General Information

Economic background of the LLLight’in’Europe project

Among all Europeans between 24 and 65 years old who had a tertiary educational degree in 2010, 82.8% were working. In the same age group, 68.3% who completed secondary schooling were working. Only 46% of those who did not complete secondary schooling were working. It is apparent that if Europe wants to be working, higher education is the necessary foundation for being competitive in the labour market. 


Since this is not only true for generations of future workers currently in school, but equally so for those who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s today, Lifelong Learning must be essential to continued employability, from an individual and economy wide point of view.


Lifelong Learning is important for businesses too. Facing increasingly volatile environments, quick technological change and fierce national and global competition, companies today more than ever depend on an educated and creative workforce to achieve success. As employees across developed countries work longer due to the increase in retirement age, and as young, skilled workers are increasingly hard to find because of demographic change, supplying high-quality Lifelong Learning opportunities is crucial for companies to ensure the optimal productivity of their ageing workforce. Furthermore, as the competition for talent intensifies and employee mobility continues to increase, Lifelong Learning offerings become more and more important in determining a company’s ability to attract and retain talented employees.

The challenge

Given the importance of Lifelong Learning, individuals, companies and governments across the world seek to invest in it. The cumulative investment necessary to generate higher education degrees alone for adults over the next two decades across Europe may be 3.5 trillion euros, or 1.4% of the European GDP per year. Even higher investments will be required in non-formal and informal Lifelong Learning to take place across an employee’s working life.


Despite the undisputed need for this investment, research to date has generated little actionable evidence on how human capital is created through Lifelong Learning activities by individuals, companies and public bodies across Europe. We consequently have little evidence to guide investments in Lifelong Learning.


The European Commission has therefore granted the LLLight’in’Europe project four years and 25 researchers to investigate the following urgent questions: 


1.How do successful enterprises actively employ Lifelong Learning for their competitive advantage?


2.Which public policy environments facilitate Lifelong Learning for such enterprises and entrepreneurs?


3.How does Lifelong Learning interact with and promote innovativeness on the enterprise level?


4.How much of which skills do European adults actually have?


5.What are the actual learning mechanisms in adult life that lead to these skills?


6.What are the causal effects of these skills on growth, competitiveness and social cohesion?


The LLLight’in’Europe project is part of the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), an initiative supporting high-impact projects crucial for “responding to Europe‘s needs in terms of jobs and competitiveness, and to maintain leadership in the global knowledge economy”.  The project is a cooperation of nine European and international research institutions, and is furthermore supported by the OECD and Cedefop. It will run from January 2012 until September 2016.

Adopting a new approach

As part of the project, a new and innovative approach to measuring human capital will be employed. Traditional measures of human capital, including for example years of education, numeracy and literacy, focus on skills obtained mostly through formal education at early stages of life, and pay little attention to the applicability of human capital in daily and working life. These measures can therefore make few meaningful predictions about how human capital is created and maintained through Lifelong Learning at later stages of life, especially at work, and what the social and economic impact of the human capital thus created might be.


To address these issues, the LLLight’in’Europe project uses Complex Problem Solving skills (CPS) as a measure of human capital. CPS refers to an individual’s ability to solve complex and quickly changing problems. It is not only a valuable skill in itself, as it helps individuals to solve problems commonly encountered in daily life and at work, but it is also a foundation skill for the acquisition of further skills, especially high-value job specific skills. These are economically and socially important as they result in job security and high salaries for individuals, high performance and competitive advantage for companies, and overall competitiveness and low unemployment levels for economies.


Beyond establishing the importance of CPS skills, research also indicates that this skill is trainable across life. The LLLight’in’Europe project aims to develop recommendations for individuals, companies and economies on how to best invest their Lifelong Learning resources to maximize individual and collective economic and social well-being.


To develop a sound understanding of the level CPS skills possessed by adults across and outside of Europe, and to grasp how these skills were developed through Lifelong Learning, the LLLight’in’Europe project embarks on an extensive series of CPS assessments. Over the course of four years, the CPS abilities of a total of 4150 individuals will be recoded. Of these, 3850 will be employees from 50 successful companies, sampled from across 5-6 highly competitive industries in15 EU countries and 4 EU competitors. The remaining 300 will be entrepreneurs from across the EU.

Outcomes and publications

All results and recommendations of the LLLight’in’Europe project will be published in our “Publication Suite”, consisting of a synthesis report, 21 policy reports, 7 thematic reports, and corresponding videos. The entire publication suite will be available on the LLLightineurope website for download and also via other multiplication levels. The expected publication time is June 2015.

Further information and contact

Further information on the LLLight’in’Europe project is available across the different sections of this website.


If you are a company or entrepreneur interested in collaborating with the project, please visit especially our section on “Information for participating companies”. If you are an individual wishing to participate in the LLLight’in’Europe project, please visit especially our “Information for participating individuals”.


Should you have further queries, please contact us on info(at)