Audit reveals failings at EU’s EIT project

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was meant to be a flagship EU project to create or mimic the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on European soil. The EIT is based in Budapest, Hungary and became operational in 2010 with a staff of around 50 people. The primary purpose of the organisation is to enhance the EU’s ability to innovate, by seeking out and supporting a network of Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs); the idea being that these KICs are provided with EU funds to develop innovative products and services that can then be used to generate a return on the investment.

The problem is that between 2010 and 2014, the EIT has injected around €460million into a variety of KIC projects, but has only reported a return of around €400,000. By anyone’s standards, this represents extremely poor value for money, and the poor impact has been highlighted by a recent audit of the EIC, which is reported on here:

Science Business report on EIT audit

. report on the EIT audit

It is interesting to note that in its report, the auditors make several scathing comments about the EIT, such as:

“The EIT is impeded in its effectiveness by a complex operational framework and management problems.”

“The EIT is not the impact-driven institute envisaged.”

“Seven years after its inception, the EIT is still not fully operationally independent from the European Commission; this has hampered its decision-making.”

The worrying thing is that the EIT is set to receive another €2.4bn of EU funds between 2014 and 2020; supposedly to further its mission of strengthening the innovation capacity of EU member states. However, given the incredibly poor financial returns and innovative impact seen so far, one cannot help but worry that this money will just disappear down the same drain as that invested in so many other large-scale projects that the EU has attempted to manage, such as the EU’s own GPS system, which is 3 times over budget and 13 years late.