Conference ‘European Universities: Pioneering Transformation in Education, Research and Innovation’

The “European Universities: Pioneering Transformation in Education, Research and Innovation” conference held on 14 April demonstrated one thing above all: transnational higher education alliances will not only revolutionise the European education and research spaces, but most importantly they will increase the competitiveness of the regions where they are set in. 

Hosted by Politécnico de Leiria, the EU videoconference brought together representatives from European Universities and the European Commission, as well as relevant stakeholders from business and society to discuss the main topics on the European Universities Initiative’s agenda.

Opening Session

The opening session of the conference was chaired by the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, Manuel Heitor, and the Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission, Themis Christophidou.

Panel 1 – The Transformation Potential of European Universities

Keynote Speaker

  • Sophia Eriksson-Waterschoot, Director for Youth, Education and Erasmus+ of the European Commission


  • Màrius Martinez, Vice-President for International Relations of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and President of ECIU European University
  • Daniela Trani, University of Maastricht, Netherlands, Director of YUFE Alliance
  • João Rocha, President of the Polytechnic of Porto, Portugal, and Coordinator of ATHENA European University
  • Rui Pedrosa, President of Politécnico de Leiria, Portugal, and Coordinator of Regional University Network – European University
  • Anna-Lena Claeys-Kulik, European University Association
  • Stéphane Lauwick, President of the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education

Panel 2 – How can European Universities Foster Skills for a Green, Digital and Inclusive Society

Keynote Speaker

  • Thomas Weko, Head of Higher Education Unit in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)


  • Mark Brown, Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (Ireland)
  • Célia Reis, Chair of the Board Altran (Portugal)
  • Timea Csanaki, HR-Representative – Academic Cooperations of Audi Hungaria, Hungary.
  • Juha Haukka, Managing Director of Suomen Yrittäjät in Häme (The Regional Association of Entrepreneurs in Hame), Finland
  • Jimmy Heinzl, CEO of WISTO – Wirtschafts-Standort Vorarlberg GmbH (Austria)

Panel 3 – Future and Advanced Skills for Societal Transformation

Keynote Speaker

  • Nuno Rodrigues, Vice-President for Research of the Polytechnic of Leiria, Portugal, RUN-EU European University


  • Joan Guàrdia Olmos, Rector of the University of Barcelona, Spain, and Coordinator of CHARM European University
  • Manuel José Damásio, Lusófona University, Portugal and Coordinator of FILMEU European University
  • António Cunha, President of the Norte Portugal Regional Coordination and Development Commission
  • Eduardo Anselmo Castro, Vice-President of the Centro Portugal Regional Coordination and Development Commission
  • Hans-Paul van der Snee, Director of Innovatiepact Fryslân, Netherlands

Panel 4 – The Role of European Universities in Leading Regional Innovation Ecosystems

Keynote Speakers

  • Ruaidhri Neavyn , Special Advisor to the Higher Education Authority of Ireland, and member of the Steering Board of the RUN-EU European University
  • Han Brezet, EU Projects Boosting Team – Innovatiepact Fryslan, Netherlands, and member of the Steering Board of the RUN-EU European University


  • Pat Daly, CEO of Limerick City and County Council, Ireland
  • Pat Gallagher, Chief Executive Westmeath County Council, Ireland
  • Anna-Mari Ahonen, Region Mayor – Regional Council of Häme, Finland
  • Arno Brok, King’s Commissioner of the Province of Friesland, Netherlands
  • Gabriela Dür, Head of the Department of Science and Continuing Education of the Federal State of Vorarlberg, Austria
  • Emile Boc, Rapporteur of the European Comittee of the Regions

Signing Ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding

Agreement of RUN-EU members with Regional Government representatives about the long-term vision and the construction of the EZ-ID – European Zone for Inter-regional Development.

Closing Session

The closing session of the conference was chaired by the President of Politécnico de Leiria and Coordinator of the Regional University Network – European University, Rui Pedrosa, and the State Secretary for Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, Manuel Sobrinho Teixeira.

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