Brussels, 07 Feb 2005
Speakers at a conference in Warsaw, Poland, on 4 February, were united in their belief that the EU budget must be restructured in favour of research. Less evident was which aspects of research policy should be the main benefactors of an increased funding envelope.
EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik used the conference on the future of EU research policies and opportunities for the new Member States to call for the 'Lisbonisation' of the EU budget. He referred to the forthcoming decision by the European Council on the Financial Perspectives for 2007 until 2013 as the 'moment of truth'. 'Leaders will have to decide if they want a European of knowledge,' he said.
The main problem, the Commissioner explained, is that 'countries want to maximise transfers between the European and national budgets. We need to maximise the logic of the EU budget. If we do this, we will be more competitive.' The link between knowledge creation and competitiveness is becoming increasingly evident, he added.
Support for a higher research budget also came from Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek, a former Prime Minister. If contributions to the EU budget are limited to one per cent of national GDP, 'we will not be able to cope, we will not be competitive', he claimed. If there is going to be 'more Europe', as is stated in the EU constitution, then there has to be more money, he added.
Opinion was more divided on what the priorities for EU research should be. Mr Potocnik highlighted two priorities that he believes to be of relevance to Poland and the other new Member States - mobility programmes and infrastructure. A member of the audience gained much support for an intervention dismissing the importance of mobility and pressing for increased support for research infrastructure, however.
The Commissioner responded by emphasising the importance of mobility programmes for bringing back Polish scientists who have spent time abroad. He then acknowledged the necessity of improving research infrastructure, adding that 'the question is, how best to do it.'
'We have to keep solidarity high on the agenda. We have Structural and Cohesion Funds for that. But with research funds, we have to support excellence. Otherwise we won't have anything to share in terms of solidarity,' said Mr Potocnik.
Director of the Polish National Contact Point (NCP) for the EU research programmes, Dr Andrzej Siemaszko, suggested that Poland could spend ten billion euro on research infrastructure between 2007 and 2013 from an estimated Structural Fund allocation of 73 billion euro. The country's Scientific Research Information Technology Minister, Professor Michal Kleiber, responded to the proposal by inviting the European Commission to assist his ministry in formulating arguments for spending this money on research infrastructure. 'A friendly voice from the European Commission would be very welcome,' he said.
Professor Kleiber also made a promise for the future: While Poland is currently making demands, the country will repay this assistance in the future, as Ireland is now doing, he said.
Other research priorities mentioned by participants included increasing the link between academia and industry, ensuring that industry is able to participate fully in the EU's research programmes, and translating research into marketable products.
Head of Corporate Technology at Siemens, Professor Claus Weyrich, raised a number of these points. He alleged that the share of funding intended for industry in the EU's framework programmes for research is decreasing. He expressed concern that business could be further sidelined with the establishment of a European Research Council for basic research. 'Strengthening basic research must not be at the expense of applied research,' he stressed.
Poland in general is not faring well in the current Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), however. The country is currently in tenth place overall in terms of participation in FP6, but has its sights set on moving up the league table. The aim, said Dr Siemaszko, is to move up to sixth position before the end of FP6.
For further information on research in Poland, please consult the following web address: