Dr Riam Kanso calls for innovation shake-up at higher education institutions

Dr Kanso is a leading science innovator, founder and CEO of Conception X. She is also the keynote speaker at INNOVEIT: Innovation in Higher Education in Stockholm on 15 September. The event, as part of the INNOVEIT Weeks, is coordinated and led by EIT RawMaterials. Speaking ahead of her keynote address, Dr Kanso urged European universities and higher education institutions to revolutionise their innovation activities to effectively tackle climate change. Dr Kanso said:

Universities and higher education institutions are built to spread knowledge that improves the world. Yet, the current system of spreading this knowledge by publishing papers can sometimes hinder progress – by the time a paper is published, the research could be three years old. We need to create models where research and innovation come together to reinforce and advance each other.

Dr Riam Kanso, leading science innovator, founder and CEO of Conception X

CEO of EIT RawMaterials, Bernd Schäfer, who will open the event, also stressed:

Europe is at an epochal turning point, where the ambitious goals of the European Green Deal are placing more extraordinary demands on higher education than ever before. Our EIT HEI Initiative was established for this reason, to empower higher education institutions to become engines of innovation and foster sustainable growth and jobs. The initiative brings Europe’s education, research, and industry leaders together to work on strengthened innovation in higher education with the aim of solving some of the world’s biggest problems – like climate change.

Bernd Schäfer, CEO of EIT RawMaterials

The EIT Higher Education Initiative

Reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 means new innovations in technology and energy are urgently needed. These innovations will largely stem from universities and higher education institutions. The EIT Higher Education Initiative, EIT HEI, is led by EIT RawMaterials. It funds and supports higher education institutions (HEIs) in growing their research and development faculties. It also strengthens entrepreneurship activities and synergies with industry players, many with the aim of accelerating deep tech and energy innovations coming to market.

The EIT HEI Initiative is titled ‘Innovation Capacity Building for Higher Education’. It is a unique model that brings together industry/businesses with researchers and higher education.

Dr Kanso’s company, Conception X, has a complementary mission to the EIT HEI Initiative. Conception X is an independent, non-profit. It works closely with more than 30 universities across the UK to discover and train aspiring PhD founders from leading research labs, helping them become eligible for innovation grants, awards and venture capital funding. Through a nine-month deep-tech venture programme, PhD students explore ways to commercialise their research while still at university. Much like the EIT-labelled Masters and PhD programmes.

Speaking about the EIT HEI Initiative, Dr Kanso said:

We’re working to promote knowledge and innovation and help great people excel. The more allies we have and the more connected we are, the easier it will be to achieve that. Network initiatives like the EIT HEI are crucial.

Dr Riam Kanso


INNOVEIT: Stockholm – Focus on Innovation in Higher Education

This hybrid event will highlight the ongoing work of the EIT HEI Initiative. Discussions will focus on how the EIT HEI Initiative will connect with deep tech innovations and EIT-Labelled education programmes for enhanced innovation capacity building.

All active projects selected for both Cohort 1 (launched in July 2021) and Cohort 2 (launched in July 2022) will be present at the event. There are 23 active Cohort 1 and 26 active Cohort 2 projects in the HEI Initiative network. Cohort 1 projects will share good practices and methodologies they have learned for increasing innovation capacity in European higher education.

Dr Tamer Abu-Alam is the Project Coordinator of one of EIT HEI Initiative’s funded Cohort 1 projects, CloudEARTHi. He is also an academic at UiT, the Artic University of Norway.

Dr Abu-Alam says initiatives like the EIT HEI Initiative, and this event, are crucial because Europe can only be decarbonised if industry, research, and higher education work closely together.

Without this coming together of stakeholders we cannot achieve a solution to the climate crisis. We are all working on the same problem – but from different perspectives. This is why the EIT HEI Initiative and the Stockholm event are so important. Everyone is brought together, everyone presents their point of view, and based on this we can innovate and work together to address this challenge.

Dr Tamer Abu-Alam, Project Coordinator CloudEARTHi

Dr Abu-Alam will also take part in the panel discussion ‘EIT HEI Initiative: Innovation capacity building good practices.’

The event is an integral part of the INNOVEIT WEEKS. This series of events showcases how EIT, Europe’s largest innovation ecosystem, offers unique opportunities to innovators and entrepreneurs, powering solutions to global challenges.