Combating The Brain Drain: Commission devotes 1,580 billion Euro to Human Resources in Science

July 3, 2002

Brussels, 2 July 2002

The European Commission will allocate € 1,580 billion to help combat the brain drain of scientists from the EU to other parts of the world an increase of almost 50% on the previous research programme. This amount, repr e sents almost 10 % of the available budget.. The European brain drain is difficult to measure, but it is a reality. Many of the best European researchers seem keen to move els e where, particularly to the United States. This loss of human and intellectual wealth robs European science of valuable resources. Higher salaries and better facilities outside the EU encourage researchers to extend their stay abroad beyond their normal training period, and, consequently, to carry out the most profitable part of their work in other parts of the world. Within its Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6), the Commission is boosting the share of funds available for human resources by 50% up from €1.1bn to €1.58bn . This is the strongest single increase among all research priorities from the Fifth to the Sixth FP. "This investment will be implemented inter alia through the e x pansion of return and reintegration financial schemes for researchers " said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "We will also focus on the creation of a European network of customised assistance centres for r e searchers; on the improvement of Internet-based information services; and on the transfer of knowledge towards the less developed regions of the Union and the Candidate Countries ". Other Commission initiatives to co m bat the brain drain deal with the removal of legal and administrative obst a cles to the mobility of researchers (as regards for instance entry cond i tions, social security, recognition of diplomas etc.), and the co-ordination of national policies in the research area.

A co-ordinated approach at European level

To confront this situation, it is essential to better structure research systems, in order to make them more open and less fragmented, and, above all, to increase the attractiveness of researchers' careers.

The European Commission has responded to this challenge by launching the idea of a European Research Area (ERA), together with the take off of its operational instrument the Sixth Framework Programme and the commitment made by Member States at the Barcelona European Council in March 2002, to devote 3% of GDP to research by 2010 (two-thirds of which will originate from the private sector). At present this proportion represents a mere 1,9 % in the EU, in comparison to 2,6 % in the US and 2,9 % in Japan.

The ERA is based on well defined objectives, namely a better co-ordination of research policies; the elimination of the fragmentation which presently characterises research teams and infrastructures; the stimulation of mobility schemes; and the opening up of systems which are presently uncoordinated both in geographic and thematic terms.

Enhancing mobility represents a strong political support to the overall improvement of the image of researchers at European level, particularly as regards the promotion of researcher careers, that need to be better articulated through a wide variety of support schemes, ranging from initial training to lifelong learning opportunities. These developments will enhance in turn the professional and social recognition of researchers as well as their independence.

Through its Communication "A Mobility Strategy for the European Research Area", adopted in June 2001, the Commission has already launched a series of practical initiatives that address some of the most urgent problems such as information gaps on mobility opportunities and practical assistance to researchers, or the removal of legal and administrative obstacles.

In this respect, the Commission aims at creating in 2002 an internet portal on mobility opportunities and job vacancies, as well as a network of mobility centres aimed at providing personalised assistance to researchers and their families. In the legal and administrative areas, the responsibility of which remains mainly in the hands of EU Member States, the Commission will develop a series of co-ordinated initiatives, aimed at improving the convergence of national policies and at addressing the specific problems encountered by researchers in terms of mobility and career development.

The European Research Area will be implemented through the instruments and financial means provided by the Sixth Framework Programme, which, based on the experience of the previous programmes, proposes a variety of new tools such as Integrated projects and Networks of Excellence; a concentration on the thematic priorities where Europe is more advanced; as well as a significant increase of the financial means devoted to human capital, particularly articulated around the promotion of transnational and international mobility.

Proposed actions put a strong emphasis on initial training, for researchers at the early stage of their careers, either through trans-national research projects or through a more structured training carried out in a more academic environment. Another initiative deals with individual scholarships, which address complementary training needs for researchers who have already acquired a working experience. Other actions relate to the transfer of knowledge directed either towards the less-favoured regions of the Union or the candidate countries, involving both the academic and business sectors. An important novelty, finally, concerns instruments aimed at supporting the creation of research teams; at financing university chairs; and at promoting the return of researchers and their professional integration, as well as the opening up of all instruments to researchers from third countries.

The success of these initiatives cannot rely, however, solely on the Commission, but calls on other interested actors, and above all the Member States, in line with their commitment, taken at the Lisbon European Council, of making Europe, the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.

These challenges can only be met, therefore, if there is a strong commitment of all stakeholders in this field Member States, the European Union, universities, businesses and, of course, researchers themselves. It is this joint action which will provide European research with the required performance that will enhance the EU's attractiveness and reverse the present intellectual migration trend, by transforming the current brain drain into a future brain gain, and by enhancing brain circulation.

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DN: IP/02/970 Date: 02/07/2002

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