Innovative Cities and Universities in the Visegrad Group

V4 Conference on the Third Mission of Higher Education and Innovation Networks


How can universities contribute to development of their regions? How to adapt and complement their research and teaching activities to meet societal and economic challenges? What are the key success factors for effective collaboration between universities and their stakeholders? What are the characteristics of innovative cities, and where to find good examples of smart city developments in the V4 countries? How can university excellence boost innovation? What kind of ecosystem can strengthen the university’s role in the creation and management of intellectual property?

On the occasion of the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group and as a follow-up of Hungary’s HEInnnovate activities, especiallythe joint OECD-European Commission report on Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education in Hungary, the Ministry of Human Capacities and Tempus Public Foundation in collaboration with AmCham Hungary organized an international professional networking conference on May 10, 2018. The conference brought together stakeholders of innovation networks to discuss and present best practices and new forms of cooperation between higher education institutions, local governments, businesses and professional organizations.

In her opening speech, Judit Hermándy-Berencz, Deputy Director of the Tempus Public Foundation underlined that the role of higher education is essential for competitiveness, employability and social inclusion in the European Union. This is well exemplified, inter alia, by the fact that the budget of the Erasmus+ program is expected to be doubled. She added that the common traditions and similar challenges of the Visegrad countries make it possible to establish even closer cooperation between higher education institutions in the field of internationalization and the mobility of students, academics and researchers.

Andrea-Rosalinde Hofer, Policy Analyst of the OECD and leader expert of the country review of Hungary, presented the most important learning models from the HEInnovate research conducted in five EU countries, including two Visegrad group members, Poland and Hungary. Set up by the European Commission and the OECD, HEInnovate as a tool, and as an international network of universities and stakeholders promote knowledge exchange and entrepreneurship as key elements of the third mission of higher education institutions. The expert enumerated good examples of knowledge exchange collaboration with economic and social actors, enhancing education and research innovations, and supporting the business utilization of inventions and processes developed by universities.

Dr. István Szabó, Head of Department of the Ministry of Human Capacities explained that the third mission activities are one of the key elements in Hungary’s Higher Education Strategy. He added that in parallel with the EC-OECD HEInnovate country review recommendations a national HEInnovate Expertise Platform was launched, and after consultation with stakeholders, the ministry outlined an action plan for higher education institutions in order to develop their third mission activities. He emphasized that the innovation ecosystem and the intellectual property management, as well as cooperation between universities and cities, in particular the so-called " smart city developments are two areas where the Visegrád countries have similar challenges and opportunities. To this end, he initiated the establishment of a V4 level HEInnovate expert network. The first step of this initiative was the V4 for 3rd mission conference, which was a good opportunity to get acquainted with each other's good practices and challenges so that V4 players can boost regional co-operation and get connected to the international network, as well.

As far as education and research innovations in higher education are concerned, the subject of the patent, or intellectual property right is inevitable – according to Gábor Németh, Head of Department of the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office. In his presentation, he explained that in the four Visegrad countries less than the EU average has been spent on research and development, although this would be necessary for the creation of new ideas and innovations. At the same time, he mentioned the University of Pécs and the University of Debrecen as they belong to the top ten in Hungary concerning the number of patent applications claimed.

The Smartpolis project, presented by Donát Dékány project manager and deputy director of the United Innovation and Knowledge Center of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, is a good example for the promotion of the smart city development cooperation in Central and Eastern European region. Dékány emphasized that universities can bridge business, society and cities that have different background and experiences to find common goals and interests for cooperation. He presented some best practices in smart city developments in the V4 countries for example Kiskőrös, where several initiatives including efforts for energy efficiency were implemented.

The plenary session was closed by a round table discussion presenting a cluster of Debrecen and Szeged in which the university, the municipality of the city, the chamber of commerce and industry, companies and businesses, research centers, financial institutes and foreign partners cooperate in the field of pharmaceutical and food industry and sport and lifestyle area. Participants said that they are engaged in common projects and research activities, knowledge exchange, and they also rely on students as they often come up with new knowledge and attitudes that enrich the work of the clusters.

In the afternoon, the professional program continued in two sessions. In the session on the 3rd mission activities of the universities, representatives of universities and cities presented together their cooperative areas and their jointly implemented projects. Maciej Litwin Chief Analyst reported on the Wrocław Academic Hub initiative in Poland, in which a university, government and business platform run by the city, supports third mission activities and promotes university innovation. Dóra Anna Kókai Head of Department outlined the co-operation of the Municipality of Budapest with Hungarian universities in the field of smart city development. This was accompanied by András Siegler, Senior Advisor, who presented the Intelligent River Banks project of the Municipality of Budapest and the University of Technology and Economics, Budapest. Pavol Mirossay, Managing Director of Kosice IT Valley, said that with university-city-business cooperation, just over a decade, they managed to increase the number of IT staff in the region from 1000 to 12,000 and keep young graduates in the region with job opportunities. Miroslaw Grochowski, University of Warsaw and Magdalena Jekiel, City of Warsaw emphasized in their common presentation on the Initiative of Academic Warsaw that the difficulties of cooperating organizations arising from their different organizational structure and different operating mechanisms can be overcome by long-term planning, finding common goals and interests, engaging in finding the common language and ways of continuous communication. Finally, Gábor Mayer, the Chancellor’s Envoy presented the “Brides” Strategy of Széchenyi University its wide-ranging connections with stakeholders, the Mobilis Center's science-promoting role, and the complex activities of the forming industrial park.

 The panel discussion entitled „How can university excellence boost innovation” focused on the acquisition of title, valuation, management and utilization of intellectual property by universities in the Visegrad Group. The panel included representatives coming from both academia and the corporate sector of the V4 countries: Tamás Bene, Director of the Technology Transfer Office at University of Debrecen (Hungary); Lubomír Bilsky, Director of science support section of the Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information; Marcin Postawka, Deputy Director of Centre For Innovation and Technology Transfer at the Warsaw University of Technology, Poland; Otomar Slama, Deputy Director of the Centre for Knowledge and Technology Transfer of Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; and Tomas Szaszi, EMEA Strategy Leader at Honeywell Technology Solutions, Prague, Czech Republic. The discussion was moderated by Joerg Bauer, the Co-Lead of AmCham Hungary’s Innovation Policy Task Force and President and CEO of Tungsram Group. The panelists explored the differences and similarities in the ways their institutions support the management and utilization of IP. They all agreed that currently an important task for technology transfer offices and alike centers is to raise awareness and prestige of IP among university stakeholders. Resources of individual universities are somewhat limited for providing technology transfer services, therefore close cooperation and support among partners is needed. Solutions that can tackle current challenges were shared, including the idea of Proof of Concept Funds, potentially at national or at regional (Visegrad) level.

The programme was moderated István Vilmos Kovács, Director of International Relations and Innovation, Corvinus University Budapest, who was the national expert of the EC/OECD HEInnovate country review.

You may find further information at the conference website.



Last modified: 18-05-2018