Bratislava and Vienna make joint bid to host EU innovation institute

Europe’s leaders have made much of plans to turn the European Union into the “most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”. Innovation is of course a key element of that strategy, which is why the EU is planning a European Institute of Innovation Technology. Among the candidates to host it are Bratislava and Vienna – with the two neighbouring capitals putting forward a joint bid. Radio Slovakia International’s Anca Dragu reports.

The institute, which will act as the central command of a network of partnerships between public and private universities, research organizations and businesses is to be completed by 2013. Its first areas of research deal with climate change, renewable energy and the next generation of information and communication technologies. Jan Mikolaj, the Slovak Education Minister gives more details.

“We envisage dividing the institute’s four management bodies between the two capitals: The governing board as well as the internal auditing body will be seated in Bratislava, while the executive director and executive committee would be located in Vienna. This approach would facilitate the independence of financial control and prevent the 'crossing-over of remits'. Each of the two states will help with the organisation in terms of infrastructure and will offer 5 full time employees paid from the state budget of each country to deal with the daily administrative work that does not involve managing research projects.”

Apart from Bratislava and Vienna, seven other cities have expressed an interest in hosting the EIT: Budapest in Hungary; the Polish city of Wroclaw, Sant Cugat del Valles near Barcelona in Spain and the German cities of Aachen, Braunschweig, Karlsruhe and Nuremberg.

It looks as if Bratislava and Vienna’s twin bid will face strong competition. The Austrian Minister of Science and Research Johannes Hahn is, however, very optimistic.

Photo: European Commission
“Bratislava and Vienna, two twin cities at the heart of Europe representing both the old and the new EU, are the perfect location for the European Institute for technology. More than 25,000 scientists and 200,000 students have been already working in the region and will serve as a breeding ground for excellent cooperation. Our aim is to transform the brain drain into brain circulation. We also expect this cooperation to become a role model for similar collaborations in the field of science and research particularly between small and medium-sized countries. I’m convinced that the joint candidature would be successful as long as the bare facts, and not political factors, are taken into account.”

The Austrian Member of the European Parliament Hannes Svoboda says that he had first hand experience on how the two cities can cooperate successfully.

“I was working for Vienna City Hall when the Iron Curtain fell and I was involved in the first cross-border projects between the two capitals. There are still people in Europe who are sceptical about such projects. Maybe there is still an Iron Curtain in their minds. Now we have the opportunity to prove for the first time on a very large scale that there is a lot of potential in this region of Bratislava and Vienna and not only for cultural cooperation but also for technology and innovation. It’s a very good European initiatives to build an institute that would work across borders, and in our case it would have a higher chance to work because the already built infrastructure between Vienna and Bratislava allows somebody to travel faster between the two cities than between two districts of one European city.”

The Slovak side hopes that the project will help improve the level of Slovak universities which still suffer from poor funding and brain drain. And of course the multinational companies doing business in Slovakia do not mind a top European research institute just across the street from their state of the art factories. Now the fate of the twin city proposal is in the hands of the European Council which might issue a decision as early as June.