Brussels, 23 Sep 2005
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has welcomed the recommendations of a foresight report by an expert group on 'Key Technologies for Europe', agreeing with the conclusion that Europe must develop a research agenda 'beyond the Lisbon strategy'.
A key recommendation from the expert group underlines the need for Europe to adopt a more optimistic and proactive approach to its research policy. The group proposes a dual strategy incorporating both short to medium-term needs, as well as a more long-term global perspective for emerging key technologies in fields such as biotechnology, cognitive science, information technology and nanotechnology.
At a meeting in Brussels on 19 September to present the report, Mr Potocnik told the expert group and other attendees: '[...] I agree with you: we need to think beyond Lisbon, we need to think in the long-term and make decisions which will be in line with a long-term approach. This is not present enough in today's daily discussions.'
The Commissioner stressed that it is not the job of politicians to try to pick winners from among the various emerging technological sectors, but that nonetheless anticipatory action is required on the part of public authorities. 'It is about creating the conditions to allow industries of tomorrow to develop and flourish,' he said, adding that the Commission will issue a communication on a 'New industrial policy' in the coming weeks.
Policy makers should adopt an anticipatory approach to legislation, said Mr Potocnik, identifying issues where existing regulations or standards - or their absence - create obstacles to the development and deployment of new technologies. And despite the fact that the European economy is predominantly a service economy - with the services sector accounting for 67.1 per cent of total employment, according to soon-to-be-published figures - the Commissioner feels it is important for Europe to retain a significant manufacturing capacity. 'Europe's vocation is not simply to become a services-based economy. We have the skills to produce goods as well as services - goods that will benefit not just Europe's citizens but those in the rest of the world.'
As the work of the expert group has revealed, however, products and services are increasingly being brought together in complex systems, and there is a need for more specific research into these product-service systems of the future. In areas such as robotics, statistical and dynamical models, pharmacology and linguistics, Europeans are among the world leaders, and all are fields characterised by interdisciplinarity. 'However, interdisciplinarity was not on the research agenda 20 years ago,' said the Commissioner, underlining the need for a foresight approach to keep up with technological developments.
Commissioner Potocnik promised that the recommendations of the expert group would be channelled into the policy preparation for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), but he also stressed that the report's implications reached beyond EU policy making. 'Member States' policy makers, research communities and businesses should be made aware of the challenges ahead. I therefore count on you to disseminate in your own country the work of this group and the results of the debates you had,' he concluded.
For further information, please consult the following web address: