About us

The Interregional Internationalisation Initiative University Network (3i Network) is a collaboration founded by Ghent UniversityKU Leuven (KULAK), the University of Kent and the University of Lille.

The main goal of the network is to bring together universities, regional governments and the private sector/civil society to work on challenges common to Flanders, Kent and the Hauts-de-France.

Four thematic clusters

By virtue of their proximity, the three regions share challenges in a number of areas, including, but not limited to, marine and maritime (blue energy, preservation of the coastal environment…), climate and energy (net zero, sustainability, energy security etc)., health and nutrition (diabetes, cancer…) and well-being and community (e.g. migration and refugee studies, vulnerability and inclusion of ageing populations and people with disabilities). For each of these four clusters the three regions will define common challenges and collaborate on finding possible solutions.  

Pressures on coastal and marine biodiversity continue to increase. An estimated 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100km of the coast, putting unsustainable strain on coastal and marine resources. Human population is projected to increase to more than 9 billion people by 2050, bringing increasing pressure marine and coastal resources. At the same time, the EU Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries reported that the European Blue Economy, which includes all economic activities related to the ocean, seas and coastal areas of Europe, is thriving. The overall aim of the European Commission’s Blue Growth Strategy is to further harness the potential of Europe’s marine and coastal resources in terms of economic and societal value as well as sustainability. Yet, if the Blue Economy wants to thrive successfully, it is essential to make the transition to a sustainable sector. Different transitions have been initiated at global and local scales. The complexity is enormous and requires innovation, new knowledge and skills. Furthermore, it is important to involve stakeholders from citizens to governments. The Channel area will have to prepare for these transitions too, if it wants to play a leading role in Europe’s Blue Economy.

Marine and Maritime Challenges aims to identify specific scientific, industrial, social and political challenges. By bringing the relevant stakeholders together the cluster aims to illuminate the national and regional dynamics that differentially shape this area; to highlight actions that can support and guide the development of the blue sector with an emphasis on cross-national solutions and actions bringing research findings and innovative practices to policy makers and practitioner communities, faced with developing a sustainable blue economy.

Nutrition and Health aims to bring together the academic community – medical, biomedical and paramedical sciences, nutritional sciences, dietetics– with medical practitioners, policy makers, care and food providers, to define the major interregional challenges in health and care such as ageing, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and how care and nutrition can be improved to better deal with these.

The overall aim will be to illuminate the national and regional dynamics and highlight actions that can support and guide development of shared high-quality evidence-based interventions, with the cross fertilization of ideas at the national and international level bringing research findings and innovative practices to practitioner and producer communities.

This cluster is aimed at addressing issues of Communities and Wellbeing through the specific focus of Diversity and Inclusion in theory, research and global practice. What are the significant political, professional and civil society initiatives that further this agenda in regards to migration, gender equality, non-discrimination along lines of origin and religious identities, but also sexuality, disability, or age? Our approach will be to tackle these subjects from various fields and policy domains, including [higher] education, employment, urban belonging, housing, and territorial/regional integration. By bringing the academic community -- in law, social and political sciences, psychology, education sciences, humanities -- together with policy makers, practitioners and civil society organisations, the overall aim will be to illuminate the national and regional dynamics that differentially shape these concerns into policy interventions; to highlight emblematic actions that can support and guide the development of shared high-quality practices, with the cross fertilisation of ideas at national and international level bringing research findings and innovative practices to policy makers and practitioner communities, faced with common challenges of global diversity, social justice, and innovation (societies in transition?)

Climate and Energy group aims to share an outline map of the current research activity across the four universities, as the diversity of work in science, humanities and social science, related to this topic is both an opportunity and a challenge. Some of 3i partners are currently collaborating with each other and are part of extensive international networks.

Success in combating climate change and delivery of energy objectives will be a combination of technology, leadership, policy, and behavioural change. Research will have to address this extensive complexity to ensure we adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change. Collaborative networks such as 3i offer the opportunity to accelerate change.

The group goals to find common threads to link research on this topic and form, between the 3i partners the basis for joint European Research funding to demonstrate our collective contribution. Our success will be based on linking academics and complementary areas of research to multiply our stand-alone impact.

The founding universities are convinced that cooperation encourages innovation and creativity and can result in projects which benefit the population, businesses and other organisations in their respective regions.

To maximize impact and the full innovation potential of European ecosystems, experience shows that strong territorial innovation ecosystems based on excellence are essential. These ecosystems connect players from the entire value chain to create an environment conducive to the development of innovation, including disruptive innovation, to be commercialized and exploited.

These ecosystems are based on the called quadruple helix:

  • Academia and research: universities and research organisations, vocational training providers, technology transfer offices…
  • Public bodies: regional and local authorities, innovation agencies, public-supported incubators and accelerators ….
  • Private sector: businesses (SMEs, starts-up, large companies…), clusters, chambers, private incubators and accelerators …
  • Civil society: end-users, NGOs, associations, unions, etc.