UNICREDS brings together deprived peripheral regions that view the development of decentralised, multi-university campuses in their territories as the key to their full participation in regional development through the knowledge economy. These 'collaborative universities' are seen as transformational developments; fundamentally enhancing territorial capital and potential well beyond their core educational functions. Developed in collaboration with regional authorities and the private sector, they are seen to provide a flexible template for regional development closely linked to local needs and opportunities – and an alternative to the classical “education factory system” - providing instead regional clusters of high quality competitive and innovative activities. These collaborations work together to drive forward a common agenda of increasing growth and jobs and have come to be known as the ‘triple helix’ development model.
There are now a number of regions where higher education institutions have combined to develop these new multi-study environments remote from the traditional, centralised universities.These new clusters have been developed to enable peripheral and/or excluded communities to access university education and research & innovation activities locally for the first time.They also use the combined strength of a number of universities to better serve the needs and catalyse a diverse range of enterprises. As large-scale developments in their own right, they attract high numbers of students and staff into peripheral areas and have significant direct economic, demographic and environmental impacts.
The core objective of the network is to further develop and demonstrate how the triple helix model can assist the transformation of failing peripheral regions into centres of excellence in research and innovation and to propose this approach as a model for future EU regional development programmes.
Through work package meetings, conferences and dissemination events, each focussing on sequential stages of the triple helix regional development model developed so far by this partnership; the project will capitalise on the existing work undertaken by the more experienced partners, and refine and adjust the model according to all partners' input and further testing, mostly in the new member states. The result will be a transferrable model for regional development in peripheral or failing economies. All partners will be responsible for integrating the new model into local, regional and national policy structures and a special 'regional policy influence group' will offer the model to the EU as a sustainable regional development alternative.
New member states have shown great interest in the model. Many are currently in the process of developing university/private and public sector collaborations of their own, and want to participate in the further work of the partnership.