ITA.CON project brochure

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ITA.CON Improving the system of knowledge exchange and collaboration between universities and society in Italy In the context of the Technical Support Instrument (TSI), and the financial support of DG Reform, the OECD will undertake a project with the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) in Italy. The objective of the project is to enhance knowledge exchange between universities and society (including businesses, public authorities, and civil society, among others).

Why this project?

An innovative and collaborative project

The project aims to enhance the cooperation between higher education institutions (HEIs) and businesses, public administration and civil society. In particular, it responds to the national need to reach a consensus on the main challenges facing knowledge exchange within the national context and about the policy responses to put in place. The project will lead to the creation of a set of evidence-based policy reform options to boost knowledge exchange and collaboration (KEC). Reaching beyond “technology transfer”, the project will promote a broad approach to KEC, highlighting the relevance of dimensions such as sustainability and inclusiveness.

A key pillar of the project will be the active participation of national, regional and local stakeholders. This includes public authorities, higher education institutions, civil society and businesses. Various activities of the project aim to involve different stakeholders, including:

In Italy, there are many examples of KEC between HEIs and society. Several universities, for example, have used the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for their institutional strategies, including KEC. In the same vein, examples of collaboration involve social and economic inclusion of migrants and refugees through training, and cultural partnerships with museums and theatres, promoting the country’s cultural wealth. KEC is a major driver for boosting the added value of labour (i.e. the GDP per hour worked), and data show that the rise of this crucial indicator in Italy is, at best, sluggish since more than two decades. These data support the view that the KEC system has wide scope for improvement, the more so in the recovery phase from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Main Objectives 

Build a shared awareness and understanding on the barriers to and opportunities of knowledge exchange and collaboration (KEC) between universities and society at large;

Develop a set of potential evidence-based policy reform options to boost KEC;

Provide policy makers (at regional and national level) with an inventory of new regulatory elements and measures to improve KEC between HEIs, businesses and the wider society, including the design of a new professional profile for knowledge exchange.

1. Interviews with all state-owned Universities with their significant territorial partners; 2. Public workshops, to collect feedback and comments from national and international stakeholders; 3. Task and Finish Groups (TFGs), composed of national and regional stakeholders.

Why the OECD? The OECD is an international organisation that works with governments and civil society to establish evidencebased international standards and find solutions to today’s social, economic and environmental challenges. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) helps EU Member States carry out reforms to stimulate job creation and sustainable growth. Upon request from EU Member States, it delivers support in the form of tailormade expertise. The OECD has been asked by DG REFORM to support the Italian Government in its longstanding efforts to translate its reform strategic objectives into effective, implementable measures, drawing on OECD’s evidence building and advisory experience. The OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities and the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation have joined forces to implement this project.

Main activities of the project 1. Conduct (online) site visits with Italian universities The Project starts by conducting (online) interviews with Italian state-owned universities (n=67), to understand : i) their vision of the universities’ social impact (including, but not limited to, KE), and of the role they specifically envisage/desire to play in their territory; ii) their perceived unmet needs in terms of skills and/or resources to achieve the expected results; iii) their perception regarding the usefulness of a new professional profile (the ‘KE professional’), embedded within their institution; iv) their measures to adapt their strategic plans to the impending ‘twin’ transitions (green & digital). Significant territorial stakeholders are invited to the interviews, along with the universities in their respective ecosystems. 2. Prepare a report on knowledge exchange and collaboration (KEC) practices To provide an in-depth review of Knowledge exchange landscape in Italy, the OECD will produce a report that will analyse the feedback collected during the interviews, and the current state-of-play of KEC in Italy. In particular, the report will assess the different KEC “streams”, their strengths and weaknesses and will map the barriers for each KEC stream to deploy its full impact. 3. Prepare a policy paper with draft recommendations Based on the desk research, the interviews, and the reports produced in the previous activities, the OECD will generate a policy paper on KEC activities in Italy. The policy paper will collect all data, information from all interviews and from the KEC Report. This paper will present possible approaches to implement a new framework for KEC. More importantly, the paper will also put forth the development of the professional profile of a ‘KEC officer’. This analysis will also benefit from international benchmarks. 4. Present results in national & international policy-dialogue workshops The project team will organise national workshops to present the findings to stakeholders (HEIs, and society representatives) of Italy, and to collect feedback on the priority reform areas, to inform the final recommendations as necessary. In addition, an international workshop will be organised to analyse good practices from other countries on the international stage that Italy may benefit from. 5. Develop reform options and roadmap for implementation For each area of KEC previously identified, the project team will collaborate with national stakeholders to develop concrete reform proposals, including indicative assessment of potential impacts and alternatives (ex ante impact assessment), as well as a Roadmap and Action Plan for their implementation. 6. Organise a high-level launch event The Roadmap and Action Plan will be presented at a high-level event with the incumbent Minister of University and Research as well as other institutional representatives, both from the OECD and Italian institutions.

Timeline of Project Fall 2021

1. (Online) site visits with Italian universities

Spring 2023

2. Knowledge exchange and collaboration (KEC) Report

3. Policy paper with draft recommendatio ns

5. Reform 4. National & options and international policy-dialogue roadmap for implementatio workshops n

6. High-level launch event


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