Aim of the Conference

Organisation
This two-day conference is focused on key decision makers and representatives from the public, commercial and philanthropic sector. The event is part of the Horizon 2020 work programme Access to Risk Finance and is associated with the Netherlands EU Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The conference Philanthropy and Social Investments Fostering Research and Innovation (PhiSI) is organized by the Center for Philanthropic Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and co-organized by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and the Ministry of Security and Justice, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands.


European countries are in transition. Demographic changes, cultural and political developments at national as well as at European level trigger fundamental shifts in economic, social and political institutions. Europe is coping with societal challenges such as economic stagnation, youth unemployment, social cohesion and ethnic diversity. As a result, the transition urges the continuous innovations of governments, businesses and civic efforts to sustain Europe as a prosperous and democratic community. As a response to the economic challenge, the stimulation of growth and the creation of jobs in Europe has become a main priority. Research and innovation are important key factors to accelerate the European economy. ‘Smart growth’ (developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation) is one of the priorities of the European Commission in the coming years (Horizon 2020) and targets the business sector as it accounts for the largest share of the EU-28 R&D investments. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) can play a major role in this process as they are responsible for more than 99% of all European business. One of the more recent developments among SME’s involves the creation and establishment of social enterprises: organizations that combine a market-oriented spirit/approach with a societal/public benefit purpose. This combination of philanthropy and entrepreneurship is exemplary for the role that philanthropy can play in fostering growth and addressing social challenges. Philanthropy, defined as voluntary action for the public good (Payton 1988), may deliver a substantial impetus to reach these goals and could contribute to the reinforcement of Europe’s economic competitiveness in the world. Awareness of the potential of philanthropic investments in general, and of foundations in particular, is growing among policy makers. The philanthropic market is growing rapidly as well. The rise of philanthropic transactions has at least three causes: the growth of wealth after WWII, demographic developments (ageing and reduced births) and a culture shift towards “do it yourself”. Researchers in the United States US researchers even speak of the “Golden Age of Philanthropy” (to emphasize its potential). From the beneficiary perspective, research institutes, Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) and universities are moving more and more towards a new academic paradigm ‘science with and for society’, which is stimulated by the Horizon 2020 work program Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). The program stimulates the engagement of society in its research and innovation activities. Open Access and valorization are - amongst others - key priorities. The European Foundations for Research and Innovation (EUFORI) Study presents an assessment of the contribution of European foundations to research and innovation. The study shows a significant annual contribution of foundations in stimulating research and innovation in the EU. Due to their independent position, their freedom of action and financial autonomy, foundations can play a unique role in society. Foundations can be considered as among the freest institutions in modern societies: free in the sense of being independent of market forces and the popular political will. This enables them to ignore political, disciplinary and professional boundaries, if they choose, and to take risks and consider approaches others cannot. The EUFORI Study presents important examples of the significance of foundations in boosting research and innovation projects. The study demonstrates that foundations themselves are innovative in their modus operandi and are exploring new paths to giving. They become more and more accustomed to giving seed money to social enterprises and start-ups. Relatively new concepts and practices such as entrepreneurial philanthropy, social venturing and social investment are actively being explored by foundations. The Netherlands EU Presidency Associated Conference will build on the results and recommendations of the EUFORI Study.