Brussels, 06 Oct 2004
To be innovative and competitive, French research must focus on three main issues: developing a clear strategy to define the national objectives; clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the main actors; and favouring the synergy between the public and private sector while encouraging companies' investment in research and development (R&D), states a new report.
The report 'Operation FutuRIS', aimed at contributing to the national debate on the future of French research and innovation, was published on 5 October by the French Association for Technical Research (ANRT).
'France does not dedicate the necessary means to its research, adapted to the objectives that it has given itself,' states the report. 'Choices are therefore necessary, and must be taken with a perspective exceeding the usual horizon of governments,' it adds.
FutuRIS recommends the creation of a Council for Research and Innovation, which would elaborate a forward-looking vision and be in charge of distributing the public research budget between the ten most important research fields. The Council would also stimulate public debate on the scientific and technological issues at stake and oversee the evaluation of public policies, agencies and bodies. Agencies in charge of the different programmes would distribute the budget between research activities, innovation actions and private and public actors, while the French Research Ministry would play the role of regulator, in charge of the good functioning of the whole system.
The second issue, the clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the different actors is, according to the report: 'specific to public research but nonetheless essential to the whole system, as private actors need responsive partners capable of making a commitment according to a well-defined strategy.'
According to FutuRIS, it is essential to have more autonomous and less constrained research units having management power over the entirety of their resources, and with the competence to sign contracts with outside entities.
Human resources must be individualised and aim to enhance the full range of researcher activities. Researchers must be allowed to define with their unit directors the allocation of their activities according to both their wishes and the scientific and educational strategy of their units. Furthermore, the evaluation process must not only take into account the various activities of the researchers but must also favour mobility and risk-taking.
Turning its attention to universities, FutiRIS encourages them to focus on their attractiveness to students and researchers and emphasise the need for them to be able to administer their staff efficiently.
The report emphasises that: 'Public research is a source of growth when companies can easily benefit from its results. However, the measures mentioned above will not be enough on their own to fill the cultural gap which separates, in France, the academic research bodies and the private companies.'
FutuRIS therefore proposes the creation of a flexible and legally secure framework to facilitate the signing of research contracts between public laboratories and private actors. Another suggestion is to raise awareness, among post-doctoral students, of the importance of innovation in companies to enable those students to develop capacities allowing them a diversified career.
Finally, concludes the report, the possibilities for companies to dedicate a part of their company tax to the financing of public research laboratories should be encouraged. To read the full report (in French), please visit the following website: http://www.operation-futuris.org/images/ +Propositions%20FutuRIS%20-%205%20octobr e%2004.pdf