The European Research Area, More research for Europe: towards 3% of EU GDP (Extract from Commission press release on preparations for the Competitiveness Council of 26 Nov)

November 26, 2002

Brussels, 25 th November 2002

The Council will hold an exchange of views, on the basis of the Commission's communication, " The European Research Area: Providing new momentum - Strengthening, reorienting, opening up new perspectives ", and will be called on to adopt conclusions on the subject.

The draft conclusions reaffirm the importance for the Member States and the EU of co-ordinating their research and development (R&D) activities so as to ensure that national and EU R&D policies are consistent.

According to the Commission's Communication, Europe's below-par performance in R&D is due to insufficient investment in research, both public and private, a reduced innovation and technology transfer capacity and weak co-ordination of research efforts at EU and national level. This is why Europe needs a European Research Area, a true internal market for science and knowledge. Endorsed by European Heads of State and Government at the March 2000 Lisbon European Council, the project is now well underway, but many aspects need further evaluation.

The European Research Area initiative has already achieved set results such as the benchmarking of national research policies on the basis of twenty indicators, and the inauguration of a European network of mobility and assistance centres for researchers, to be created at the beginning of 2003.

The 6 th EU Research Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006) is also specifically designed to help bring about a European Research Area, particularly through its new funding instruments such as large Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects. FP6 will also step up action in infrastructures and mobility, and will support initiatives aimed at the networking of national research activities.

To push the European Research Area project further forward, the Commission recommends enhancing co-ordination between national research policies. To this end, it proposes that common objectives should be determined and translated into specific objectives for each country by high-level representatives of EU Member States. Annual national progress reports should also be presented.

The Commission also proposes to step up ongoing activities, for instance, by putting forward measures designed to help researchers from third countries arrive and stay in Europe, as well as issuing guidelines concerning their career development.

More research for Europe towards 3% of EU GDP (FF)

The Commission will present its Communication: " More research for Europe: Towards 3% of GDP ", and the Council will hold an exchange of views on the basis of a Presidency note.

The Communication is part of the process established by the European Council at Lisbon in March 2000 to turn Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. It takes stock of progress so far after the March 2002 Barcelona European Council called on the EU to raise its research spending to 3% of EU gross domestic product (GDP), up from 1.9% today.

Japan has already achieved the 3% level, with R&D expenditure accounting for 2.98% of its GDP in 2000, and the USA is coming closer (with a figure of 2.69% in 2000 which has been constantly rising since 1995). In the USA, €288 billion was spent on R&D in 2000, but only €164 billion in the EU. It is a gap that is also widening.

The Communication identifies framework conditions that need to be addressed in a consistent way. These include:

  • supply of high quality human resources

  • a strong public research base with upgraded links to industry

  • a dynamic entrepreneurship culture

  • appropriate systems for intellectual property rights

  • a competitive environment with research and innovation-friendly regulations and competition rules

  • supportive financial markets, macro-economic stability and favourable fiscal conditions.
Financial incentives for private R&D and technology-based innovation could also be used in more consistent and effective ways. In this regard, public authorities can use a range of financing instruments, in particular direct support measures, fiscal incentives, guarantee schemes and public support for risk capital. A better mix of these instruments is required.

DN: MEMO/02/265 Date: 25/11/2002

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