Germany and France both want to revitalise their research sectors by injecting cash and giving youth more scope. Jane Marshall reports from Paris.
French research minister Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg last week gave details of the 2001 budget.It showed that the government has again made civil research and development a priority, with its biggest increase in funding for at least six years.
Research expenditure will rise to e8.5 billion (Pounds 5.1 billion), an increase of 2.2 per cent over the current year, and will provide for 305 new posts - 265 in scientific and technological institutions and 40 at the Ministry of Culture.
Stating his intention to give research "fresh impetus", the minister outlined his priorities:
* rejuvenating the sector with more support for young researchers and preparation for the imminent retirement of many scientists
* providing labs with necessary facilities
* revitalising research in the life sciences; in information and communication technologies; and in the environment and the energy sector
* fostering innovation and industrial research.
With 46 years now the average age of a researcher in France, rising numbers of young postdoctorate students have been forced to work abroad, Schwartzenberg said. "The next decade will provide the right moment to carry out this exercise in rejuvenation, in view of the mass departures due to retirement that will take place between 2004 and 2010," he said.
Improvements to facilities, including major equipment to be budgeted over three years, will affect universities as well as public research organisations such as the CNRS (the National Centre for Scientific Research) and Inserm (the Health and Medical Research Institute).
Priority research areas will benefit from greater financial and human resources. This will include 74 new posts at Inserm, 116 at Inria (the Computer Science and Automation Institute). At the CNRS, "several" of 70 new jobs will be dedicated to forming a new information technologies department.
Funds for environment and energy research will be concentrated in such fields as pollution and treatment of nuclear waste.
And, in recognition of France's role as the driving force in Europe's space research, the CNES (the National Centre for Space Research) will receive 16 per cent of the country's R&D budget.
The budget also allocated more funds to Anvar, the agency that advises businesses on innovation.