European Foundation and Innovation

In October, we celebrated the first European Day of Foundations and Donors. This Day, in which numerous European foundations participate, is an initiative to increase the visibility of the work of organizations that at European level create between 750,000 and a million jobs, and have annual expenditure of between 83 and 150 billion euros.

From the perspective of innovation, an area in which this kind of organization has gained considerable weight in the last 20 years, foundations are designed as instruments to facilitate and improve relationships between the entities that carry out R&D, which are mainly universities and public research centers, and the production sector.

In addition to foundations’ tasks as an interface, which are key to their activities and reflect their intrinsic public interests, they provide tax benefits through sponsorship and investment in technological development and innovation. Consequently, 90% of entities that carry out R&D activities have at least one foundation in their organization.

However, in terms of R&D management, foundations represent much more than this as they also:

  • Add value to products and services generated in their environment, through marketing and communication.
  • Drive the entrepreneurship arising from research activities.
  • Organize and increase the visibility of the offerings and the portfolio of services of their “mother” institution.
  • Channel and respond to technological demands in their area of influence.
  • Promote interdisciplinary, collaborative programs.
  • Offer specialized training programs that are tailored to demand.
  • Attract external resources for the development of complex projects, such as postgraduate and lifelong training, technology centers, and technology and research parks, among others.

Without losing the perspective of their place as part of a general system, the main value of foundations lies in the opportunity and know-how they provide to link technological capabilities with companies’ real needs. Foundations that work in the area of research and innovation have become agents that promote knowledge transfer processes. This is a transnational model that has become increasingly well-established in Europe and whose benefits for society are clear and quantifiable.

Responsibility for the area of sponsorship and donations in the Southern European R&D system, which is still in its infancy, often falls on this kind of organizations. There are recurring references to cases in the United States, where foundations are leaders in public-private collaboration and develop initiatives of this kind, with clear social recognition.

If we turn again to Europe, foundations require the legislative support of governments to continue to grow and to contribute to social and economic recovery. Governments must make urgent changes in all aspects related to the recognition of private sponsorship for tax purposes, to send clear messages that promote R&D investments and thus encourage growth.

Consequently, there is a need for initiatives such as the European Day of Foundations and Donors to increase the visibility of these organizations’ work, which is based on private initiative and public interest. This is the work of foundations such as the UPC Technology Center (CIT UPC), which makes available for corporate innovation the knowledge and technological capabilities of 18 UPC centres that are leaders in research and technology transfer, to improve the socioeconomic environment and increase competitiveness.

The best contribution that foundations in the sector can make to public interest is to optimize the knowledge and R&D results of research centers and bring innovative solutions to society not just one, but every day of the year. This is what we are working towards.

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