James Kanter of the International Herald Tribune reports that the Europeans are in a tiff over how to create a European version of MIT:
“The European Union on Wednesday said that it would redouble its efforts to establish a new institution to rival the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States in a bid to foster an academic environment for innovation in Europe. But the proposal for a European Institute of Technology which has been under study since it was revealed last February risked becoming mired in nationalistic infighting, as officials could not say where it would be located, how much funding it would need or even who would run it…The initiative would create a central hub for coordinating work in areas like energy, computing and nanotechnology at European universities…” (Source: Smalltimes)
It’s tempting to point at this as another example of Europe not being able to get its act together, but those who are objecting may have a point. MIT was not created by a sudden, politicized, continent-wide decision to redirect large sums to one institution. It was a relatively small center of excellence that grew by attracting increasing resources over time, not by being uniquely annointed by government. Maybe that’s the way to go on this kind of thing.
As a mental exercise, consider this: what would happen to Caltech if it were suddenly given huge sums and told to coordinate work in energy, computing, and nanotechnology at all U.S. universities? Not a pretty thought! —Christine