Brussels, 14 Nov 2002
'Corner your representatives at the Convention, put pressure on them,' said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin on 13 November. He made the plea with the aim of seeing scientific progress awarded more importance in the treaty being drawn up by the Convention.
The Commissioner was speaking at the closing session of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) launch conference. Joining him in a round table were a number of high level politicians and researchers, who looked beyond FP6 to the challenges ahead.
'Beyond FP6 we need a strategic vision incorporating all the players,' said French Minister for Research, Claudie Haigneré. 'We need to get rid of the ambivalent attitude towards progress. I hope we can all face up to this challenge, not just for the future of research, but for the future of Europe.'
The draft treaty drawn up by head of the European Convention, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, already contains a line encouraging scientific progress. 'But this is not sufficient,' said Chair of EURAB, the European research advisory board, Helga Nowotny.
The treaty needs to make research part of our European identity and to include clauses on knowledge production and the knowledge society, said Professor Nowotny, 'otherwise we will miss an opportunity, as conventions are not re-written very frequently!'.
Looking beyond FP6, Professor Nowotny said that Europe has three pillars which need to be intertwined: new discovery and knowledge production, innovation, and education 'in the widest sense of the word'.
Innovation was also highlighted as a priority by EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen. He put some of the responsibility with national governments to encourage innovation, and said that they should do this by creating open and competitive markets, establishing a Community patent ('the slow progress on which is highly regrettable'), encouraging entrepreneurship and cooperation between research and industry through clustering, and through encouraging participation in the Framework Programmes.
President and CEO of Italy's Bracco Group, Diana Bracco, called for the establishment of a technology foresight programme so as to make national technology systems consistent and coherent. Ms Bracco's priorities for the future are scientific excellence, consideration of ethical questions and global competition. She called on the EU to select one priority for the future, saying that 'if Europe could choose one issue, we would be more effective in achieving results.'
A significant number of changes have already been made between the Fifth and the Sixth Framework Programmes. French MEP and rapporteur for the Sixth Framework Programme Gérard Caudron, emphasised this point, joking that 'FP6 has now more or less lost its number six!' The Parliament has, however, ensured that everyone's needs are catered for, he added. Looking ahead to FP7, Mr Caudron requested that sufficient funds are made available to get ITER, the international experimental fusion reactor project, up and running.
Referring to the target, agreed by the European Council, of spending three per cent of GDP on research by 2010, Belgian Minister of Research Charles Picqué was realistic. 'Despite the fact that we have given our commitment, scientific research is going to remain vulnerable when priorities are set,' said the minister. 'We often have ambitious ideas for the future, but are sometimes unable to agree on them,' he said.
The conference attracted over 8,500 participants, making it the largest ever Commission conference. With participants representing 65 countries and all five continents, Mr Busquin's description of the event as a 'mini European Research Area village' was very apt.
'I always said the Framework Programme was just a tool,' said the Commissioner, referring the end goal of creating a European Research Area. 'This is just the start. FP6 must contribute to keeping the dynamic going.'
'It is our responsibility to built the European Research Area,' said Claudie Haigneré. The work ahead was also highlighted by Helga Nowotny, who claimed that 'we have come a long way, ERA is out there but it still needs to take a more concrete shape.'
For further information on the conference, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/conferences/2002/index_en.html
CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001