Brussels, 19 June 2002
Measurements and testing underpin economic activities, industrial processes and the functioning of society. They play a crucial part in ensuring the competitiveness of European companies, in supporting the development of international trade, and in guaranteeing the health and safety of European citizens.
Recognising their essential role in the knowledge economy, a conference Towards an Integrated Infrastructure for Measurements took place in Warsaw, Poland, on 18-19 June 2002. Organised by the European Commission, the conference brought together leading experts and policy makers to discuss how research can contribute to a better integration of the European infrastructure for measurements and testing in the perspective of the European Research Area.
Speakers included Philippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research, Michal Kleiber, Polish Minister of Science, Georges Charpak, 1992 Nobel Prize winner in physics, and Andrew Wallard, Director Designate of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. The event was an important occasion for leading experts from the EU and candidate countries to strengthen cooperation, exchange information and best practices, and learn about opportunities offered by the recently adopted 6th Framework Programme in that area.
“Measurement, testing and the definition of common standards, are essential elements in the establishment of a knowledge-based economy that the European Union is striving to build,” said Commissioner Busquin. "In this context, a powerful European metrology infrastructure is crucial to ensure the proper functioning of the European single market and to strengthen the competitive position of European enterprises in the global marketplace. Candidate countries can and must play a key role in the building of a measurement and testing infrastructure within the European Research Area. This will be important for them as well as for an enlarged Europe.”
BACKGROUND: THE IMPORTANCE OF AN INTEGRATED MEASUREMENTS AND TESTING INFRASTRUCTURE IN EUROPE
Measurements and testing are often taken for granted since they are an integral part of our daily life. Their importance becomes all too apparent, however, when a trade dispute arises, a product or system fails, or a health or environmental scare emerges.
Support to trade. A common structure for measurements and testing is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of the single market and world trade. Mutual recognition agreements are crucial the resolution of trade disputes and the lifting of trade barriers.
Increasing the competitiveness of industry. Measurements and testing are also needed for industrial processes, product development and quality control. Progress in measurement sciences is vital for the development of emerging technologies such as nanotechnologies.
Protecting citizens. Measurements and testing play an important role in ensuring the safety of food, consumer protection, healthcare, improving safety at work, and monitoring environmental hazards. New and improved measurement methods are continually needed in the fight against fraud and for the prevention of crime.
EU RESEARCH ON MEASUREMENTS AND TESTING
The EU has been directly involved in research on measurements and testing for more than 25 years. The objective is to support the process of European harmonisation and to contribute to the development and implementation of Community policies and regulations. These are inherently European objectives. In this respect, EU measurements and testing research has contributed substantially to the foundations of a European Research Area.
Under the Fifth EU Framework Programme for Research (1998-2002), over 200 projects on measurement and testing have been funded. These have brought together more than 1,400 companies and research institutions from all over Europe. Many of these projects - on high profile issues like the fight against doping in sport and the detection of food adulterations - were showcased at the Warsaw Conference.
The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) is playing a pivotal role in this process. It supports a European system of reference for science and technology by targeting the development of reference materials and methods, by establishing common databases and information exchange systems, and by validating methods in key policy areas such as the environment and food safety. Three JRC institutes are particularly involved: the Institute for Reference Materials & Measurements (Geel, Belgium), the Institute for Energy (Petten, The Netherlands) and the Institute for the Protection and the Security of the Citizen (Ispra, Italy).
Under the next Framework Programme, adopted on 3 June 2002, measurements and testing issues will be an integral part of all the priorities. In particular, the activities of the JRC should further contribute to an integrated European metrological infrastructure in the area of chemistry, including specific support to the Candidate Countries
NOTE FOR EDITORS
Wiktor Raldow, Head of Unit, Directorate-General Research, European Commission
Patrick Vittet-Philippe, Press and Information Officer, Directorate-General Research, European Commission
For specific JRC activities:
Catherine Shiels, Press and Information Officer, Directorate-General Joint Research Center, European Commission
Conference web site: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/growth/warsaw/index_en.html