Busquin urges action before R&D spending gap with US becomes a gulf

December 11, 2002

Brussels, 10 Dec 2002

Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has said that the under investment in Europe's private sector research and development (R&D) is the fault of policy makers, and that without urgent action, the current funding gap, when compared with the US, will fast become a 'daunting gulf'.

The Commissioner delivered his speech, entitled 'the European Union and the research and development gap', at the innovation lecture 2002 in The Hague on 9 December. He sought to highlight key areas of concern in Europe, and clarify the way in which the Commission is addressing the problem.

'[The} lack of investment is not the fault of companies. It is our fault as policy makers, for not making the European Research Area attractive enough for companies.' Mr Busquin said. 'European governments must be aware that, if they don't react, the current gap will soon become a daunting gulf.'

Mr Busquin pointed out that the largest European companies continue to invest in R&D in order to remain competitive; but that currently this means that 'they simply invest in the best countries outside Europe.' A recent survey suggests that forty per cent of such companies' research investment is made abroad, and that this proportion is likely to grow.

The Commissioner feels that progress will only be made if Member States are committed to building the European Research Area: 'Member States cannot continue to agree to build the European research area in principle, but in practice discourage European partnerships with outdated rules of funding.' To attract the world's best researchers to Europe, said Mr Busquin, will require 'visibility, good planning and good cooperation to bring closer the resources that are currently scattered in Europe'.

He accepted the presence of a certain degree of tension between the economic and social goals of the Lisbon strategy, and said that one might be tempted to mimic the flexible labour market that contributes so much to American entrepreneurship. But Mr Busquin rejected the approach, and welcomed what he described as 'creative tension' between the two objectives.

'I believe that there is no contradiction between 'becoming the most dynamic knowledge-based economy' and creating 'sustainable growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion,' the Commissioner said.

The key to success, according to Mr Busquin, is a change in attitude. He called on attendees at the innovation lecture to 'work on changing the attitudes of policy makers in some of the less European-minded of our Member States.' Finally, he demanded a change in the kinds of attitudes that allow 'aberrations', such as the high cost of patents in Europe, to persist.

To read the full text of Mr Busquin's speech, please click here

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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