Background and Rationale
Our contemporary society faces unprecedented challenges. From providing cutting-edge answers to mitigate the devastating impact of climate change, to boosting our efforts to reach out to those facing vulnerable situations, transformations are cascading. Although transformation is an intrinsic characteristic of living, we are navigating through an unparalleled fast-paced world that poses new challenges on a daily basis. This was, and continues to be, fuelled by a global pandemic that exacerbated inequalities and tensions.
Higher Education Institutions have a determining role: they generate and transfer knowledge, promote critical thinking, and empower citizens to transform their lives and our local communities, cities, countries and, ultimately, the world we live in. This fundamental contribution cannot be disengaged from sustainable development, which is at the core of the European Union’s growth strategy for the coming decades under the “European Green Deal” umbrella. More than ever, Higher Education Institutions are key players and enablers of the vision for a resource-efficient, circular, digitised and climate neutral economy by 2050, where economic growth is decoupled from the use of resources.
Although the European Green Deal is an overarching strategy that must be embraced by every citizen and institution, the agricultural industry (understood as the primary sector of the economy, which deals with the extraction or harvesting of products from the earth) is particularly affected by climate change at the same time as it strives to become “future-proof”, to contribute to reducing the environmental and climate footprint of our food system and to strengthen its resilience towards competitive sustainability from farm to fork.
Agriculture is an important economic driver. Despite accounting for less than 1.5% of the EU’s GDP, it is a considerable source of employment. However, threats such as rural depopulation, decreases in productivity, outdated production techniques, low levels of connectivity in rural areas as well as climate change may hinder the objective of achieving a robust and resilient EU food system that delivers affordable food to all citizens. Therefore, only with more efforts in aligning the sector with innovation, knowledge and technology will we advance in the green – and digital – transition.
One of the main goals of UNIgreen is to offer a solid contribution to boost and maintain the competitiveness of agriculture while preserving environmental values and supporting sustainable development, aligned with overarching strategies such as the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork. However, this can only be achieved through an articulation with green biotechnology and life sciences in general.
The UNIgreen Alliance vision and mission will offer an answer to the following challenges:
- The European Strategy for Universities lights up the path ahead for Higher Education Institutions and the need to strengthen the European dimension in Higher Education and Research, support Universities as lighthouses of our European way of life, empower Universities as actors of change in the twin green and digital transitions, and reinforce Universities as drivers of Europe’s global role and leadership.
- Higher Education Institutions face specific challenges linked to the European Education Area, the European Higher Education Area, the Bologna Process and the objective of building resilient and forward-looking education and training systems in the European Union.
- Higher Education Institutions must give an answer to challenges that are global by nature but must be tackled at local level (“think globally, act locally” approach). These are related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal.
- Higher Education Institutions are strong contributors to regional development, and, in that sense, their scope of intervention must be aligned with national and regional innovation priorities and strategies, notably the Smart Specialisation Strategies.
Our Long-Term Vision
The Green European University aspires to be the leading European University in the field of Sustainable Agriculture, Green Biotechnology, and Environmental and Life Sciences, where students and the entire Academic Community develop the values, attitudes, knowledge, skills, and competences to become agents for the transition towards a climate-neutral and resource-efficient economy, supported by an ecosystem that connects education, research, innovation, and society to promote sustainable development.
UNIgreen is a thematic Alliance with a specific focus on the topics of Sustainable Agriculture, Green Biotechnology, and Environmental and Life Sciences, which are pivotal areas of expertise for achieving a resource-efficient, circular, digitised, and climate-neutral economy by 2050, and for boosting the resilience and sustainability of our food system. Nonetheless, despite its importance, this topic remains underexplored. Hence, the UNIgreen Alliance aims at reverting this fact.
Alliance Higher Education Institutions share a joint vision for Higher Education. One where institutions focus on strategic lines such as people, teaching and training, research and transfer, and mitigating the impact on the environment, which simultaneously affect and are affected by a series of transversal axes such as internationalisation, multiculturalism, sustainability, digitalisation, social commitment, and continuous improvement.
In addition to this common outlook, Alliance Higher Education Institutions are active in several scientific areas of expertise that are aligned with national and regional innovation priorities and strategies, notably the Smart Specialisation Strategies, and that offer a high degree of complementarity.
The Alliance name was formed by combining UNI from University (understood broadly; Tertiary Education), Unity (inspired by the European Union motto “United in Diversity”) and Universal (which represents our “For All and With All” mission), and green, which refers to an interdisciplinary group of scientific areas of expertise that will help boost our transition to a resource-efficient, circular, digitised, and climate-neutral – “greener” – society.
UNIgreen is both our name, mission, and goal. #WeAreUNIgreen