Brussels, 26 Feb 2003
The European Commission cannot work alone in developing initiatives to increase spending in research and innovation in Europe, commented the EU Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin, during a lunchtime debate on the European Research Area (ERA) on 24 February.
Speaking at the 'Belgian royal institute for the elites of labour', Mr Busquin said that the only foreseeable way of increasing expenditure in these areas is through a greater collective effort by the public and private sector, as well as decision makers at European, national, regional and local levels, as stipulated by the Lisbon Strategy.
'Strong political will is necessary from all the Member States: It is already visible in the business sector and similarly, I think it is prevalent in the policies of the Prodi Commission.'
The Commissioner used the opportunity to give a broad preliminary outline of an action plan to be submitted following the European Spring Council, within which he calls for the adaptation and consolidation of different instruments of European funding, in order to better contribute to European research integration.
Along with the funding provided by the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the re-examination of the structural funds should reinforce European support for research and innovation activities in underdeveloped regions, claimed Mr Busquin.
The Commissioner added that the European Investment Bank's (EIB) current reassessment of how to follow on from the successful 'Innovation 2000' (i2i) scheme would also prove beneficial for research and innovation.
However, despite the financial support at European level, Mr Busquin insisted that it was at national level that untapped potential remains: 'National programmes account for 80 per cent of public funding in Europe. In an increasingly integrated ERA, it is in our mutual interest to allow national programmes to finance partnerships, including groups from other Member States.'
'We need to develop the public sector so that it can support research and innovation. There is a considerable amount of funding available in this area, amounting to 14 per cent of Europe's gross domestic product (GDP) [...]. Security and defence are areas in which the public sector can encourage research and innovation,' urged the Commissioner.
Mr Busquin noted that coordinating the legal instruments for research and innovation is also crucial to increasing funding. In particular, the Commissioner highlighted the need for more precise explanations about how certain public spending can contribute to future growth within the context to the stability and growth pact.
Similarly, 'State aid must be reoriented towards horizontal objectives like those of research and development (R&D). DG research and competition are working closely together to [....] improve considerably the framework of technology transfer.'
According to Mr Busquin, a speedy adoption of the Community patent as well as tackling the regulatory obstacles impeding the development of scientific products would also ensure a more favourable environment for research and innovation.
Finally, Mr Busquin concluded by saying that it was up to the European Council and Member States to respond to the issues evoked in the action plan, which is due for submission after the European Spring Council.