Brussels, 21 Jun 2004
The last time that CORDIS News spoke to Helga Nowotny, chair of the European research advisory board (EURAB), she was planning to submit a document to the European Convention, with the aim of seeing the importance of research underlined in the new EU Constitution.
The Constitution has now been adopted, and scientific and technological advance is included as one of the objectives of the Union. Professor Nowotny, along with other members of the European research community, was clearly successful.
Such achievements have not gone unnoticed by Professor Nowotny's peers. Having seen EURAB through its first ever term, she has just been re-elected, unanimously, to chair the board for the next term.
Speaking to CORDIS News, Professor Nowotny said that she had decided to stay on because 'there is still quite a number of things to be done.' She also believes that now is an 'interesting time' to be involved in EU research policy, and referred in particular to the transition to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the proposed European Research Council and the probable appointment of a new Commissioner for Research later this year.
There may still be work to do, but Professor Nowotny is very pleased with EURAB's achievements thus far. 'The really big achievement,' she said, 'was that we got industry and the academic sector to work together. We have developed a way of working so that it is unnoticeable from which side someone comes.' Professor Nowotny concedes that there was some mutual suspicion when the members first started work, but now feels strongly that 'we are one group working together.'
One of the lessons learned during EURAB's first term, was that 'research policy cannot be neatly separated from other issues,' explained the EURAB chair. The board has therefore had to become more open, and to address subjects such as the relationship between research and fiscal laws, competition and, in particular, how to improve the relationship between universities and industry so as to boost innovation.
EURAB has also learned to be specific in terms of whom its recommendations are targeting - 'otherwise, grand statements will be made and lost,' claimed Professor Nowotny.
The most frequent target of EURAB's recommendations is the European Commission, and Professor Nowotny is confident that the board's advice is being listened to. As EURAB strove to establish itself in the face of the advisor's dilemma - whether to remain at a distance from the Commission and risk not being listened to, or whether to work closely with the Commission and risk not being taken seriously by outsiders - there was talk of staying at arm's length from the Commission. However, Professor Nowotny now feels that EURAB has a very good relationship with the Commission services. 'There is still room, however, to increase EURAB's visibility,' she adds.
A number of debates are looming large on the horizon for EURAB. Professor Nowotny outlines four immediate priorities for the board, which now has 21 new members: FP7, the European Research Council, the mid-term evaluation of FP6 and the relationship between research and innovation.
'It is really crucial what will happen in the next six months,' said Professor Nowotny, referring to FP7. She welcomes the recent Commission communication on future EU research policy, and in particular its identification of three options for the external management of the future European Research Council. She is confident that the options will be fully explored during the Dutch EU Presidency, due to commence on 1 July.
For further information on EURAB, please visit: