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Discoveries, celebrations and (boat) journeys: Una Europa in Leiden

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From 6 to 9 June, over 200 members of the Una Europa community gathered at Universiteit Leiden for Una Europa Discoveries, an exciting opportunity to reflect on our achievements and explore ways to deepen collaboration between our partner universities.

Our Leiden colleagues welcomed us with open arms and sunny skies, presenting a packed programme that balanced high-level panel discussions, meetings and exploratory workshops with a social programme of boat tours, guided yoga and meditation and visits to the Hortus Botanicus.

Research and innovation (R&I) was the flavour of the week, reflecting what a crucial time 2023 is for Una Europa in this field. We are in the final year of Una.Resin, our flagship R&I project funded under Horizon 2020, while also setting sail on our new project Una.Futura, which will integrate our education, research and innovation dimensions like never before.

Three landmark deliverables developed under Una.Resin were approved as our community gathered in Leiden, including the Una Europa Research and Innovation Strategy. An endeavour years in the making, this joint Strategy sets out our alliance’s ambitions to achieve value-driven, impactful collaboration in R&I that bolsters our commitment to empowering our academic community and elevates our collective research ambition to a new level.

Discovering the future of research and innovation – at Una Europa, across Europe and beyond

Highlighting the theme of R&I, Una Europa Discoveries featured a dynamic panel discussion on the future of research and innovation at European Universities, followed by a deep dive into our Una.Resin project and the colleagues working on the ground to build a shared R&I ecosystem for our alliance. The panel discussion brought together senior management and academics from our partner universities in conversation with the European Commission, recognising that this is also an important moment for European policy and funding in R&I as measures to strengthen the global competitiveness of Europe’s higher education sector are currently in development.

" Global challenges demand global solutions. Together as Una Europa, we have the scale and influence to engage globally in a way that achieves real impact. Our success depends on finding the sweet spot between top-down and bottom-up approaches. "

Orla Feely, President of University College Dublin

The panel discussion was followed by an exploration of Una.Resin, featuring insights from colleagues working on the ground to lay the foundations for a shared R&I ecosystem – an ecosystem that will open up vast opportunities for researchers across Una Europa and tap into the untold research potential of our alliance. Alessandro Zamboni, Ekaterina Smoliakova and Kristof Vlaeminck each introduced a pilot initiated under Una.Resin which will contribute to our shared R&I ecosystem: a blueprint for sharing research infrastructures and resources; a toolkit for academics to embrace and engage in citizen science; and a matchmaking format to connect researchers with a view to developing joint proposals for external funding.

Get a flavour for Una.Resin and the steps it has taken to build a shared Una Europa R&I ecosystem:

“An historic moment” – Joint meeting between the Una Europa Student Board and Board of Directors

Another highlight of our time in Leiden was the first joint meeting held between the Una Europa Student Board and the Board of Directors, both of which operate at the highest level of our governance. Described by Board of Directors Chair Hanna Snellman as “an historic moment” for student representation and collaboration in the alliance, the meeting marked the final approval and adoption of the Student Board Statutes, which will serve to broaden the scope of the Student Board’s remit and to further embed their perspective and their voice across all alliance activity.

" We are very grateful that you care about putting the student voice at the centre of our alliance. By working together, we expect to see even more wonders and even more opportunities. With this meeting, we are laying the path to further collaboration in the future. "

Febe Piccinin, Co-Chair of the Una Europa Student Board

The meeting was chaired by Student Board Co-Chair Febe Piccinin and followed an agenda set by the Student Board. Discussions included the approval of the Student Board statutes; presentation of the Una Europa Vision and Action Plan: Student Experience; and an approach for developing collaboration between the Student Board and Donetsk University in Ukraine. The atmosphere in the room was supportive and collegial, with the Student Board and Board of Directors meeting as peers, without hierarchy. The meeting closed with the hope that it would be the first of many, marking the beginning of closer collaboration between the two groups to shape a University of the Future with students at its centre.

" A former Student Board representative from Helsinki once said that 'the success of an alliance is largely determined by whether the students feel the impact of the alliance.' I agree. However, I would also emphasize that the success of an alliance is largely determined by whether the alliance feels the impact of the students. Today we are one step closer to succeeding. Together.” "

Hanna Snellman, Chair of the Una Europa Board of Directors and Vice-Rector at Helsingin yliopisto/ Helsignfors universitet

The next Una Europa General Assembly will take place in December 2023, hosted by University College Dublin.