At one of this year’s most exciting higher education conferences, The engaged university. Linking the global and the local, co-organised by ACA and CMEPIUS, which took place between 17th and 18th of October in Bled, Slovenia, drawing an audience of 150–200, including central actors and decision-makers from universities and colleges, as well as practitioners and policy-makers from government departments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations and think tanks. Emilija Stojmenova Duh, assistant Professor and FabLab Network Slovenia Coordinator from Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, spoke about Smart digital transformation of villages in the Alpine SpaceInterreg EruditeDigital RegionsInterreg_CARPEDIGEMLiverur projects and FabLab Slovenia network.

In a consistent, well-structured presentation, dr. Stojmenova Duh addressed the issue of  digitalization in Slovenia, especially within the rural – urban divide. By presenting array of projects, successfully led by her and her team at Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Dr. Stojmenova Duh introduced the international audience to FabLab Network, Digital Innovation Hubs and innovative upgrade of FabLab concept to Smart Villages.

Dr. Stojmenova Duh’s talk, which was very well received by the audience, was much more about social innovation than about technology, being very much in line with her research work of focusing mainly on the fields of open innovation, co-creation, user centered design and digitalization for development.

In her finishing words, Dr. Stojmenova stressed not just the importance of linking local with global, especially when it comes to digitalization, but also the need to create an environment of sharing, communication, sharing of knowledge to encourage trust and reciprocity, as, to quote dr. Stojmenova Duh: “/…/ if we are aware of the advantages of technology and make use of them as effectively as possible, while providing adequate protection against handicaps and risks, the results are excellent”. 

The conference reached out to other countries and continents but it was also – and even more so – an event that was actively engaged with its closer vicinity, its local and regional ‘habitat’.

The “engaged university” interacted and collaborated with civil society at large, municipalities, companies, NGOs, and many other actors. Next to internationalization, the themes of the event were social responsibility; civic engagement, active citizenship and ‘service learning’; innovation and knowledge and technology transfer; diversity and inclusion, as well as ethics and values.

To sum up, following the concept of the “engaged university”, the conference was not just about the classical tasks of the university, i.e. teaching/learning and research, but more so still, it was about what some call the ‘third mission’ of higher education: outreach and service to and collaboration with non-academic actors.

Therefore, the event provided participants with the possibility to share ideas on and discuss how these dimensions could be enhanced by means of European and international project cooperation.

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