Commissioner Janez POTOCNIK: Accelerating Opportunities for Stronger Transatlantic Collaboration - Promoting innovation and competitiveness, a transatlantic dialogue

April 29, 2005

The Hague, 28 April 2005

Promoting innovation and competitiveness – a transatlantic dialogue
The Hague, 28 April 2005

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to address a few words to you during this two-day conference on the Transatlantic Dialogue on the Promotion of Innovation and Competitiveness.

Europe and America have a long history in common and the richness of our political and economic links is exceptional. It is therefore essential to reflect on possibilities for future cooperation in all fields of our relations, including the scientific and technological cooperation.

Europe has contributed much in the field of science over the centuries, and not just through the large-science facilities such as CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics near Geneva, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), or the European Space Agency. Europe produces a third of the world's scientific knowledge. It is in the forefront in areas such as medical research and chemistry. It has had notable technological successes in sectors such as aeronautics and telecommunications.

However, the overall picture is worrying and more must be done to maintain and fully employ and increase our science and technology potential. It is clear that when it comes to almost any measure of current scientific or technological output, the European Union is lagging behind.

To begin with, we invest a lower proportion of our Gross Domestic Product into research, although I must add that this is largely due to lower investment into research by industry; for education and publicly funded research, Europe and the US are almost at the same level.

We employ fewer researchers in proportion to the labour force; we produce fewer scientific publications per head of population; we file fewer patent applications; we raise less venture capital; we win fewer Nobel prizes.

This may be due to some extent also to the fact that the European model differs substantially from the American one. In America, most public funding for research is administered centrally through organisations such as the National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation, which enjoy correspondingly large budgets.

In Europe, on the other hand, the overwhelming majority of funding is at the country level, provided by national governments through their own equivalents to NIH and NSF. This is consistent with one of the fundamental principles of the EU: subsidiarity. Thus, in case of Europe, its diversity which should be a strength, has too often been a weakness. This is, of course, a global picture and there are considerable differences between Member States.

Since the early 1980s, the European Commission has been working to build the necessary bridges between researchers in different countries, to act as a catalyst which will help overcome the barriers that have tended to imprison researchers within the limits of their own countries.

Thus, in drawing up our EU Research Framework programmes, we are always looking to see what research needs to be conducted at a European level, what can sensibly be funded nationally, and what requires international or global cooperation.

But even if the funds at our disposal have never amounted to more than 5% of the European Union's total public spending on research, we have been able to co finance tens of thousands of research projects - working on a public-private partnership model - bringing together researchers and research teams from across Europe and beyond, and doing much to bridge the gap between industrial and academic research.

These projects have been instrumental in achieving some notable successes, such as sequencing a genome, developing the GSM standard for mobile telephony and many more.

We have also found that the partnerships forged in European projects stand the test of time. In addition to the achievement of short-term goals, these projects result in long-term cooperation between universities, small and medium-sized enterprises, research centres and industry, that would never have taken place otherwise.

We realise however that these efforts and these successes are still not enough if Europe is to play its proper role on the stage of world-class research. We must do even more to build up the European research community, to ensure that as much research as is beneficial is conducted at a European level and that there is adequate - indeed optimal - coordination of the research carried out by EU Member States.

That is why the Commission has proposed to focus on the re-launched Lisbon strategy on knowledge and innovation for growth. The 7th Framework Programme proposal is one of the key measures in delivering on our Lisbon ambition for sustainable growth and employment.

The FP7 proposal

It is organised in four main programmes, in addition to the JRC and the EURATOM programmes.

The first programme, called cooperation, aims at gaining European leadership in key areas of science and technology by encouraging our universities, our companies and the public sector across Europe to work together. Trans-national collaborative research will remain the core activity of the Framework Programme. It is organised in 9 priority themes, adding space and security to the 6th Framework Programme’ themes. Thanks to the work of technology platforms, it will focus more on industry needs, both through regular projects and networks as well as through larger joint technology initiatives. We propose for the first time a risk sharing facility to leverage EIB funding for R&D. The cooperation programme also introduces international cooperation as an integral part of the cooperation effort, the overarching aim being to contribute to sustainable development.

The second programme, called ideas, will reinforce the excellence of Europe’s knowledge base by funding frontier research carried out by individual teams, national or international, competing at European level. It will be carried out in the framework of an autonomous European Research Council under the governance of an assembly of renowned scientists working across disciplines. While the cooperation programme is about trans-national society-driven research cooperation, the ideas programme is about investigator-driven research exclusively based on excellence through competition.

The third programme, called people, will develop and strengthen the human potential of European research by supporting researchers’ careers and their mobility, within Europe and with the rest of the world, through Marie Curie fellowships and training networks.

The fourth programme, called capacities, aims at building the capacities that Europe needs to become a thriving knowledge society. This includes the design and construction of research infrastructures, research support for Small and Medium-sized companies, regional clustering through the “regions of knowledge” action and actions to help convergence regions

In the context of the Capacities programme, a strong emphasis has been put on the activities for science in society, because it is a strategic interest for the EU to mobilise society for science and to attract young people and women to scientific careers.

If we consider the high potential of these actions, their strong European added value, their positive impact for EU competitiveness on a sustainable basis, their leverage effect on public and private R&D investment towards the Barcelona 3% target, it becomes clear that doubling the R&D budget is not an option. It is a necessity. Doubling the R&D budget comes down to a question of credibility in delivering what is already agreed in principle through the renewed Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs.

Boosting European research and the knowledge economy also requires a global effort to improve the framework conditions for research and innovation. To this aim, the Commission will make efforts for revising the state aid regime, for introducing fiscal incentives for R&D, for guidelines on industry – academia collaboration, for valorising researchers’ careers, etc. At the same time, the Commission is mainstreaming the Lisbon agenda and the knowledge for growth dimension in all EU funding programmes, notably the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme and the structural funds.

Open to the world

'Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.'

It is in this spirit of these words by Louis Pasteur that the Commission is working to implement a Community Framework Programme that is open to the whole world, for our mutual benefit.

Quite naturally and logically the cooperation with the regions that are not yet part of the European Union is vital for a better integration of Europe as a whole.

For years we have conducted cooperative research projects with research teams from Central and Eastern Europe, from Mediterranean and developing countries financing their involvement in recognition of their limited means.

But we want to go further than this. We want to make Europe an attractive location for the rest of the world, too.

We plan to offer grants to attract the best scientists to European laboratories where a mutual exchange of experience and information can benefit both the host country and the country of origin and we expect to see Member States harmonising their regulations for visiting researchers and making it easier for them to get the necessary visas.

S&T Cooperation with the United States

Scientific co-operation between the United States and Europe goes back at least 150 years. Often, this has consisted of discoveries made in Europe being developed in the USA! But, more and more, we now see co-operation for mutual benefit. This is the objective of the agreement between the European Union and the United States on co-operation in science and technology which came into force in October 1998 and which has been renewed in 2004. And when it comes to research, studies have shown that America's strengths lie precisely in the areas of EU weakness - and vice versa - thus making co-operation extremely beneficial for both sides.

As there is no alternative to the globalisation for the industry and the companies, there is none for the international scientific cooperation. Most of the major scientific projects of today, such as the construction of the international space station and super particle accelerators, need international cooperation - and transatlantic cooperation in particular. The same is true when meeting the challenges of global climate change and emerging diseases. Transatlantic co-operation in research is therefore a vital necessity in this respect.

The Europe-USA agreement is not aimed at replacing the very extensive bilateral cooperation between individual Member States and the US, but rather at providing a complementary dimension.

The agreement has already resulted in scientific and technological exchanges in a number of fields including nanotechnology, materials, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, language engineering and man-machine interfaces, climate prediction, biotechnology, metrology, transport technologies and energy.

The agreement seeks to stimulate a much more active cooperation based on new initiatives: projects jointly supported by the EU's research programmes and leading US scientific and technological agencies, the creation of structures for the sharing of data and results, the exchange of scientists, etc. There is much to look forward to. In order to maintain the relevance and effectiveness of the EU’s S&T co-operation activities, a new integrated international co-operation strategy is called for, which should be built in close co-ordination with the Member States and via dialogue with our co-operation partners.

This is only possible in a public-private partnership in which the scientific communities of the US and Europe in particular must play a crucial role.

In light of the internationalisation of R&D, the inevitable rise of China, India etc., and the consequent reduction in the relative size of the EU’s contribution to the global knowledge system, one of the lines of such a new strategy could be to embark on major co-operation with emerging and industrialised economies in the area of research and innovation, involving both EU and national programmes.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Europe has to enter a new era of research and innovation driven by the political recognition of their importance for economic growth, employment and quality of life. Renewed Lisbon Agenda is about bringing R&D to the core of our attention.

A great deal of the political, regulatory and cultural infrastructure that has helped make America a leading force in science, and which you may take for granted, is only now being put in place in Europe - and much still remains to be done.

But we are resolved that Europe will live up to its potential, we are convinced that science, research, technological development and innovation are essential to this, and we are determined to do whatever is necessary to build a European knowledge based society open to the world.

Henry Ford once said, 'Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.'

Through the European Union, Europe has both come and kept together. Unquestionably, this is progress. Let us look forward to a future where America and Europe both reach their full potential, working together for the prosperity of our fellow countrymen and the good of mankind. That will indeed be success.

The challenges we are facing together can only be properly addressed through a competitive cooperation. Environmental sustainability, health protection, long term environmentally friendly energy supply, security are only some examples of this. We have no choice and even if we had one, we should only choose the obvious one: cooperation. Because of the responsibility we have for the future of the humanity.

Thank you for your attention.

Item source: SPEECH/05/262 Date: 28/04/2005

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