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Headlines Published on 25 May 2004

Title Competitive research on the Council agenda 

A lack of innovation and investment in R&D could undermine Europe’s knowledge economy ambitions. Proactive steps are needed to boost research investment, encourage professional mobility and stimulate enterprises, especially SMEs, the Competitiveness Council recently concluded.

Competitive Council meeting during the Irish Presidency © Source: Irish Presidency
Competitive Council meeting during the Irish Presidency

© Source: Irish Presidency
In last week’s European Competitiveness Council meeting, policy-makers addressed the market barriers and weaknesses holding back EU ambitions of becoming the most powerful and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world, including what is now needed to bolster the continent’s research and development fundamentals.

The Council, which usually meets twice during each EU presidency, discussed the issues of competitiveness, innovation and how a more conducive regulatory environment – on such things as patents, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and research visa procedures – should improve the enlarged Union’s international standing.

The life sciences and biotechnology were held up as examples of how further work on simplifying the law and strengthening research links between EU Member States will prevent Europe’s competitors from gaining an unassailable lead in the field.

Poles of excellence
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin presented to the Council a preliminary view of future research policy in the EU – the subject of a Communication due in early June entitled ‘Science and technology, the key to Europe’s future’. These guidelines are centred on a proposal, first issued on 10 February this year, to double the budget for research in the next Framework Programme, with the focus on six main research priorities.

The new proposal aims to stimulate competitive R&D within the Union, especially in basic research. It also advocates joint research activities which would support industrial policy, as well as further developing research infrastructure and boosting the numbers of skilled researchers. Setting up European ‘poles of excellence’, by increasing co-operation between scientific stakeholders at all levels, is also desirable, according to the proposal. Mobilising funding – private and public – to make all this happen is also something to aim for.

Other subjects pertinent to European research were discussed during the Council meeting. These include the progress being made on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a huge international research project costing around €4.5 billion and involving top scientists from the Union, Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and the USA.

The Council also exchanged views on a Directive and two Recommendations put forward by the Commission to help third country researchers, such as non-EU scientists from the Euro-Mediterranean region – wanting to work in the Union. It also discussed the Directive on Professional Qualifications, which aims to consolidate and simplify current arrangements for recognising the qualifications of professionals wishing to work in other EU countries. In addition, the Council sought to reach a political agreement on the Regulation establishing a Community Patent, possibly replacing the current European Patent covering just five countries.

Source:  EU sources

Research Contacts page

More information:

  • Competitiveness Council (Council of the European Union)
  • Results of the Competitiveness Council Meeting (17-18 May 2004)
  • Press release (PDF, before Council meeting)
  • Irish Presidency
  • ITER
  • Euro-Mediterranean partnership
  • Professional qualifications
  • Community patent progress

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