PART II - CONTRIBUTION OF COMMUNITY POLICIES TO COHESION
7 Research and Development policy
The European Union is increasingly becoming a knowledge-based economy
and society. The development of knowledge has a direct effect on competitiveness
and employment, as well as on the way society functions in general.
Although the importance of knowledge was explicitly recognised at the
European Summit in Lisbon in February 2000, research in Europe displays
contrasting features. There are unquestionable strengths, but also evident
weaknesses, as reflected in a trade deficit in high tech-products of over
EUR 20 billion. This, in turn, reflects a number of underlying factors
- a lower level of expenditure on R&D in the EU (1.8% of GDP) than
in the US (2.8%) and Japan (2.9%), a less dynamic environment for innovation
and a relatively fragmented research system (divided between 15 Member
Accordingly, the European Commission has concluded that a genuine 'European
Research Area' needs to be created to improve the situation.
The regional dimension of the European Research Area
According to the Commission, to establish a European Research Area,
Member States need to consider policies on finance, human resources, the
relationship between the public and private sectors, the creation of a
common reference framework and values, and regional aspects. On the last
issue, the Commission pointed to the importance of studying and putting
in place the conditions for a 'real territorialisation' of research policies
or adapting these 'to the geographical socio-economic context.2'
It has, therefore, invited policy-makers at all levels to consider both
the challenge posed to regions by the European Research Area and how they
can contribute to its achievement.
Action at the regional level
Regional and local authorities already support research, technological
development and innovation. It is estimated that the finance they provide
amounts annually to almost 1½ times the total appropriation of
the EU Framework Programme (EUR 4.5 billion compared with EUR 3 billion),
over 90% of which is allocated on a regional basis. 3
The authorities concerned are best placed to form the links with companies
necessary for innovation and, therefore, the generation of economic wealth
and employment. Creating networks of knowledge, clusters of companies,
linking the scientific system to the needs of industry and services are
all easier to organise at local and regional level.
Regional authorities are also well-placed to review best practice and
to identify other regions with which they can fruitfully cooperate, which
may be relatively distant ones, such as those which form the network of
the 'four regional engines for growth', Baden Württemberg, the Rhone-Alps,
Lombardia and Cataluña, or neighbouring areas, such as Brussels,
Flanders, Kent, Wallonia and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Such cooperation can
help strengthen regional capacity for research and innovation by facilitating
specialisation and complementary action and encouraging the rapid dissemination
By pursuing their own interests, therefore, regional authorities can
increase the momentum towards the establishment of a European Research
Area as well as ensuring its effectiveness and consistency.
The establishment of a European Research Area, however, is not confined
to the most central and competitive regions. The instruments available
- the Framework Programme, the Structural Funds and action at national
and regional level - should be used together in a more coherent way, each
according to its objectives, in order to enable all regions to participate
fully in the area.
Networking and encouraging regional specialisation
The Commission Communication on Guidelines for EU Research Activities
(2002-2006), adopted in October 2000, indicates how regions are intended
to be involved in the European Research Area and sets out a number of
Community objectives in five major areas: research activities, innovation
and SMEs, infrastructure, human resources and the relationship between
science, society and citizens.4 4 It indicates three
horizontal aspects which need to be taken into account in this regard:
the overall coherence of European cooperation over science and technology,
the international dimension of projects and the regional aspect. It also
emphasises the importance of carrying out measures which encourage the
full use of regional potential, through networking and exploiting geographical
features or areas of economic specialisation.
Member States indicated their perception of the regional dimension of
European Research Policy in the resolution of the Research Council in
'The Council of the European Union:... emphasises the importance of
promoting the scientific and technological performance of all the regions
of the Member States and participating countries, including the cross-border
dimension, both within the European Research Area, in future framework
programmes and in other relevant community initiatives.'
In this regard, the following aspects, which are considered in turn
below, are of some importance:
- the learning effects of being part of European RTD consortia and
- the mobility of researchers as a mechanism for the tacit exchange
- the policy learning effect of RTD activities.
Shared-Cost RTD projects in the Fourth Framework Programme
The most important mechanism for EU funding of RTD is the 'shared-cost
actions' in the Framework Programmes, which are project-based contracts
between the Commission and the participants. Since the latter generally
consist of organisations from a number of Member States, this enables
knowledge and ideas to be shared and new know-how and technology to be
developed jointly. The participation of representatives from cohesion
countries and Objective 1 regions, therefore, is a way of improving the
knowledge flow into these areas.
A detailed analysis of the regional impact of RTD policy has not been
possible because data on the geographical distribution of expenditure
from the Fourth Framework Programme (FP4) are not published. Some national
data exist, but not for all countries and regions, and they are not based
on official European statistics but on national surveys. The following
analysis concentrates on numbers participating and other available indicators.
Relating participation figures to indicators of national RTD capability,
such as the number of RTD personnel in a country, indicates that the cohesion
countries are performing well, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal in leading
positions. Closer examination, however, shows participation being heavily
concentrated in the capital city areas. On the other hand, this concentration
seems to be diminishing, with other regions in these countries accounting
for a growing share of participation.
Participation and the number of projects from Objective 1 regions and
cohesion countries increased over the second half of the 1990s. The number
of projects with at least one partner from an Objective 1 region rose
from 27% in 1994 to 41% in 1998. The total number of participations (ie
the number of occurrences of participation in projects) from Objective
1 regions in FP4 has gone up from 1,705 in 1995 to 4,067 in 1998, although
in relation to the overall number of participations, it declined slightly
from 16% in 1995 to just over 15% in 1998. Examination of the evidence
shows that there is a positive relationship between the extent to which
organisations from a particular region participated in the Framework Programme
and RTD capability indicators, such as R&D expenditure and number
of R&D personnel.
Encouragement of SMEs to participate in the Framework Programme was successful
in increasing their share of total participation in FP4. However, a lack
of official statistics on the type of participants at NUTS2I regional
level means that it is not possible to verify whether this had a positive
impact on Objective 1 regions. Nevertheless, the user survey, carried
out as part of the Five-Year Assessment of European RTD programmes (1995-1999),
suggests that in Ireland and Spain, representation of SMEs was higher
than the EU average.
Since 1994, the Central European Countries (CECs), Russia and the Newly
Independent States have been covered by the INCO-COPERNICUS programme.
(INCO's contribution to the CECs countries in FP4 amounted to a total
of ECU 78.3 million.) The need to strengthen links with the established
RTD sector in the candidate countries is important for safeguarding and
strengthening their scientific and technological potential and INCO has
provided a sound foundation, support and guidance for them, though industry
participation was low.
Participation in FP4 was important in increasing cooperation between
EU Member States. In the 8 years, 1987 to 1995, there were 150,000 instances
of cooperation between large companies, SMEs, universities and public
or private research centres as a result of EU RTD activities. After 1995,
under FP4, the number of instances of cooperation increased significantly,
to 113,990 in 1996 and 78,300 in 1998, the variation reflecting the implementation
Such collaboration in RTD is one of the most direct ways in which knowledge,
both tacit and codified, is transferred between organisations in different
European countries. Accordingly, any increase in instances of cooperation
involving organisations in the cohesion countries helps to reduce disparities
across the EU in access to know-how. Over the course of the Fourth Framework
Programme, cooperation links have varied from one year to the next without
showing any distinct trend. Overall, links between the four cohesion countries
and the other 11 Member States accounted on average for 22.2% of the total
created annually, which is a good indication of the stimulative effect
of the Framework Programme on disadvantaged regions (Table
At the same time, it appears that organisations from cohesion countries
participating in projects tend, in general, to gain more from this than
those from elsewhere. The user survey of participants in FP4 indicates
that participants from Greece, Spain and Portugal were more positive than
average, or about the same as the average, as regards the impact on their
scientific and technological standing, competitive position, productivity
and employment. On the other hand, participants from Ireland were, in
general, less satisfied than average with the impact on them, including
in relation to their scientific and technological standing.
Mobility underpinning RTD capability
The European Commission Programme, 'Improving the human potential and
the socio-economic knowledge base,' is aimed at increasing the mobility
of researchers throughout the EU. According to several studies, the cohesion
countries are well represented in programmes, such as the Training and
Mobility of Researchers (TMR) under FP4, and have a relatively large proportion
of their researchers receiving fellowships to work in 'centres of excellence'
in other Member States. The UK is by far the most popular host country,
followed by France, and the opportunity for young researchers to gain
experience in research organisations best suited to developing their careers
is an important aspect of policy.
In any assessment of the effect of mobility and cohesion, two considerations
need to be taken into account:
- the possibility of increasing the mobility of researchers in the
EU should not reinforce the 'brain drain' from less developed to core
RTD regions. Given a general shortage of skills in many parts of Europe
and the increased competition for highly qualified researchers, this
problem is likely to become more acute. The Return Grants scheme which
helps researchers from less favoured regions return home is a response
to this problem, although only some 6% of TMR fellows from less favoured
regions are eligible for the scheme and make use of it. The effect on
the movement of researchers between EU regions of programmes like TMR
has, however, yet to be studied;
- studies of RTD expenditure from the Structural Funds indicate that
there is not necessarily a link between an increase in RTD resources
and personnel in Objective 1 regions and the innovative capacity of
businesses situated there. The gap between public RTD activities and
the needs of firms is particularly wide in these regions. Improving
the international career prospects of young researchers is unlikely
in itself to increase the 'absorptive capacity' of a region in the short-term.
As noted above, there is a positive association between the rate of participation
in EU RTD projects and the RTD capacity of a region, as measured, for
example, by the number of R&D personnel in the population. This suggests
that a long-term strategy of investing in people will increase the capacity
to collaborate in international research and technology projects. Efforts
should, therefore, be made in cohesion countries and lagging regions to
develop good career possibilities for researchers as a means of combating
the brain drain.
Recent Shifts in RTD Policy
The Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), represents the continuation of
a shift in focus from a policy oriented exclusively towards technology
to one that includes innovation as a key concept. In essence, previous
Framework Programmes prioritised areas of science and technology where
Europe needed to strengthen its capability, whereas FP5 started from a
statement of the most pressing societal problems which science and technology
could help solve. Nevertheless, the Five-Year Assessment Panel that evaluated
the first phase of FP5 concluded that more attention could be paid to
social and economic aspects.
In principle, the way that the goals of FP5 are formulated allows more
consideration to be given to the distribution of knowledge, to building
'absorption capacity' and not just to knowledge creation.
A horizontal programme for 'Promotion of Innovation and Encouragement
of SME participation' has widened the target group to include not only
high-tech performers, but also companies for which initial entry into
the Framework Programme is difficult. The aim is to reduce obstacles to
innovation for companies in less favoured regions and in more traditional
sectors. At the same time, the provision of information to potential applicants,
through Innovation Relay Centres, National Contact Points, more transparent
Info Packs and so on, has been improved to reach a larger audience. While
excellence in science and technology is still the main criterion for participation
in FP5, there are parts of the programme which enable participants to
achieve such a level over time.
The candidate countries in Central Europe have been granted full access
to FP5, which should enable them to continue their links with the science
and technology community in the EU and which should help overcome the
technology gap that exists between them and the leading European countries.
Policy learning effects from EU RTD Initiatives
The EU has played a major role in disseminating good practice in RTD
policy by helping to create a 'European Research, Technology, Development
and Innovation Community,' where decision-makers, researchers, and other
interested parties can communicate and work together, in both formal and
informal ways, in official advisory committees, specific RTD programmes
and policy exchange initiatives. By assisting in this, and through its
influence on policy formulation and implementation, EU policy has indirectly
contributed to closing the RTD and innovation gap between Member States
and regions, and, by changing the culture, it has, in some respects, improved
the policy planning process.
Moreover, initiatives such as, in particular, the Regional Technology
Plans (RTP), the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS), the Regional Innovation
and Technology Transfer Strategies and Infrastructures (RITTS) and Trans-Regional
Innovation Projects, jointly set up by DG Regional Policy and DG Enterprise,
have helped put innovation high on the policy agenda in over 100 regions.
These projects have stimulated the establishment of ongoing and long-lasting
processes in these regions and have, therefore, prepared the ground for
further decentralisation of RTD policies to the regional level. Fine-tuning
of the planning of RTD policy and the deployment of the Structural Funds
for this purpose has been integral to the success.
Conclusion: Progress in increasing the contribution of EU RTD policy
to social and economic cohesion
EU RTD policy has increased its support for those involved in research
and technology in the cohesion countries, less favoured regions and candidate
countries. The absence of statistics on funding prevents quantification
of the extent to which funding has been directed towards the latter. The
increased number of projects with participation from Objective 1 regions,
however, and the relatively favourable position of research fellows from
cohesion countries in the European Human Mobility schemes point towards
a positive contribution towards reducing regional disparities. Moreover,
various measures have helped improve the effectiveness of policies relating
to innovation in a number of disadvantaged regions.
The candidate countries have gained from the experience under the INCO
programme of developing and managing RTD consortia and establishing partnerships
with EU organisations as well as from being introduced to the art of writing
EU RTD proposals. They are likely to gain further from full membership
of FP5, although most countries lack the overall capability to participate
extensively. Up until now, it has been mainly scientific institutes which
have taken part in RTD projects and higher levels of business sector participation
remains to be achieved. Positive effects on competitiveness and economic
cohesion will, therefore, take longer to emerge than in the present Objective
Overall, EU RTD policy has adopted an approach oriented more towards
innovation than technological excellence as such, better addressing the
deficiencies of less favoured regions as a result. The regional dimension
of RTD policy has come to be featured explicitly in the Initiative 'Towards
a European Research Area'. An improvement in the interaction between the
deployment of the Structural Funds and RTD policy is important to accelerating
the 'catching up' of lagging regions.
The Structural Funds can provide the necessary support for firms and
research institutes in the latter to participate on equal terms in future
RTD programmes. Moreover, the conditions for a genuine 'territorialisation'
of research policies (ie adapting these better to the geographical, social
and economic context) need to be studied and put in place. This could
open up new opportunities for policies at all levels to be better integrated
into regional or interregional development programmes and for the synergies
between them to be strengthened.
- 'Towards a European Research Area', COM(2000)6, 18
- Such a study was launched in December 2000: 'Involving
the regions in the European Research Area: refining the territorial
conditions to optimise the creation and the transfer of knowledge in
Europe' Price Waterhouse Coopers.
- 'Role of the local and regional authorities in the
field of research, technological development and innovation', October
2000, Bannock Consulting Ltd.
- 'Making the European Research Area a reality: guidelines
for European Union Research activities (2002-2006)' , COM(2000)612,
4 October 2000.