jul 2009


Closer links between academia and industry to drive European competitiveness



EU Commissioner uses first FISITA Educators Seminar to call for closer links between academia and industry to drive European competitiveness

by Jon Knox


FISITA, the International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies, organised its first ever Educators Seminar on Monday 29 June, during the 12th European Automotive Engineering Congress (EAEC) in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The theme for the seminar was Developing the links between Industry and Higher Education Institutions in Automotive Engineering, and it attracted academics, educators and industry professionals to discuss the challenges surrounding automotive engineering education. As the federation for automotive engineering societies in 38 countries worldwide, FISITA aims to play an active role in bringing engineering educators and the automotive industry closer together.

Ján Figel', European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, opened the seminar by explaining that education is considered key to Europe's future peace and prosperity and as such, is a top strategic priority for the EU.

"Europe cannot compete on cost, so we need to focus on creating more added value, more innovation. There is a new sense of urgency that the worlds of education and industry should come closer together. While the Commission has no wish to intrude into academic freedom, current levels of graduate unemployment in Europe represent a clear waste of talent, so we need to find ways to improve the quality of education and to have better alignment with the future needs of employers".

"Tomorrow's world will be even more global, complex and competitive. FISITA is a good example of an association which is working at the forefront of this issue and trying to make cooperation happen".

Mr. Figel' went on to describe a number of initiatives that the Commission is working on, including the University Business Forum, launched in 2008, which seeks to strengthen cooperation between higher education and business in Europe, and which presented its first report in April 2009.

He also announced that he would launch the Commission's Green Paper on Learning Mobility on 8 July, which will begin a public consultation on how to offer all young people in the EU the opportunity to study abroad.

Also speaking at the seminar was Dr. Eleonore Lickl, Secretary General of the International Society for Engineering Education (IGIP). Dr. Lickl stressed the need for more effective professional development of engineering educators and the development of practice-orientated curricula, citing IGIP's International Register of Engineering Educators as one way of encouraging improvements in the teaching methods of technical subjects.

Dr. Ludwig Vollrath, Secretary of VDI-FVT, the automotive and traffic technologies division of the German Association of Engineers, described the role which a major engineering institution can play in bringing together academic and industrial stakeholders to prepare engineers for careers in today's fast-changing profession. He used VDI's highly acclaimed Formula Student Germany competition to show how the education and industry worlds can come together for the benefit of all.

Lisa Hearty, Business Development Manager at Queen Mary University of London, described how the University works closely with academics and funding partners to identify requirements and form collaborative R&D projects. In particular, she described the University's leadership in Knowledge Transfer Networks.

The seminar was chaired by Matti Juhala, FISITA Vice-President for Education and Professor of Automotive Technology at Helsinki University of Technology.

Commenting on the success of the event, Prof. Juhala said: "The first FISITA Educators Seminar combined some very informative presentations with a lively and open discussion. FISITA has made the right step in opening an important new dialogue between academia and industry, not only around technology but also the more sensitive area of education methodology and needs".


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