Back basic science with cash, research elite tell EU

The League of European Research Universities has repeated its call for the European Union to make substantial long-term investments in basic research.

January 28, 2011

The alliance of 22 prominent European research-intensive universities, including the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, has made the call in a statement set to be published in a number of European newspapers ahead of a meeting of European leaders on 4 February, where research and innovation policy will be discussed.

The statement describes research as “quite simply the foundation for Europe’s future competitiveness”, and says the focus of universities on basic science “lays the foundation for discovery and innovation”.

Their laboratories “develop the human capital that businesses need for success”, it adds.

Citing several famous examples, they warn that innovation is “not a linear progression of basic science into new products” and requires “patience, persistence and investment”.

They also warn that “the world is not waiting for us”, citing the “soaring” investment of China in science.

“It should be clear to the EU and the member states that basic research, focusing on excellence, needs continued and increased support,” the statement reads.

In recommendations published last summer, Leru called for the EU’s next Framework Programme for Research to make a significant increase in investment in research via the “frontier science” funder, the European Research Council.

The ERC was set up at the beginning of the current Framework Programme in 2007. Unlike the UK research councils, it makes no assessment of the likely impact of the projects it funds. The Eighth Framework Programme will run from 2013 to 2020.

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