Edward Astle, Pro Rector of Imperial College London, presents the statement on behalf of the Board:
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The top issue in Brussels right now is the fight over the European Union’s budget – and one of the casualties could be EU funding for research and innovation.
The Science|Business Innovation Board, an industry-university not-for-profit association, urges EU leaders to support the R&D budget line. If your company or university would like to add its signature to this statement, please email [email protected].
Herman Van Rompuy
President, European Council
Rue de la Loi 175
B-1048 Brussels, Belgium
Re: Support for research and innovation in Europe
Dear Mr. President,
Critical budget choices lie ahead for European leaders. We urge that, in the months ahead, the Council sustain the vital role of European Union research and innovation spending, as a matter of economic, societal and scientific necessity.
The economic evidence in support of public R&D spending is extensive. An OECD analysis found that a 1% increase in private R&D spending boosts productivity in the economy by 0.13% - but public spending was even more beneficial, yielding a 0.17% increase. A Stanford University study, in the pharmaceutical industry, found a 1% increase in public basic research yields a 2% to 2.4% increase in the number of commercially available new compounds.
We could cite many more studies, but we all have direct experience, as well. The Internet began with an early US government investment in academic networking, and the World Wide Web was an unanticipated spin-out from European public investment in the CERN high-energy physics lab. In renewable energy, no sector would have developed without years of sustained public support; and Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy will be impossible without even more public support. In healthcare, the greatest advances in antibiotic, vaccine, DNA and cell therapy technologies have all come from publicly funded research. Of course, without the concomitant support of private investment, none of these technologies would have made it to the market or clinic to create jobs, improve health, or raise the quality of life for all; but the true technological breakthroughs came at publicly funded universities or research institutes.
Now, of course, we face hard times. Private R&D funding is cyclical; that makes it more important than ever that the public sector maintain its steady support. Of course, public R&D funding is not an economic quick fix; true breakthroughs take years to matter to our lives. But it is a vital, long-term investment in our collective future. In coming years, Europe’s prosperity, competitiveness and social cohesion will depend far more on its intellectual capital than on any other form of wealth; to starve its education, research or innovation base now will set back Europe’s global competitiveness by years.
In Horizon 2020, the European Commission has proposed many improvements – most notably, setting ‘excellence’ as the top criterion for funding decisions. It has also placed renewed emphasis on encouraging good working partnerships between academia and industry. We have already seen, with the five-year-old European Research Council, how quickly and effectively Europe can mobilise great minds when it provides the money, leadership and emphasis on excellence. We urge you and Europe’s other leaders to strongly support the European research and innovation enterprise, and in particular the €80 billion proposal for Horizon 2020.
The Science|Business Innovation Board