Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe

RDI Agenda

RDI Agenda refers to the scope of the Research, Development & Innovation (RDI) Activity. The core criterion for it in PHE, is that the RDI agenda is informed by the world of work in order to meet the needs of society and of the world of work.

The following are best practice examples of implementation of this criterion:

Demand-driven research and development through public funding in Flanders (Belgium)

Author: Marc Vanderwalle, Secretary General of the Flemish Council of University Colleges

The Flemish government agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) funds research and launches public calls for projects every year.  Additionally the IWT offers advice and a network of potential partners in Flanders.

“TETRA” is funding line which aims to increase the innovative capacity in SME’s. Recently the Flemish government decided to open this funding line towards the not for profit sector as well. The financing channel is open to all Flemish institutions of higher education, i.e. both university colleges (hogescholen) and universities can apply to lead the project and chose their partners of the work field. However, PHE institutions are the “priority target group, given their comparative advantage for the diffusion of knowledge to traditional SMEs.”[1]The funding is considered useful and attractive by SMEs and social-profit organisations who generally have no time, personnel, facilities or enough budget to innovate. However these external partners, i.e. SME’s or not for profit organisations, have to be prepared to contribute 7,5% of the estimated cost of the research.  Outcomes of RDI activities in professional higher education typically lead to product innovation, process and practice improvement, cost cutting, social innovation, organisational development, market innovation more frequently than traditional academic output. Furthermore, research is often utilized in seminars, training sessions, publications in professional magazines (not necessarily scientific journals), and best practice presentations or information campaigns.

“VIS feasibility studies” focus on the concrete development of an innovation strategy or initiative by a sector/group of companies. The focus here is also on SMEs, although large companies can also play a role. The difference with the TETRA-program, mentioned above, lies in the fact that the companies themselves are leading the research project and can pick a research institute (PHE’s, academic universities or non-educational research organizations) to collaborate or not. An individual company cannot apply for this funding. Companies are obliged to work together and apply on basis of a complete consortium of companies. The companies have to be prepared to finance at least 20% of the VIS-research project.

Industrial R&D projects are funded through a programme that requires a company as lead applicant. Consequently those undertakings a) address specific questions/problems that need innovations/solutions in the world of work through practice oriented research and b) results are likely be tangible. “The applying companies collaborate mostly with research partners. They do so in 56% of the projects.”[2]

MatchPol – an initiative to support practice-based research at the bachelor level in Denmark

Author: Anne-Christin Tannhäuser, International project manager & consultant for innovation in education

Metropol University College in Denmark cooperates with practice as a cornerstone of all research and development. The College develops strategic partnerships to solve key problems of the welfare state and develop future welfare solutions. Clear goals and expectations to the parties are managed with collaboration agreements that are well monitored, to meet both and the necessary adjustments can be made in a timely manner. In addition to interdisciplinary cooperation in research and development projects, the college engages  with practice through consultancy and advisory work, analysis and evaluation of projects, management and employee development. Cooperation is established with municipalities, regions, universities, user organisations, professional organisations, private and public companies. The college has launched an initiative called “MatchPol” which aims at strengthening the connection of the Bachelor-thesis to (clinical) practice. Learners are guided to organize their research based on ideas and needs from hospitals, schools, job centres or rehabilitation centres for example. Through the initiatives competencies are developed to detect those needs and find opportunities for development of practice as well as the abilities to act more solution-oriented. A website matched the ideas and presentations from practice with Metropol students. Cooperation partners and students are provided with templates for creating project proposals and agreements as well as a guide to develop their research projects successfully.

Also PhD projects are organized in conjunction with both practice and other research institutions.

MatchPol guide for students to support practice-based research for bachelors

MatchPol guide for students to support practice-based research for bachelors

Metropolitan University College

Metropolitan University College is a public university of applied sciences with campuses in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Metropolitan offers Bachelor’s Degree programmes, Academy Profession Degree programmes, postgraduate studies, and conducts applied research and development activities in welfare-sector subjects such as health, rehabilitation, welfare technology, management, education and social work. Metropolitan University College has two Faculties; the Faculty of Health and Technology and the Faculty of Social Science and Pedagogy. The University Colleges’ Bachelor’s Degree programmes (EQF 6) have duration of 3,5 – 4 years equivalent to 210-240 ECTS and shorter Academy Profession Degree programmes (EQF 5) comprising 120-150 ECTS are also offered.

(Information retrieved from http://www.phmetropol.dk/English/About+Us )

A growing research mission with dual partners at Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg

The Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg (DHBW) has been created from a network of different academies, which had been founded in urban and rural areas throughout the 1970ies, 80ies and 90ies. In 2009 the academy was recognized as higher education institution and from then on applied research activities have increased. Dual partners from private or public sectors and universities professors form cooperative research consortia in which industry partners present problems from the world of work and an agenda is set for a joint research programme. The common practice constitutes that research is funded by both partners and usually projects last for a period of two years.

In the same year as higher education status has been granted by the federal state, the Faculty for Business and Economy opened the Centre of Applied Sciences (CASE). The centre engages in cooperative research relevant to the world of work such as analysing market potentials, usability research, image studies, competition analysis, research into the impact of advertising, surveys of satisfaction, consumer research, innovation studies and target group. Furthermore CASE offers training in research methods and up-to-date tools and provides expertise and access to useful instruments to business students working on empirical research project especially during their Bachelor projects.

The growing second mission on research is being pushed forward by the federal Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts.  In 2011 the ministry initiated a dedicated research support programme for DHBW focusing on collaboration with and networking among dual partner companies across regional and national borders.


[1] Flanders: Technology Transfer Fund (TETRA) retrieved fromhttp://erawatch.jrc.ec.europa.eu/erawatch/opencms/system/modules/com.everis.erawatch.template/pages/exportTypesToHtml.jsp?contentid=ea78594f-9094-11e0-a33b-3b1a37daf5b5&country=Belgium&option=PDF

[2] page 10, Agentschap voor Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie (2014). Exploratory study into the effects of collaboration in IWT-funded industrial R&D-projects. Brussels, Steurs et el. retrieved from http://www.iwt.be/sites/default/files/english/files/IWT_study78.pdf

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