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News Alert

Putting European R&D at the service of sustainable development

Brussels, 26 May 2009

Opening a conference on sustainable development in Brussels today, European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik challenged a mixed audience of scientists, representatives from NGOs and industry and R&D policy makers to put European R&D at the service of sustainable development. The conference, organised in cooperation with the Czech presidency of the EU, aims to have participants confront their views, explore what European research can and cannot do for sustainability and provide key input for R&D policy making at EU level.

EU Commissioner for research, Janez Potočnik stated: "Putting European R&D at the service of sustainable development is not only essential to our future in general, it is also essential for the future of research itself. Indeed, it is only if the value of research is understood and appreciated by citizens that policy makers will find the support and legitimacy to raise the level of public research funding". Role of EU research in boosting sustainable development and the economy

In the first two years of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), 44% of the budget for collaborative research has been allocated to research supporting the EU's renewed sustainable development strategy. For instance, as part of the EU economic recovery plan, FP7 will support the "greening" of the EU automotive, manufacturing and construction sectors through three public-private R&D partnerships. The two Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs), "Clean Sky" and the "Hydrogen and Fuel Cells" JTI are also clearly linked to the key challenges of the renewed sustainable strategy. A joint call for research proposal has been launched in the bio refineries sector, taking into account a multidisciplinary approach towards sustainability goals.

Reconciling competitiveness and sustainability

Figures show that economic growth and sustainability need not be incompatible. Eco-Industries turnover in the EU is estimated to be €227 billion per year or around 2.2% of GDP and the turnover of EU eco-industries grew by around 7% between 1999 and 2004. In 2004 these industries provided EU citizens with an estimated 3.4 million jobs.

Involving stakeholders

Recognising the need to enhance the link between research and sustainability, the conference intended to create a forum where industry, academia and civil society could discuss how research contributes to sustainability. The need for greater involvement of stakeholders in policymaking was reinforced in a report by an expert group delivered to the conference. This concluded that more attention be paid to all boundaries/interfaces: between scientific disciplines, with industry, with policy and with civil society.

The way ahead

It is intended that the conference outcomes will feed into keeping sustainability at the centre of research policy and making sure it diffuses into the whole European Research Area.

For more information:
Sustainable Development conference website