Voice: Anna Mendelsohn, Sounddesign: Ursula Winterauer

Innovation through Universitas.


The more it appears that the world is coming apart at the seams, the more important it becomes to search its innermost for those things that hold it together. This question has driven academia for centuries, propelling science and the arts to aspire to new heights. Only those radical enough to get to the bottom of things will discover something which is fundamentally new. This is an individual who is discontent with derivations of that what we know and that what is familiar. Eruption instead of deduction. This is the only way to unhinge the world. Archimedes’ statement during the age of antiquity rings true today and continues to serve as a guiding principle for our modern times.

Discovery was once a harmonious act, simultaneously involving science and art. The “uomo universale”, universal man of the Renaissance, re-discovered the world by means of comprehensive education, a critical spirit, creative power, and a humanistic attitude. He helped himself to all of this knowledge and the arts as if they flowed out of the same headspring. He was only interested in the gist of the matter. Any questions regarding access, methods, and the medium were of secondary importance because he could follow any and all paths and master all techniques. He was connected to Vergil by the longing to recognize rerum cognoscere causas, the cause of things. Ideas on education and research during the Renaissance deserve our attention today, beyond any reminiscing of the history of art and science.


And Humboldt’s concept of Universitas is also becoming increasingly fitting once again during a time marked by granular, almost atomized knowledge and increasingly meaningless specialization. The humanistic educational canon enriched by the development of digital competence (and not mere skills) can, and indeed must, be the European educational system’s answer to meet the challenges coming from the East and the West. When quantifying the knowledge universities generate, this statement cannot be without consequences. The fixation on citations, reputation rankings and surveys, external funding, the number of students actively taking examinations, and other quantifications proceed to fall short of the mark. Indeed, social relevance and civic responsibility must be the dominant variables. Universities are first and foremost society’s intellectual and scholarly centers. By virtue of their autonomy and resilience, universities must play a leading role in shaping social discourse.

Those who advocate for more Universitas must not reduce science to mere truth or art to mere beauty. Science and art best mutually benefit each other in areas where these disciplines – despite differences in perspective, method and findings – converge and ultimately even intermingle with each other. Knowledge and sensuality, ratio and emotion as well as empiricism and imagination can intertwine to fuel and inspire each other.

So let us bring something new into the world today by going beyond the parameters and getting involved in a dialectic of science and art, a synthesis of truth and beauty and a symbiosis of knowledge and creativity. Let us accept the enormous challenges of our time for the benefit of a humane and diverse society. These are the aspirations with which the University of Applied Arts and the Johannes Kepler University aim to forge an alliance in support of innovation through Universitas. May this alliance also serve as the momentum to broaden perspectives in a so-called knowledge society and re-think the increasing economization of knowledge.


  1. Opportunities and Challenges of Our Time

The current technological revolution is a pivotal moment for mankind. Artificial intelligence, the mutually intertwined relationship between humans and machines, synthetic biology, etc.), society’s demographic transformation (an aging society, migration), and climate change have set profound social and economic change processes in motion.

1.1 Over the next 25 years, the way people live and work will fundamentally change as never before experienced in the history of mankind; the change will not only be radical but also take place in a short span of time.

1.2 As part of the relationship between man and machine, technological progress will open up completely new dimensions of human thought and action while simultaneously evoking fundamental and philosophical questions about humankind’s role in the advancement of civilization.

1.3 New, individual life concepts will emerge as aging societies and advancing urbanization bring about new perspectives. Our existing social and health systems, housing, mobility, and foundations for human co-existence will also be challenged.

1.4 The climate crisis will impact our world dramatically. Even if we work rapidly to minimize the sources of global warming, climate change will significantly impact the food supply, housing, mobility, migration, and politics.

1.5 Advancements in information and communication technology will mean a higher number of people can take advantage of more opportunities to pursue a better education. However, at the same time, liberal democracies will be put to the test in regards to adhering to individual fundamental rights and freedoms as well as free and equal participation when it comes to shaping social processes.

1.6 Digitization and automation will lead to dramatic transformations in the labor markets, requiring us to re-define the concept of human labor.


  1. A University‘s Educational Mission

2.1 Universities now face a particular challenge knowing that education in particular is the most effective lever to strengthen society’s ability as a whole to cope with change.

2.2. University education must not be measured solely by criteria such as utility, applicability, efficiency or current trends. Knowledge must also be shared at universities for the sake of knowledge.

2.3 Providing education – including university-level education – means preparing people for life in all of its social and professional dimensions. Students must develop a fundamental understanding of our world in a historical, political, ethical as well as academic and scientific context.

2.4 Education to live and work in a digital age must promote critical thinking, social intelligence, interdisciplinary communication skills, and creativity. This is the only way to develop true digital literacy instead of mere skills.


  1. The Educational System in a Democratic Society

Personal growth and creating meaning by acquiring knowledge and transferring professional skills are the cornerstones of democratic educational systems.

3.1 When complexity, contradiction, uncertainty and permanent change become dominant features of social life, education must enable people to deal constructively with the circumstances and phenomena.

3.2 If education (and politics) are primarily based on the irredeemable promise to create stability, clarity and certainty, this tends to lead to fear, frustration, loss of credibility, and aggression.

3.3 Complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, uncertainty and change must be recognized and tested as structuring options. The ability to think and act in this way is imperative and a precondition in order to lead a more meaningful life and responsibly take part in advancing and shaping society.

3.4 If intelligent machines take over existing jobs, meaning that new, completely different types of jobs will emerge in the future, then people must be educated to be employable in different ways. In the digital age, employability means concentrating in particular on areas in which people are generally better than intelligent machines.


  1. Transformation of the Labor Market

In the near future, many professions we are familiar with will cease to exist. New jobs and professions will emerge. Whether or not there will be enough new professions in time to compensate for disappearing jobs is uncertain. Employees in these new positions will face different workplace demands and people will turn to the educational system, as is the case today.

4.1 These yet-to-be undetermined and unspecified jobs and professions will require key skills that include being mentally flexible, thinking critically, social intelligence and creativity in the sense of thinking and acting in unusual contexts, productively handling vague situations, uncertainty and intuition, and questioning that what already exists.

4.2 Education to prepare for new types of jobs and professions includes: non-linear thinking, changing perspectives, creating interdisciplinary contexts, applying communication skills between disciplines, imagination, and intuition.

4.3 The universities are being called upon to take part in creating new jobs and professions by applying research and development and prepare for the demands of future job positions by offering new academic degree programs.


  1. Shaping Social Development Together

Social human coexistence and taking part in shaping social development together face great challenges under the conditions of the 21st century.

5.1 Major global challenges (climate crisis, the consequences of technological revolution, ageing societies, social inequality, rejecting existing labor markets, the erosion of democracy and human rights, etc.) can only be understood and solved by working across disciplines.

5.2 Monodisciplinary research approaches alone are usually insufficient. We must take a look at the corresponding inter-relationships and systemic effects.

5.3 Education – university-level education in particular – must teach the technological fundamentals and methods that are inherently changing the world so that people will be in a position to analyze the cross-disciplinary impact potential these technologies have. This is the only way they can practice their new jobs and have a say as citizens.


  1. Innovation Instead of Mere Invention

6.1 The history of civilization is a history of cultures driven by innovation.

6.2 Innovation results from research and development.

6.3 New approaches in education, research and innovation must do justice to the radical nature of social, technological and economic upheavals. Innovation cannot – and must not – be reduced to a business route.

6.4 Innovation is more than just inventions. Inventions only become innovations through social, economic and cultural contextualization.

6.5 In order for innovation to impact major global challenges, we not only need outstanding experts in key scientific disciplines, but also people who have interdisciplinary communication skills, the ability to deal productively with non-linearity, vagueness, a change of perspective, abstraction, imagination, and intuition.

6.6 Innovation under rapidly advancing, profound, and interconnected technological, social and climatic change processes requires a synergetic application of scientific and artistic methods.

6.7 The subject of a good life for future generations cannot be answered by technological advancement alone.


  1. An Alliance between Art and Science

7.1 To be able to work on our social challenges, we need the alphabet of arts just as urgently as the alphabet of sciences. Reason and passion are equally necessary in order to support social progress and advancements.

7.2 The complex and potentially crisis-ridden challenges of our times can only be mastered in a creative environment; a type of ‘fermentation chamber’ if you like, for radical innovation. This requires a close alliance between art and science. At the same time, we must take into account the specific importance and the impact of science and art in their respective domains.

7.3 In order to make an impact during the 21st century and keep current, art and science must engage with each other. Scientific methods and key skills must be extended to include artistic ones and vice versa. We need to develop a common language, a basis for understanding, an openness towards vis-à-vis methods, and respect for one another.

7.4  A project-related and institutional innovation-alliance between art and science is the order of the day. Bearing this in mind, the University of Applied Arts and the Johannes Kepler University have formed this kind of an alliance to bring something new into the world together and transfer university education through dialogue.

Gerald Bast (University of Applied Arts Vienna) / Meinhard Lukas (Johannes Kepler University Linz)