Commissioner Philippe Busquin today (17.03.2004) reported the progress made in implementing the action plan of 30 April 2003 to step up public and private spending on research in Europe. The aim is to increase investment in research from its current level of almost 2% of Europe’s gross domestic product to 3% by 2010, in line with the commitment made by the Barcelona European Council in March 2002. The initial results are positive, but still insufficient, given the performance in the Member States’ research budgets in 2003 and 2004, which is being presented today for the first time at European level. For its part, the European Union is mobilising all the financing instruments for research and innovation: proposed doubling of the framework programme of research, greater use of the Structural Funds to step up capacity for research and innovation in the regions, the European Investment Bank’s Innovation 2010 initiative, and planning of major initiatives in the context of the technological platforms and the “Quick Start” projects. The Commission is also improving the framework conditions for investing in research, by modernising the competition rules, promoting better rules and better management for intellectual property and improving the mobility and working conditions of researchers, notably via its proposal for a directive, adopted yesterday, to facilitate entry and stays for researchers from third countries, and other initiatives currently in the pipeline regarding researchers’ careers and recruitment.
“One year on, the ‘3% action plan’ is beginning to bear fruit,” Mr Busquin announced. “On average, public investment in research has increased in 2003 and 2004. However, that increase is still too slow. It is vital that Member States take advantage of the economic upturn to refocus their budgets on research and innovation. Several Member States are currently improving or introducing tax incentives, with a direct impact on businesses. Meanwhile, the Commission is keeping its promises. It is proposing to double the research budget in the next European multiannual programmes. It is also introducing important measures to make the European research area attractive to businesses and researchers, such as its proposal for a directive, adopted on 16 March, to facilitate entry and stays for researchers from third countries, and the notification exemption for aid to SMEs, which enters into force on 19 March.”
On the question of public procurement, initiatives are beginning to emerge in the Member States to develop the impact of public procurement on research and innovation activities in industry. This is the case in particular in the United Kingdom where a series of measures has been announced in the fields of construction and telemedicine. The Commission will examine in the near future the opportunities offered by the new European regulatory framework in this area.
Hitherto, Europe has invested too little in human resources in science and technology. The number of researchers per thousand inhabitants is currently 5.7% in Europe, compared with 8.1% in the United States and 9.1% in Japan. The 3% objective requires 700 000 additional researchers to be recruited by 2010. The Commission is contributing to this through an overall strategy to remove obstacles to mobility, upgrade the profession of researcher and improve local information and assistance for researchers and their families.
The year 2004 has already seen the launch of the European portal on the mobility of researchers, the creation of a European network of mobility centres and the adoption by the Commission, on 16 March, of a proposal for a Directive to facilitate entry and stays for non?European researchers ("scientific visa"). The Commission will also propose by the end of the year a "European researchers charter" and a code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers at European level.
Fabio Fabbi | European Commission
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