Brussels, 25 Nov 2003
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has welcomed the Commission's action plan on investing in research, but has emphasised the need to support basic research, and to differentiate between research funding and Structural Funds.
The CoR report, prepared by Swedish member Lars Nordström, claims that 'companies can only invest in research if there is a prospect of sustainable results.' It takes a long time for basic research to produce competitive products and services, and the CoR would therefore like to see an increase in EU support for these areas.
While the institution welcomes the Commission's proposal to use the Structural Funds to remove regional imbalances in research and innovation, infrastructure and training, the opinion emphasises that these funds must be distinguished from measures to promote research. Whereas 'support for research must be contingent on scientific excellence,' states the opinion, 'Structural Funds support is needed to achieve synergies.'
The CoR also places a strong emphasis on support for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The opinion calls for increased scope for SME participation in public procurement, which could be achieved, suggests the CoR, by establishing sector-based research networks involving a large number of SMEs.
The opinion also raises the issue of risk capital for research intensive SMEs, calling for it to be addressed in connection with negotiations on Member States' employment action plans, as well as in talks on the next generation of Structural Funds.
One area where the CoR's opinion differs from that of the Commission is State aid. The CoR rejects the proposal that the current Community framework for State aid to research and development should be extended until 2005, claiming that 'the current framework is not an appropriate way to improve the climate for scientific innovation, particularly as regards SMEs.' To see the Commission's communication on which the CoR is based, please click here
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