Family photo at Bizkaia Aretoa. Photo Fernándo Gómez UPV/EHU
Back to news

ENLIGHT Impact Conference in Bilbao

The international encounter has brought international leading impact experts to Bilbao in order to discuss about social impact of higher education and research and meet the future ENLIGHT Impact Ambassadors.


ENLIGHT is a European University Alliance aiming to promote equitable quality of life, sustainability and global engagement through Higher Education transformation. At the core of the ENLIGHT mission lies impact as one of its distinctive features. ENLIGHT seeks to promote an impact-based culture both within and beyond ENLIGHT universities, including the promotion of a model of good practice of impact-directed management. Impact assessment is a practice that is growing in importance and relevance worldwide, also in the scope of higher education.

The ENLIGHT Impact Conference, was held at the city of Bilbao, and hosted by the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, where participants enjoyed a diverse academic and social program from 29 to 31 March 2023. It was the time to meet international leading impact experts in and outside the academic ecosystem to discuss approaches for embedding impact within universities' full spectrum of activities, being in education, in research, in innovation or in societal engagement related activities.

The conference was organized by the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU. UPV/EHU’s rector, Eva Ferreira, opened the event and was followed by representatives from the ENLIGHT Alliance and from the Basque Government such as the Minister for Education, Jokin Bildarratz, and Deputy Minister for Universities and Research, Adolfo Morais. In words of Eva Ferreira, rector of the UPV/EHU: “This is a good opportunity to discuss how to increase impact awareness, share and learn about different approaches to impact assessment, discuss barriers and opportunities for promoting common impact-driven research agendas; and, finally, understand how university partnerships are generating impact and transforming European areas of education and research".

In the photograph, Jokin Bildarratz, Eva Ferreira and Fernando Tapia. Photo Fernándo Gómez UPV/EHU. 

Moreover, Cisca Wijmenga, the Rotating President of ENLIGHT Governing Board and Rector of the University of Groningen (Netherlands), as well as the European Commission Directors Sophia Eriksson and Anna Panagopoulou made video contributions during the conference. It was undoubtedly a great opportunity to share the progress from a European perspective of this international alliance, regarding impact, represented by the women and men who lead the initiative.

The Conference was the fora to debate how to raise impact awareness, literacy and readiness, share and learn about different approaches for impact assessment, discuss barriers and opportunities for promoting common impact-driven research agendas, and finally understand how University Alliances are bringing about impact and transforming the European Education and Research Areas.

Amongst the speakers, we counted with Guido Van Huylenbroeck, ENLIGHT Project Coordinator and Academic Director for Internationalisation, from Ghent University, Belgium; Steven Hill, Director of Research, Research England,United Kingdom Anika Duut van Goor, Director AESIS Network for Advancing & Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science; and John Edwards, Secretary General of European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE). Amongst the local representatives we highlight Leire San José, Full Professor at UPV/EHU, and Igor Campillo, Leader of the ENLIGHT Impact team and Director of Euskampus Foundation UPV/EHU, just to mention a few.

Furthermore, the programme offered a variety of sessions and roundtable discussions where participants and audience enjoyed a rich experience of good practices exchanges and knowledge dissemination within the framework of impact reach applying to universities and society.

Moreover, the question of "How university alliances are bringing about impact and transforming the European Higher Education Area & European Research Area" was in the spotlight in a panel discussion. The panel was moderated by EURASHE secretary general John Edwards who brought together representatives of other European University Alliances: Igor Campillo (UPV/EHU) was joined by Hannes Raffaseder, Ernesto Exposito (UNITA), and Heather Hunt (EC2U). It was a moment to witness the valuable and interesting viewpoints to the discussion. Once the conference ended, the audience left with a deep sense of how meaningful impact in higher education can be achieved.

Panel host John Edwards (EURASHE), first sitting on the left;  Igor Campillo (UPV/EHU, standing;  Ernesto Exposito (UNITA), Heather Hunt (EC2U), Hannes Raffaseder (E³UDRES²). Photo Fernándo Gómez UPV/EHU. 


Besides, at the conference, there was also a chance to meet the Impact Ambassadors of this European university alliance. The ENLIGHT Impact Ambassadors are the representatives of teams that have been awarded as exemplars in planning for and achieving impact, following a Call for applications that have been evaluated by a panel of experts from ENLIGHT universities and other organisations.

The ENLIGHT Impact Ambassadors will function as “role models” and inspiring figures for the research community within and beyond ENLIGHT Alliance. ENLIGHT Lighthouse re-interpreted in watercolours by Lorena Delgado Zabalza.

ENLIGHT conceded five Impact Awards, that were announced during the Conference, in alignment with its flagship domains identified as key determinants of societal well-being and sustainability.

The first ENLIGHT Impact Ambassadors were revealed after an Impact-pitch session in which the nominees had 3 minutes to present their cases in front of an enthusiastic audience who watched the countdown in seconds shown on a screen.

The ENLIGHT Impact Ambassadors are:

  • Ilse Derluyn, with the 3 min pitch presented by Giacomo Orsini, for the “Childmove” research initiative, from Ghent university, under the Health & Well-being flagship area.
  • Idoia Martin Guerrero, with the 3 min pitch presented by Nerea Bilbao Aldaiturriaga, for the “Precision Medicine Newwork in Complex diseases” research initiative, UPV/EHU under Health & Well-being flagship area.
  • Aaron Golden for the “Tapas”research initiative, University of Galway, under the Climate Change flagship area.
  • Kati Orru, with the 3 min pitch presented by Ingellis Slimsen, for the “Interactive Tool for Assessing and Modelling Crisis Vulnerability” research initiative, University of Tartu, under the Digital flagship area.
  • Sarah-Anne Buckley for the “Tuam Oral History Project” research initiative, University of Galway, under the Equity flagship area.

The best ENLIGHT Impact Pitchward went to Heddrik van Rijn for his presentation on the “SlimStampen” research initiative, University of Groningen.

All of them were awarded with a Basque beret “txapela” which illustrates the condition of “champion” in Basque culture. The red “txapela” went for the best impact pitch.

ENLIGHT Impact Ambassadors award winners with UPV/EHU’s Rector Eva Ferreira and Vice-Deputy Minister for Universities and Research Adolfo Morais.

The conference took place at the University Basque Country UPV/EHU, in the Bizkaia Aretoa building, which is located in one of the most emblematic areas of Bilbao, opened out onto the estuary and the Guggenheim Museum. Conference speakers

The participants also enjoyed a guided tour to the Guggenheim Museum and an informal dinner at Café Iruña, one of the most antique cafe-restaurants of Bilbao. It was the moment to to listen to short but melodious concert offered by 4 instruments of the young orchestra of the UPV/EHU who interpreted pieces of Piazzola, Gardel, Coulais together with more classic composers such as Mozart, Händel, Bach or Bocherini, amongst others.

Café Iruña, participants during the cocktail hour with the members of UPV/EHU’s orchestra playing at the back. Photo Fernándo Gómez UPV/EHU.

The final closing was carried out by Retokarte Txalaparta, who interpreted some themes with the instrument called “txalaparta” an ancient Basque percussion instrument constructed with wooden or stone planks that are played with wooden sticks. The instrument was traditionally played at cider-tasting calls, or weddings.owadays, the instrument is played at celebrations of all types.

Retokarte Txalaparta during their music show. Photo Fernándo Gómez UPV/EHU.

A fantastic meeting point to discover Bilbao, its people and its culture, and learn more about impact of higher education and research.

Full programme.

ENLIGHT Impact Conference official webpage.

More about ENLIGHT European University Alliance.

Share this

Euskampus isotipe

Subscribe to Newskampus

And get our latest news in your inbox.

I have read and I express my consent by accepting the privacy policy