The first seminar on the format of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) was held this week in the Slovak Republic. The KICs will be the operational parts of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The European Commission said it welcomed the seminar, which the EIT governing board used to start a dialogue with interested parties to establish a common vision for the KICs. Interested parties from across Europe and beyond were invited to the conference to share their views. The outcome of the debate, with representatives of business, entrepreneurship, research and higher education, will feed into the reflections of the governing board, which is planning to publish a call for proposals for the first KICs next spring. The selection of the first two to three KICs is due by the end of January 2010, and is a key milestone for the EIT. The EIT has two levels: the governing board, which oversees the strategic priorities of the EIT, and the KICs, which do the EIT's actual research, teaching and innovation work. The KICs are partnerships that bring together parties from higher education, research, innovative business and entrepreneurship. They are supposed to be drivers of innovation in fields that pose major societal challenges, such as climate-change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable energy and the future information and communication society. KICs bring together the three elements of the knowledge triangle and are excellence-driven partnerships between universities, research organizations, companies and other innovation stakeholders. Although KICs are not yet being selected (this process will start next spring), here are some of their basic concepts: Objectives The KICs are supposed to promote the production, dissemination and exploitation of new-knowledge products and best practices in the innovation sector, transforming the results of higher education and research activities into commercially exploitable innovation. The obligatory inclusion of the business and higher-education dimensions should ensure a constant focus on delivering and disseminating usable outcomes. In return, participating research and education organizations could benefit from the prestige and visibility of the EIT, increasing their capacity to attract the best possible talents ("brain-gain"). Setup KICs are supposed to be highly integrated partnerships, building on existing partnerships between partners or centers. The proposals may be trans- or interdisciplinary and may incorporate programs or projects already in place throughout Europe. These will be selected by the governing board based on competitive, transparent and excellence-driven criteria for periods of seven to 15 years, to ensure mid- to long-term sustainability of the chosen partnerships. This time frame may be adapted according to their development needs. They shall have substantial overall autonomy to define their internal organization and composition, as well as their precise agenda and working methods. In particular, KICs are intended to be open to new members from Europe - and beyond - whenever these members add value to the partnerships. However, the minimum condition to form a KIC is the participation of at least three partner organizations, established in at least two different European member states. Focus In view of its long-term development perspective, the EIT is meant to follow a gradual approach in establishing the KICs. In a first phase, two or three KICs will be selected; subsequent partnerships will follow after the adoption of the first Strategic Innovation Agenda. The first two or three KICs will address themes within the following fields: sustainable energy; mitigation and adaptation of climate change; future information society; future KICs will address other topical themes in research, such as health care. The mission of the EIT is to explore excellence in entrepreneurship, education, research and business for world-class innovation. In view of making the EIT operational, a top priority for the governing board is the selection of the first two or three KICs by January 2010. A clear vision on their future shape is therefore essential for the entire initiative and for boosting Europe's innovation capacity in a sustainable way. email@example.com Ari Syrquin is the head of the International Department at GSCB Law Firm.