CLUSTER (Consortium Linking Universities of Science and Technology for Education and Research) is a consortium of 11 elite European universities in science and engineering (and architecture) with associate members from around the world. CLUSTER represents a Multi-location European University of Science and Technology with about 3.000 professors, 11.000 academic staff, 14.000 PhD students, and a total of over 140,000 students.

In a world facing unprecedented challenges, engineering, science and technology play a central role. The wellbeing of our society depends on our answers to such challenges, that cannot be founded by a single nation or engineering discipline. Instead, they call for truly international, multi-disciplinary collaboration and a new mind set. It is thus largely in our hands to breed a new generation of engineers with leadership and entrepreneurial skills. CLUSTER is an active platform in the promotion and creation of frameworks aiming to tackle these societal issues.

CLUSTER evolved from being focused only on Engineering Education to be, nowadays, acting on the so-called knowledge triangle comprising Education, Research and Innovation.

Dual Master’s programmes

Since the establishment of CLUSTER, thousands of students have spent time at partner universities elsewhere in Europe. However, the options beyond staying just one or two semesters abroad have since been expanded. It was not long before the idea for rewarding exchange students with a ‘double degree’ was born. For more information, see here.

Knowledge and Innovation Communities

An unexpected financial windfall in Brussels resulted in a major change of focus in CLUSTER in 2008. Around 300 million euros from European education programs suddenly become available. The idea of using the money to set up a European Institute of Innovation and Technology was launched. It would be a new campus along the lines of, for example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, a campus at which all the European expertise in the field of technology and innovation would be brought together.

Three KICs were launched in 2009 – in the field of climate change (Climate-KIC), sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy) and ICT (EIT Digital). Together with partners from the private sector and research institutes, CLUSTER was allocated the latter two.

Due to the travel constaints, it was decided the EIT would not have a physical campus, but instead become an umbrella organization that would help finance and coordinate Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). Here, research and education institute would work closely together with industrial partners on innovations for strengthening the European economy. Each KIC involves different projects.

The KICs are involved not just with research: Master’s programs have also been set up where students enjoy ‘embedded education’, with its strong links to the practical side of industry. At the InnoEnergy Master’s school, students can choose from seven Master’s programs in sustainable energy. The EIT Digital Master’s program offers eight engineering majors and a minor in innovation & entrepreneurship. The Master’s programs can be taken at any of the universities involved and are concluded with a dual degree – one from each university where the Master’s was taken.

Across Europe’s borders

Although the number of CLUSTER members has remained stable over the years, the network is creating new connections with leading universities outside Europe. In the 2000s, this led to the establishment of ‘associate partners’ in Canada (Polytechnique Montreal), Brazil (Escola Politécnica São Paulo), the United States (Georgia Tech), Israel (Technion), Russia (Tomsk Polytechnic University), and China (Tsinghua University of Beijing). For more information about our partners, click here.

CLUSTER works in waves. The most important challenge is to have people inside CLUSTER who are actively committed to it. During the past eight years, there have been times when there were not very many effective developments, depending on the people who were active in CLUSTER. However, it is a very positive group of twelve universities. Hans Jürgen Prömel

The latter also forms part of a special working partnership, the Sino-European Platform of Engineering Education (S3EP), which started life in September 2010 in Shanghai. The S3EP, consisting of every CLUSTER member and eighteen leading Chinese universities, is intended to stimulate the exchange of students and teachers between China and Europe, as well as the joint development of educational resources. The universities also seek to work more closely together in various research fields.