Brussels, 15 December 2004
OPINION of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission: Science and technology, the key to Europe's future - Guidelines for future European Union policy to support research COM(2004) 353 final
Full text of Opinion in MS Word file on ESC website
Summary The Committee emphasises that research and development are vital for European competitiveness, and consequently also for the Lisbon objectives. The Committee therefore supports the objectives and measures put forward in the Commission's Communication. This particularly applies to the 3% objective, as well as the twofold increase in the EU budget for R&D (through the Framework Programme and EURATOM) which has been proposed as a means of achieving it. The Committee calls on the Council and the Parliament to act on this proposal; in addition, government spending and private investment in research and development (in Europe) should be increased accordingly. The Committee points out that the 3% objective is in line with current spending by competitors, and in future will have to be revised to keep up with growth trends, e.g. in the USA and South-East Asia. The Committee supports the Commission's plan to fully realise the potential of an enlarged Europe, and also to reflect the transitional situation in the new Member States, by devoting some of the resources from the Structural Funds to building up research capacity and research infrastructures. In addition, the Committee recommends using the European Investment Fund for this purpose. The Committee supports the Commission's intention to improve practical implementation of the programme and to streamline implementation procedures. It therefore recommends simplifying instruments and making them more flexible, while maintaining continuity. Applicants must be able to adapt instruments so that the structure and scale of projects are suited to the relevant tasks. The same applies to setting up -technology platforms-. The Committee endorses the Marimon Report. The Committee recommends closer involvement of relevant SMEs than hitherto in research, development and innovation. In this connection, it refers to the SBIR programme in the United States. The Committee also recommends closer coordination of policies in the fields of enterprise and research, in order to develop and fully realise the potential of SMEs and new start-ups for stimulating innovation and economic growth. The Commission supports the Commission's plan to adopt research into space and security as new thematic priorities, and it explains why these should be financed and run separately from the Framework Programme. The Committee supports the Commission's plans for basic research as such to be covered by the Framework Programme and to be stimulated through European competition, and it is in favour of setting up an independent European Research Council. The Committee emphasises that the interplay between the categories of basic research, applied research and development is of vital importance, and that therefore a balance should be struck in providing support for each one. The Committee supports the Commission's plans to enhance the attractiveness of Europe for top scientists and to persuade talented young people to take up scientific careers, while providing support for such careers. This will require action by all concerned, and by Member States in particular. For many other key arguments, recommendations and criticisms, the Committee refers to the detailed comments in Sections 3 and 4.