Research Newsletter - Issue 71: Spotlight

What are European Universities?

The European Universities Initiative is an EU flagship programme towards building the European Education Area by 2025. By developing networks of alliances across all corners of Europe, the programme supports new forms of strategic partnerships between higher education institutions. There is close synergy with the European Research Area and European Higher Education Area to ensure the alliances foster strong links between education and research. The pilot phase of the initiative (2019 – 2022) is co-funded by the European Commission as part of the Erasmus+ programme.


ECIU University

DCU is a long-standing member of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU), and under the European Universities Initiative is now working with its partners to create the ECIU University. ECIU University takes a novel, challenge-based approach to education, research and innovation to address societal challenges related to UN Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities.



ECIU University

What are ECIU University’s research priorities?

ECIU University has developed a joint long-term research strategy on Smart Regions, which identifies four key SDG 11 themes:

  • Energy and sustainability
  • Transport and mobility
  • Circular economy
  • Resilient communities

ECIU University recognises the importance of all disciplines in tackling the complex problems and opportunities we face in each of these areas and the need for a challenge-based approach to create innovative solutions with real impact:



Challenge-based research

‘Challenge-based research (CBR) is doing research with partners from industry/business, education, government, civil society and citizens (societal partners), using the challenges they face in reality as a point of departure, with the objective of arriving at solutions to these challenges.’

How does ECIU University benefit researchers?

ECIU University is building an environment that will deepen research cooperation between its member institutions and with non-academic stakeholders too. This will provide new opportunities for researchers in DCU, by strengthening European collaborations, promoting mobility between partners and through ECIU’s lobbying activities at EU level.



Virtual Research Institute for Smart European Regions (SMART-ER).

More recently, further support for the research dimension within the European University alliances was awarded through a Horizon 2020 ‘Science with and for Society’ grant (2021 – 2024), allowing ECIU University to create its Virtual Research Institute for Smart European Regions (SMART-ER). The SMART-ER Institute is working to implement a new model of inclusive and barrier-free research by bringing together our research capacities and driving dialogue with society through citizen science and public engagement initiatives.

What opportunities are available to me?

There are numerous ways to get involved and benefit from the activities within ECIU University and SMART-ER.

SMART-ER Seed funding Programme 

The SMART-ER Seed Programme currently has a number of open and upcoming calls for different types of collaborative research engagements across the ECIU network. These include grants for joint supervision of PhDs, mobility grants for developing EU proposals and research project funding.

Have a look at the newsletter Funding Opportunities section for more information.


Citizen Science

The SMART-ER Institute is building an international Citizen Science community and an online platform has been developed to promote collaborations and sharing of best practices across the ECIU network. Two transnational pilot projects are currently under development and still open for contributions. To get involved you can register at


SMART-ER Academy 

SMART-ER will shortly launch its Training Academy to support the continued professional development for researchers across all career stages. This includes a 1) Online PhD Training Programme and 2) Open Science and Leadership Training Programme (Blended).

Each unique programme will offer a variety of modules including Academic Writing and Communication, Citizen Science, Interdisciplinary research, Project management, Challenge-based approaches, Proposal preparation, and more.

More details on individual programme modules for the SMART-ER Academy are available here.


Want to find out more?

Check out the ECIU website or reach out to the team at DCU: