| 4 minute read

A European University with regional impact: St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences

Punn Chatupanyachotikul

St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences (STPUAS) have been a long-term project partner of UIIN,but we are excited to introduce them as a new Initiator member. We had the pleasure of catching up with Gabriele Permoser, Head of Service Unit for Research and Knowledge Transfer at STPUAS and Project Manager of E³UDRES², to learn more about their approach to engagement.

Founded in 1996 in St. Pölten, Austria, STPUAS first crossed paths with UIIN eight years ago at one of the first UIIN conferences. Since then, they have become steadfast partners of UIIN in many European-funded projects and have grown to support 3,900 students.

Gabriele described the work of her Research and Knowledge Transfer unit as delivering the traditional support services to researchers whilst also fulfilling their strategic mission in knowledge and technology transfer, and exploring innovation activities. One such example is their project with digital innovation hubs, which provides support for SMEs to overcome obstacles in the area of digitalisation.

We have quite a diverse range of expertise from technology and business to the social sciences, and want to connect to other stakeholders in the region”

STPUAS got in touch with the UIIN Community to connect with a wider range of regional stakeholders. Gabriele explains that due to the region-specific nature of Universities of Applied Science (UASs), it is crucial to connect to other regional partners whilst also working to broaden their reach internationally. STPUAS live and breathe this ethos as a prominent player in their own region, whilst also leading the European University Alliance E³UDRES². This collaboration with eight other European UASs aims to connect stakeholders with similar regional challenges to provide targeted solutions.

The idea for the European University Alliance came up in order to connect similar institutions and recognise that we cannot solve these challenges alone”

Looking to the future

STPUAS’ goals for engagement were cemented in 2022, with one of their main strategic areas to create added value for society. As they are located in the middle of the city, they are eager to connect with those around them. As such, their strategy has a particularly strong focus on citizen science and engaging those most effected by societal challenges in the design of solutions. Gabriele also highlighted the importance of involving all levels of the university in engagement – students as well as senior researchers – so that they all learn to collaborate with external partners early in their academic careers.

Challenges to overcome

In terms of challenges to university-industry engagement, Gabriele acknowledges that other stakeholders find it difficult to connect to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). As a university, STPUAS must therefore be able to translate their communication depending on the stakeholder – be it SMEs, government, or other HEIs. STPUAS is also considered a rather new and small Austrian university and it can be challenging to be recognised in comparison to other more long-standing institutions.

Moreover, UASs in Austria don’t receive basic funding for research, so all research requires external funding. This proves difficult when trying to overcome the difference in research tempo and cultures between industry and HEIs – particularly as digitalisation increases the pace of processes even more. This challenge has been partially addressed through digital innovation hubs, which allow for a faster reaction time from universities and opportunities to present immediate ideas.

Although we have difficult times, universities need to be courageous and try new things. As a young university, STPUAS has the ability to be brave, courageous and innovative”

The E³UDRES² alliance was established during the pandemic, but Gabriele proudly shares that their activities and network have been a great success within the two years since. They were able to get regional challenges to prototype solutions from their local partners and incorporated them into two hackathons for researchers and students. Their work here is supported by other projects such as the EINS, Accelerate FutureHEI and DigiHealth UASHome projects with UIIN. She adds, “This external funding is a great vote of confidence showing we are on the right path”.

Our conversation closed with Gabriele sharing some final words with the UIIN Community. She promised that they are open to connecting with all the network and emphasises that those unexpected meetings are often the most fruitful ones.

More often, it’s the coincidence that makes the innovation. We are a small university so every collaboration, every connection and exchange supports us, and we hope that we can support others”

Would you like to know more about St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences or start a conversation with Gabriele Permoser, you can directly contact her via email.

Header image credits: FH St. Pölten / Martin Lifka Photography
Gabriele Permoser’s picture credit: Florian Stix

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