The Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) will receive start-up funding of €3 million and will report to the EU's commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth.
The EIT headquarters in Budapest is expected to be fully up and running by April 2010, but the KICs will be autonomous and will be run "like a business", according to the Institute's chairman, Martin Schuurmans.
He said the new clusters would be results-driven and their impact will be measured back on concrete outputs. Schuurmans said the winning bids were chosen based on excellence and the promise of strong independent leadership.
Entrepreneurship will be key to their success, he added. "The KICs will be like small companies, they'll do their own thing. We will give help and advice but they have their own leadership and they'll stand on their own two feet," Schuurmans told a media briefing in Budapest.
A total of 20 proposals were received by consortia bidding to become one of the first KICs, and the final three were selected from a short-list of six.
Odile Quintin, the top civil servant at the EU executive's education directorate, said the KICs would deliver clear products and would be more focused on outcomes than previous efforts to build networks of researchers.
The new groups, she said, would be much more than a forum for discussion or information exchange. "KICs should deliver," said Quintin.
The KICs will receive 25% funding from the EIT and are expected to be self-sustaining in the medium term. They will be free to attract financial support from private sources, national funding agencies and EU research programmes.
Innovation geared towards societal challenges
Leaders of three winning consortia said the focus would be on solving the major issues facing modern European society, including those which have been hotly debated this week in Copenhagen.
The Climate-KIC will look at water and land use, as well as greening Europe's cities and improving climate forecasting systems. Its aim is to become "the natural place" for companies to locate climate R&D centres and to become a magnet for top students of climate change.
It will have centres in London, Zürich, Berlin, Paris and Randstad.
The so-called 'InnoEnergy' consortium is expected to focus on sustainable energy and will have bases in Karlsruhe, Grenoble, Eindhoven/Leuven, Barcelona, Stockholm and Krakow. The Polish centre is the only one to be located in Eastern Europe.
The final KIC will focus on information and communications technology and links together existing clusters in Berlin, Eindhoven, Helsinki, Paris and Stockholm.
The EIT signed seven-year contracts with the KICs this week (16 December) but these may be renewed for a further seven-year term.
The EU executive said the EIT is designed to become a role model for boosting innovation in Europe and contributes to the goals of the future EU 2020 strategy.
As the KICs were unveiled, the curtain was coming down on the 2009 Euroepan Year of Creativity and Innovation (EYCI) which concluded at an official closing cermony in Stockholm.
2009 has seen a major focus on innovation policy in Europe, ending with the publication of an innovation manifesto (EurActiv 10/11/09) and the appointment of Europe's first Commissioner for Innovation (EurActiv 30/11/09).