Brussels, 31 Oct 2003
The scientific community in Sweden is calling for a change of direction in government research policy, prompted by fears that the country is losing ground on its international competitors.
Described as a sea change in public research policy, a detailed proposal for reform has been submitted to the government on behalf of all Swedish universities, the national research councils, the agency for innovation systems, and the royal academy of sciences.
The changes being called for by the organisations include measures to increase competition among universities, better career opportunities for researchers, and enhanced cooperation between the business community, scientists, and public investors in research.
'Several studies show that the quality of Swedish research is deteriorating, and it is becoming more and more uncommon for research findings to benefit society and thereby boost growth,' reads a joint statement issued by the research bodies. 'What is needed now [...] is a comprehensive commitment to research of top quality and to innovation systems.'
Such a commitment should take the form of an increase in government allocations for civil research, according to the statement. The organisations propose that public research funding should rise to over three billion euro per year by the end of the decade, which is equivalent to roughly one per cent of Sweden's GDP.
Start-up activity, innovation systems and applied research, particularly in the fields of technology and industry, would be boosted by a budget increase of 160 million euro for the Swedish agency for innovation systems (VINNOVA), according to the proposals.
If such commitments are not made, the research bodies warn that the consequences could be dire. They believe that inaction could result in a failure to meet the objectives of higher education, a loss of competitiveness and slower growth.
However, a spokesperson for the Swedish Ministry of Education and Science told CORDIS News that while improvements can always be made, the government believes that research in Sweden is in a healthy state.
'There is absolutely no crisis in Swedish research,' said the spokesperson. 'The government wanted these organisations to formulate future strategies for research, and welcomes this contribution. We are not surprised by this call for increased funding, but have not yet made any decisions on future spending.'