Fostering Collaborations for Societal Progress: reflecting on the 2023 CHARM-EU Annual Conference 

Alliances for Society 07.11.23 2023 CHARM_EU Annual Conference Julius-Maximilians Würzburg University with a drawing of a scientist, a student with a laptop in a wheelchair and a men around a small city with solar and wind energy a mountain and the sun.

The 2023 CHARM-EU Annual Conference, presented by Doris Fischer, CHARM-EU Director at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, unfolded as an exploration of the theme “Alliances for Society”. This inclusive event, combining onsite and online participation, served as a platform for real engagement and deep conversations. 

Professor Dr. Pauli, President of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg set a welcoming tone by welcoming the participants. Christian Schuchardt, Mayor of Würzburg, underlined the importance of working together within CHARM-EU, and highlighted the enduring relationship between the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, the city of Würzburg and the wider community. 

Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of Unit for Higher Education at the European Commission, delivered a keynote speech that provided a nuanced perspective on the impact of European Universities Alliances. Her insights touched on the future of alliances, student mobility and the key role of green and digital skills in shaping the education landscape. 

Exploring Collaborative Endeavours 

The following session focused on the essence of European University Alliances, exploring service to society, discussing challenges, and sharing best practices. Prof. Dr. Ludovic Thilly, General Coordinator of EC2U, presented the Joint Masters and the challenges provided by the municipalities for their students. Dr. Fidel Echevarría, General Coordinator of the SEA-EU spoke about the Alliance's Society Hub, co-creation projects and learning service.  Dr Balázs Vince Nagy, Chairman of the EELISA Alliance Executive Board, described the EELISA communities that contribute to a common mission based on solving diverse challenges with different societal stakeholders. Finally, Dr Marjanneke Vijge, Academic Director of CHARM-EU, shared the experiences of CHARM-EU Masters students working with external partners to address global challenges during the Capstone phase, in particular their experiences in South Africa. 

 

Then it was the turn to discuss with societal stakeholders, Dr. Lukas Kagerbauer, Deputy manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Würzburg and Schweinfurt, and Alexandre Pennaneac'h, manager of Blue Thau Lab with Freek van Muiswinkel, Director Entrepreneurship & Regional Partnerships at Utrecht University and Audrey Crosbie, Industry Liaison Manager at Trinity College Dublin. The discussion between the speakers led to some conclusions on how alliances can improve their engagement with societal stakeholders and pursue innovation and collaboration. Speakers emphasised that it is important to set realistic goals, while focusing on long-term objectives, in order to achieve a sustainable regional and local positive impact and contribute to overall prosperity. Collaboration should be approached with a win-win mindset, ensuring benefits for all partners involved. The speakers identified four key words for successful collaboration: "trust", "empathy", "creativity" and "people".

General picture of all the participants of the conference in the stairs of the venue

Thematic Session workshops and Poster Presentations: A Showcase of Ideas 

Thematic session workshops and poster presentations continued the conference, offering a closer look at challenge-based learning, common research agendas, intercultural aspects of alliances, and innovation networks.  

Heleen Van Ravenswaaij from the University of Utrecht and Roland Thaler from the University of Montpellier, together with workshop participants, explored the potential for collaboration between universities and stakeholders through Challenge Based Learning. 

Sergio Villanueva Baselga and Jaime Llorca from the University of Barcelona, Anne-Sophie Gresle from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Gareth O'Neil from the Technopolis Group, together with workshop participants, presented different research agendas that underlined the alliance's commitment to advancing knowledge and generate impact in society..  

Dr Orsolya Réthelyi and Dr Ferenc Takó from Eötvös Loránd University, together with the workshop participants, explored the intercultural aspects of alliances, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of different perspectives. 

Simone Roth, from Hochschule Ruhr Wes and Julia Reimer, speaker of “Women@WiWi” explore the creation of innovation networks and the importance of fostering creativity and forward-thinking initiatives. 

In addition, a poster exhibition adorned the conference venue, showcasing initiatives and projects from various CHARM-EU member institutions. Topics ranged from 'Expedition Week' by ENGAGE EU, 'Science Slam - Science communication meets digital strategy' by RE-EURECA PRO, 'International School Contest 'Think Smart, Create Green'' by EU-CONEXUS, 'Streamlining the matchmaking for challenge-based courses' by Master Challenge to 'DEI in CHARM-EU.  

Closing Thoughts: A Call for Ongoing Collaboration  

In conclusion, Alette Gilhus Mykkeltvedt from the University of Bergen underscored the pivotal role of European Universities Alliances in enhancing strategic partnerships across Europe. Summarizing the core message, Meritxell Chaves stated, "European Universities have proven successful in attracting institutions to innovate and address societal challenges. However, realizing the anticipated impact necessitates active engagement from societal stakeholders." 

As the conference came to an end, participants left with a heightened sense of inspiration, equipped with fresh ideas and a renewed dedication to instigating positive change through the collaborative ethos of European University Alliances.