23 Sep 2008   |   News

Unravelling the labyrinth: Commission sets out common strategy for R&D

Rather than duplicate efforts, member states should identify priority areas where Europe can compete globally, says the Commission.

Janez Potočnik: too many “governmental actors”

The European Commission has set out its strategy for the coordination and integration of national R&D policy and investment, to promote the formation of the single European Research Area (ERA) and “Put Europe high on the global map of science and technology”.

Rather than duplicating efforts by formulating R&D policy at a national level, member states should identify priority areas where Europe can compete globally, put in place single, coherent programmes and work together to make more impact. The Commission calls on public authorities, research funding agencies, public and private research institutions and universities to cooperate across national borders to achieve this.

In particular, the Commission wants a joint effort to increase Europe’s standing in information and communication technologies, and also to strengthen cooperation with countries outside Europe.

Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Science and Research and the driving force behind ERA, said, “Our international partners are attracted by Europe as a model of regional integration, but they are faced with a multitude of governmental actors, research priorities when they want to engage in concrete cooperation.”

“The aim of our strategic framework is […] to transform Europe’s research labyrinth into a European Research Area open to the world, attracting the best brains and contributing to address global challenges.”

The strategy outlines the core principles it wants to see underpinning European cooperation with the rest of the world, and proposes specific approaches to strengthen the wider international dimension of ERA by fostering strategic research programmes with key third countries.

It seeks also to oil the wheels of international cooperation in science and technology through measures such as the joint development of global large-scale research infrastructures, increasing the mobility of researchers and improving intellectual property rules.

This framework for international cooperation is one of five policy initiatives planned by the Commission as a follow-up to last year’s Green Paper “The European Research Area: New Perspectives”.

In many ways the role model is the Commission’s own R&D initiative, Framework Programme Seven (FP7), which includes several new measures to encourage international cooperation between industry and academe, and is open for countries beyond the EU to participate. While FP7 represents only 5 per cent of Europe’s total R&D spending, the Commission believes its pan-European approach highlights the synergies that are possible when resources are pooled.

The new strategy is intended also to contribute to another of Potocnik’s goals – the creation of the Fifth Freedom, by which he means the free circulation of knowledge and researchers across the continent.

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