Brussels, 06 May 2004
In a bid to attract the best research talent, the European Commission has formally proposed the creation of a specific residence permit for researchers. The EU executive has urged Member States to give the scheme quick passage to help fill the expected shortage in researchers that will accompany the Union's ambitious R&D plans.
The European Commission recently proposed the introduction of a specific residence permit to make it easier for researchers from outside the Union to take up research positions in Member States. The proposal recommends the introduction of a 'fast track' procedure through which researchers would be issued with residence permits within 30 days.
The Commission hopes, in this way, to attract more world-class scientific talent to Europe's shores and help the Union achieve its ambitious goal of becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.
"Once a researcher has gained their residence permit, they will be able to move freely within the Schengen Member States in order to attend meetings or conferences, and if they wish to extend their stay in the EU, it will no longer be necessary for them to return to their country of origin to submit the application," an official at the Commission's Research Directorate-General was quoted as saying.
The new scheme involves beefing up the role of accredited research organisations, which will have to certify the status of the foreigner researchers who will come to work for them. The new scheme uses a deliberately broad definition of 'researcher' to enable all sectors to fulfil their knowledge needs.
In order to fulfil its R&D ambitions, the EU needs to boost R&D spending to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), from the current level of about 2%. This will create thousands of new jobs in the coming years, and an estimated 400 000 a year after 2010. In recognition of this growing shortage, the EU and several Member States have launched schemes to promote scientific careers among young people.
The new Member States are likely to provide some of this talent, and competition is already hotting up between the Union's research powerhouses. A recent report by Leeds University suggests that German and French research institutes are actively courting skilled scientists from these countries in preparation for the falling away of borders on 1 May. But the new Member States also need researchers and cannot be relied upon to fill the entire shortfall.
Third European report on science and technology indicators 2003
Mobility and excellence in the European Research Area