Research is a major driving force for economic
and social development. New scientific and technological discoveries
are constantly changing and improving the way we live and work.
Europe has an enviable reputation in the world of
research thanks largely to its highly qualified research personnel
and their rich intellectual capacity and know-how. The EU is responsible
for producing one third of the world's scientific knowledge and
boasts world-class expertise in areas such as environmental science,
medical research, transport, aerospace and telecommunications.
Maintaining and enhancing this reputation is essential
if Europe is to continue to compete successfully at international
level, and if it is to meet its target of becoming the most dynamic
knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010.
This ambitious goal was set by EU leaders at
Council meeting in Lisbon in March 2000. Key to achieving it
will be maximising Europe's human capital and harnessing its research
Putting career development centre
To ensure researchers reach their full potential,
it is essential they have access to the best possible training and
career development opportunities at all stages of their professional
life. In the competitive world of research, scientists need constantly
to fine-tune their skills and know-how, otherwise they will be left
behind by their competitors.
Mobility of researchers is fundamental to successful
science. To make ground-breaking discoveries, teams of researchers
from all parts of Europe need to be able to come together to exchange
ideas and co-operate. This collaboration is essential when you bear
in mind the sheer cost and complexity of modern science.
The EU and mobility
The EU has a long track record of encouraging researcher
mobility in the field of education and training. Probably the most
well-known activity is the EU's Erasmus programme, which was set
up in 1987 to provide assistance for university students to study
at higher education institutions in another European country.
Similarly, since 1984 researchers looking for opportunities to
spend time working abroad have benefited from well-established schemes
such as the Marie Curie fellowships and the Research Training Networks.
The new Marie Curie human resources and mobility activities covered
under the EU's Sixth
Framework Programme are the latest in this long line of EU-funded
Under FP6, the emphasis on researcher training, mobility
and career development has intensified considerably — testament
to the essential role researchers play in Europe's future. The share
of funds available for human resources has increased by over 50%
to €1,580 million. This is the strongest single increase among
all the priorities from the Fifth to the Sixth FP.
These funds will be used to improve the transfer
of research knowledge worldwide; to boost researchers' career prospects,
thereby encouraging others to join the profession; to make Europe
a more attractive place to carry out research; and to enhance the
social visibility researchers in Europe.
The benefits of mobility
From the EU's perspective, mobility is one of the
essential and visible means of developing the European
Research Area (ERA). The ERA was launched by Commissioner Busquin
in January 2000 as a way to improve Europe's research performance.
Mobility also enhances the flow of scientific knowledge and expertise
worldwide and makes Europe a more attractive option for research
and research talent from all over the world.
Helping researchers take advantage of training opportunities
abroad improves Europe's skills base, makes research a more attractive
career option and provides links for future co-operation.
The Marie Curie Actions on offer will help stop the 'brain drain'
of scientists from the EU to other parts of the world and will encourage
European researchers working abroad to return home to continue their
For researchers, spending time training in
another country offers many advantages: it gives them a chance to
acquire new cutting-edge-skills, to participate in multicultural
research teams and to experience the benefits of cultural diversity.
The opportunity to work in another country raises the international
profile of researchers' careers and provides the perfect way to
network and share experience with others in the same field.