The Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education Project “University to Society Innomediaries in Albania: Co-Production of knowledge and research that matters” / U-SIA kicked off on 23rd – 24th February 2021. In the plenary session, speakers highlighted the relevance of the university to society cooperation for the development of Albania and the European integration process.
Prof. Assoc. Dr. Xhindi, USIA Project Manager, on behalf of the Mediterranean University of Albania (MUA) and the project team, welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of the project USIA for MUA and encouraged the partners for sustainable cooperation and successful implementation of the project.
Prof. Dr. Ardian Civici, Rector of MUA, underlined the importance of University-Business Cooperation to provide an array of benefits for higher education institutions (HEIs), students, business and society alike.
Mr. Nikolin Jaka, President of the Chambre of Commerce and Industry in Tirana, echoed the same message on the need for more cooperation between university and business, considering the high potential and relevance of research for the overall development of Albanian society and economy and the European integration process.
Mrs. Mirela Muça, Head of the National Agency for Scientific Research and Innovation (AKKSHI/NASRI), presented the funding opportunities for research to business links from public agencies, highlighting also the changes in the policy framework enabling such cooperation.
Dr. Blerjana Bino, Co-Founder of the Centre Science and Innovation for Development (SCiDEV) confirmed that the entire USIA consortium is strongly committed to enhancing an enabling higher education environment that supports university to society collaborations in order to co-produce knowledge and research with impact that is not only academically insightful but also applicable to the development of Albania and responding to our contextual challenges including COVID19 pandemic, digital transformation, and others.
USIA Project is launched based on a gap analysis conducted previously. What emerges is that universities in Albania are in perpetual transformation trying to re-envision their position in society. The European Commission Report for Albania and other independent reports point out that Albania’s capacity for research, development, and innovation remains low.
The recent legal and policy framework on the HE sector in Albania encourages a Triple Helix Model. This is a welcoming measure. However, achieving effective and productive university-business collaboration remains challenging due to limited availability of research funds & infrastructure; lack of incentives to engage in business cooperation; general distrust in the quality of research; limited capacity to absorb and introduce innovations, and other reasons.
Traditionally universities exist as institutions for the creation and dispersion of knowledge, but in our current world, universities must engage with their own socio-economic context. Triple helix offers a model for creating innovation as an output of institutionalized and structured interactions between university, government, and industry.
Building upon this, the project introduces in Albania a Quadruple Helix Model. In addition to the university, business, and government, this model includes civil society, media, and grassroots organizations to co-create knowledge, research, and innovation output.
Thus, this project proposes a model of co-creation of knowledge for finding solutions to current and future challenges in Albania. research uptake by policy and the business sector remains a challenge and we aim to address that.
As various European Commission documents highlight: “Quadruple Helix Model is the next challenge, where government, industry, academia and civil participants work together to co-create the future and drive structural changes far beyond the scope of what anyone organization or person could do alone”.
The final results of USIA shall be:
- A strong network of universities, research centers, civil society organizations, businesses, and public policy institutions established to work on the foster effective and sustainable university to social collaboration in Albania
- Knowledge transfer and innovation brokerage units established in partner universities in Albania with the support of EU partners
- Foster also regional cooperation and exchange of experience between EU and non-EU countries.
The Kickoff meeting was organized online on Zoom Platform by (Mediterranean Center – Mediterranean University of Albania (MUA) as a project leader with the participation of all project partners. During the two-day online event, consortium members had the opportunity to discuss and agree on relevant topics for the implementation of the project.