Erkki Liikanen: "Life Sciences and Biotechnology - a strategy for Europe", European Parliament Plenary Session Strasbourg, 20th November 2002

November 22, 2002

Strasbourg, 20 th November 2002

I would like to thank the Rapporteur, Mrs. Damião for a report that voices strong and clear support for the responsible development of life sciences and biotechnology in Europe. It is also very welcome that the report has been produced on the basis of broad political agreement.

Your report today marks a very important step: Biotechnology is the next wave of the knowledge-based economy and biotechnology research is crucial for strengthening European competitiveness in this field.

There is a growing realisation among Europeans that this technology is important for our future competitiveness and welfare. A consensus is emerging on how we might strengthen its development, in a manner consistent with our European values and ethical standards. We are faced with a policy choice: either stand aside and see these technologies developed elsewhere, or to exploit them ourselves in a responsible manner and to the benefit of European citizens.

As made clear by the report that Mr. Purvis submitted to the Parliament last year, biotechnology is an enabling technology. It affects, or can even transform broad areas such as healthcare, environmental protection, agriculture and food and industrial production processes.

It can be a source of innovation for new and established companies alike, and offer unique approaches to finally solve problems, for example in health care and novel pharmaceuticals. Europe cannot afford to miss out on the benefits biotechnology will bring.

Members of the Commission under the leadership of President. Prodi have worked together to provide a strategy that encompasses all the various applications of biotechnology, but also tries to enable us to come up with coherent answers to the more difficult questions and choices we are faced with.

The Commission's Communication on "Life Sciences and Biotechnology: a strategy for Europe" builds upon the common knowledge base in the Life Sciences and will lead to the kind of skillsbased jobs that sustain the economies of the future. We propose a number of actions for the promotion of biotechnology development in Europe, and at the same time, further measures for responsible governance, to ensure that this development takes place in accordance with our societal values and needs.

The 6 th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development under the leadership of Commissioner Busquin will provide substantial support for the supply of skilled resources and for overcoming fragmentation of research and lack of critical mass.

We need to ensure that research results can be protected by means of harmonised intellectual property protection and translated into commercial products and processes through effective innovation and technology transfer.

The strategy also stresses the need to overcome the previous fragmentation in the commercial development of biotechnology in Europe and several actions will contribute to linking up researchers, emerging companies, service providers and financial institutions. The present downturn of capital markets and lack of risk capital needs particular and urgent attention.

The success of the biotechnology strategy will only be assured if the technology is built on a basis of societal trust. It is vital that developments and in particular public policy-making takes place with a maximum of transparency. We need to encourage public dialogue throughout Europe to ensure that societal goals are met and public concerns are addressed.

The strategy pursues the overarching goal to enhance coherence between policies at the different levels. In this way, we can give proper broad consideration to policy decisions that have an impact on our competitiveness and the future prosperity of our societies.

The Commission has already started implementing measures in its own areas of responsibility. We will shortly publish the first regular report on the status of implementation work of the action plan.

However, this strategy will only work if we all - European institutions, Member States, regions, industry, academia and civil society alike- now make commitments according to our respective responsibilities and resources.

The adoption of the Parliament's report and the forthcoming Council conclusions will provide the essential political backing for the effective implementation of the strategy at the European level.

DN: SPEECH/02/580 Date: 21/11/2002

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