European University network FORTHEM launches new FIT FORTHEM project

Prestigious EU program Horizon 2020 supports Mainz University and its partners in the step-by-step establishment of an exemplary European University

The European Commission supports the European University Alliance FORTHEM, coordinated by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), in implementing a new project under the EU Framework Program Horizon 2020. In the new FIT FORTHEM project, short for “Fostering Institutional Transformation of R&I Policies in European Universities”, the seven FORTHEM partners will develop network-wide strategies for research and innovation, address open science policies, and design a common research agenda for all FORTHEM partners that will allow the alliance to sustainably pursue its ambitious goals. The EU is funding the three-year project with EUR 2 million from the Horizon 2020 program Science with and for Society. Thus, the European Commission bolsters the alliance’s next ambitious steps on its way of becoming an exemplary European University.

The European University Alliance FORTHEM, short for “Fostering Outreach within European Regions, Transnational Higher Education and Mobility”, is one of 17 university networks that have been funded by the European Commission since fall 2019 in an initial pilot phase under the ERASMUS+ program. The partners at JGU as coordinating university, the University of Burgundy in France, the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, the University of Opole in Poland, the University of Palermo in Italy, the University of Latvia, and Universitat de València in Spain started their work in September 2019 – with the aim of promoting student and staff mobility, creating a virtual campus, and merging research programs and double and multiple degrees from partner universities into a joint Transnational Higher Education Strategy by 2022. This is to be subsequently rolled out across the alliance by 2025. In addition, the network focuses on joint social outreach activities and supports all partners in terms of institutional integration.

Exchange and cooperation in research and innovation

The FIT FORTHEM project aims to intensify and expand the joint research activities that are already underway in the seven FORTHEM Labs, which focus on topics ranging from “Experiencing Europe” and “Diversity and Migration” to “Food Science” and “Climate and Resources”, in order to strengthen the position of both the individual partners and the FORTHEM Alliance as such in the international research landscape. Within the three-year FIT FORTHEM project period, the partners will initially be exchanging best practices in research and innovation while working on concepts for mutual access to existing research infrastructures. At the same time, they will be drafting long-term strategies, further professionalizing research management processes, and expanding their science communication. All partners are expecting this to increase their visibility and simultaneously open up new career paths in science, research, and research management.

On top of that, the partners are working on establishing overarching support structures – for the preparation of European, but also bi- or multinational research proposals, for example – as well as on strengthening their respective innovation potential across countries and sectors

emphasized Professor Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics at JGU and coordinator of the FIT FORTHEM project.

The starting point for the intended transformative processes is a comprehensive potential analysis taking into account our different national science systems. This analysis will form the basis for the continuation and further development of the alliance beyond the current project funding under the ERASMUS+ and Horizon 2020 programs

said Müller-Stach.

The European Universities Initiative

The European Universities Initiative goes back to the Initiative for Europe speech given by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, on September 26, 2017, at Sorbonne University in Paris. In that keynote, Macron proposed establishing a network of European Universities by 2024. In the initial pilot phase, 54 networks throughout Europe applied for funding. Of these, 17 European Universities have been funded with a total of some EUR 85 million since fall 2019. Three of those networks are being coordinated by German universities. By 2025, the EU Commission is hoping to have established a European Higher Education Area in which learning, studying, and doing research across national borders will be self-evident.

Another basic idea of the FORTHEM network is to try out new forms of institutional cooperation in European higher education and research, and to identify and overcome hurdles posed by the national systems. Together we want to break down barriers across Europe and build bridges

said JGU Vice President Professor Stefan Müller-Stach.

The FIT FORTHEM project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 101017248.

Source: Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz

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