Brussels, 30 May 2005
'We have managed to take EUREKA a step further towards reaching the Lisbon goals,' said Kris Douma, Dutch MP and co-chair of the 15th EUREKA inter-parliamentary conference that took place in The Hague on 26 and May.
The theme of this year's conference was 'commitment to the European knowledge economy, the role and position of EUREKA'. Accordingly, the conference resolution recommends action by the organisation's member countries regarded as key to enhancing Europe's competitiveness.
Mr Douma declared himself satisfied with the resolution, and conceded that it was 'not always easy to find common ground'. Asked by CORDIS News which areas had most the most problems, the MP referred to the section in the resolution reading: '[The conference] further calls upon the [incoming] Czech EUREKA Chair to investigate innovative financial instruments, for example the possibility of a revolving mechanism for EUREKA projects on a national or common basis.'
The fact that MPs called for further investigation illustrates that 'there was some debate on this', according to Mr Douma.
Asked about any changes to the EUREKA strategy, Mr Douma underlined that the resolution not only emphasises the importance of research, but also development and innovation. Indeed, the resolution invites the European Commission and the EUREKA member countries to 'work closely together to provide an optimal policy mix to support innovation'. It also invites both parties to promote technology transfer with third countries. 'We want to make money out of this project,' said Mr Douma.
One of the central themes running throughout the resolution is the need to ensure adequate funding at national level, as well as its accessibility. 'There is the fear that national funding may be a problem in some countries,' said Mr Douma. Asked which countries the conference had in mind, the Dutch MP said he has concerns about his own country, but that other countries should speak for themselves.
In additional paragraphs aimed at tightening links between EUREKA and the EU's research programmes, the resolution urges the EUREKA member countries, the European Commission and the European Parliament to support an initiative using Article 169 from the EU Treaty that would see a programme for innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) conducting research. The document also states that the EU's proposed Joint Technology Initiatives should 'benefit from the wide experience and the achievements of EUREKA Clusters', and 'stresses the importance of the involvement of EUREKA through its Clusters and Umbrellas in the European Technology Platforms'.
The Czech Republic is set to take over the EUREKA reins on 1 July, and in addition to following up on the issues highlighted for its attention in the conference resolution, has set itself three priorities: listening to industry; building bridges; and reinforcing commitment.
'Listening to industry' is intended to increase industry involvement by emphasising EUREKA's bottom-up approach to project generation. Through 'building bridges' the Czech chair intends to 'bring the EUREKA agenda to a larger audience within the European Parliament through its developing relationship with the ITRE [industry, research and energy] Committee.' The Czech Republic also intends to enhance coherence between EUREKA and the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and to encourage EUREKA clusters to work closely with relevant EU Technology Platforms.
'Reinforcing commitment' refers to the Czech expectation that EUREKA member countries will commit themselves to a target number of new projects and improve access to national funding by EUREKA projects.
The Czech Republic is looking forward to these challenges, the head of the forthcoming Czech EUREKA Chairmanship Secretariat, Svatopluk Halada, told CORDIS News. 'We are the first country from Central and Eastern Europe to take over the chairmanship and we are looking forward to showing that we are an equal partner,' he said.