Brussels, 28 Jul 2005
A report comparing the innovative performance of the US and the EU has painted a gloomy picture of Europe's ability to compete, and has offered five recommendations to get the EU back on track.
In the report, prepared by Giovanni Dosi and Mauro Sylos Labini from the S. Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy, and Patrick Llerena from the Louis Pasteur University in France to accompany the 2005 Innovation Scoreboard, the following policy changes are proposed:
- increase support for high quality basic research through agile institutions;
- fully acknowledge the difference within the higher education system between research/graduate training universities, undergraduate teaching universities and technical colleges;
- push back the trend towards the increasing appropriation of public research in favour of open research results (too much emphasis on appropriation and intellectual property rights - IPR - is likely to exert a pernicious influence on both the rate and direction of research, and may hinder business-led innovation, according to the report);
- build ambitious, technologically daring missions, justifiable for their intrinsic social and political value;
- re-discover industrial policies as a device for fostering a stronger, more innovative European industry.
'We suggest that effective European catching up would require much less emphasis on various types of 'networking', 'interactions with local environment', 'attention to user need' - current obsessions of the European and national policy makers - and, conversely, much more on policy measures aimed to both strengthen 'frontier' research and, at the opposite end, strengthen European corporate actors,' argue the paper's authors.
Looking at innovation, the report questions the linear process, which dictates that scientific knowledge leads to technological innovation, which then in turn leads to economic benefits. Technological innovations sometimes precede science, in that practical inventions come before scientific understanding, claim the authors. Also, it is quite common that scientific advances are made possible by technological ones.
The paper also rejects the view, often supported by the European Commission, that while Europe is a strong performer at the initial phase of the linear model, its weakness is in then transferring scientific knowledge into results.
'The central claim of what [...] has been dubbed as the 'European Paradox' was that the EU plays a leading global role in terms of top-level scientific output from which European firms, for a number of reasons, do not benefit. [...However], the claim of European excellence in science is largely misplaced,' states the paper.
Dr Dosi et al also have little praise for the strategy used within Europe to tackle the so-called European paradox. The strategy has comprised policies aimed at university-to-business technology transfer, and a 'general disregard for the scope of financing more speculative basic research', reads the report.
Focusing on the links between academia and industry is misguided, according to the paper. Firstly, the results of the authors' comparison of higher education research funded by industry go 'against the conventional wisdom concerning stronger financial university-industry links in the US'. The share of private investment in university research, while low everywhere, is slightly higher in the EU.
As for physical proximity between universities and industry, something encouraged in Europe through the creation of science parks, the paper dismisses its importance. The authors refer to Silicon Valley and Route 128 in the US in order to argue that an increase in government funding, along with the emergence of new research priorities, are behind the formation of clusters. Universities are necessary, but not a sufficient condition for their development, they claim.
The report writes off commonly held beliefs in Europe that the EU does better than the US in terms of citations and public investment in science. A table within the report illustrates that 'if one adjusts for population, European claimed leadership in publication disappears'. Another table demonstrates that this leadership is due to scientific productivity rather than the number of researchers in the US.
The claim of a higher amount of publicly funded R&D [research and development] in the EU in comparison with the US is described in the paper as 'groundless'. The US government spends more on R&D carried out by companies and in other forms, according to the authors.
Dr Dosi et al conclude by describing their report as an attempt to 'defend and strengthen a system producing top-level publicly-funded open science - too often under threat from both the 'property rights' colonisation and the 'practical usefulness' advocates'. It also represents, they say, an endeavour to offer a pragmatic view of the role that public polices could play in fostering the growth of corporate actors able to efficiently tap into an ever-growing pool of innovative opportunities. To read the report in full, please visit: http:///trendchart.cordis.lu/scor eboards/ scoreboard2005/index.cfm