Brussels, 13 November 2002
European business leaders today added their voices to calls for increased research efforts to strengthen EU competitiveness, economic growth and employment. The call came during a panel discussion in the framework of the "Research 2002" conference in Brussels organised by the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations in Europe (UNICE) on "Challenges for lifting European R&D expenditure from 1.9% to 3% of GDP". The 3% objective was set by the March 2002 Barcelona European Council. The panel featured EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, UNICE President Georges Jacobs; Michel Deleau, Director at the European Investment Bank (EIB); Daniel Janssen, Chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) Competitiveness Working Group; Fred von Dewall Chief Economist of the ING Group; and Yannis Tzavaras, General Manager of new ventures at Intracom.
Commissioner Busquin stressed that: "Industrial research is increasingly taking on a European and even global dimension. Fragmented initiatives, isolated national research systems and disparities between legal and administrative systems are taking their toll on R&D investment. To revamp European research and achieve the critical mass required in cutting-edge sectors, it is vital to open-up national R&D systems, and integrate and streamline the research effort to foster the creation of the European Research Area. The 3% objective and the European Research Area are both central to restoring confidence in the knowledge-based economy and to boosting growth based on more and better R&D initiatives".
"The 3% objective will only be achieved if Europe radically improves European centres of excellence, skills and education, builds a more supportive regulatory environment for R&D and innovation, a coherent approach across EU policies, and a strong and vibrant public research sector" summarised UNICE President Georges Jacobs. "Cross-sector policies such as education and regional policies have major implications for R&D investment, which have to be assessed ", he concluded.
The Commission Communication "More Research for Europe Towards 3% of GDP", published on 11 September 2002, takes stock of progress in meeting the Barcelona objective and signals growing support for increasing R&D investment. Two thirds of this investment should come from the business sector. Investment will enhance European innovation, provide a strong research base and new knowledge to respond to Europe's social, health and environmental needs. It will also ensure long-term prospects for growth and employment in the Union. Europe faces an important challenge; it needs to become more attractive for business R&D investment and innovation.
Extensive reconsideration of how to promote R&D and innovation is desperately needed, the panel concluded. It stressed that Europe needs to change its current policies and practices to achieve this target.
Participants explained that a coherent European approach should help co-ordinate R&D policies of the 15 EU Member States. Yet this is not enough. R&D policy also needs to be consistent with other policies such as competition, the environment and education.
EIB Director Michel Deleau said "The European Investment Bank has made R&D the centre-piece of its ongoing "Innovation Initiative", which is bound to remain a key objective for EIB lending in the years to come. A particular focus will be on supporting private R&D, by small as well as large companies, and on fine-tuning its financial instruments to the needs of the research sector. The European Investment Fund, an EIB affiliate, will continue to support universities and research centres in the creation of investment funds and new tools, and in the provision of consulting services. In doing so, it aims to reinforce research and bridge the gap between research and product development."
Daniel Janssen concluded: "Achieving the 3% target is crucial to securing the major improvements needed to strengthen EU competitiveness, economic growth and employment. However, the 3% objective would become unrealistic if the dramatic reappraisal it implies cannot be rapidly achieved all over Europe."
For further information:
Commission Communication "More Research for Europe: towards 3% of GDP"
DN: IP/02/1663 Date: 13/11/2002
DN: IP/02/1663 Date: 13/11/2002