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Establishment of a High Level Group on a potential European Innovation Council

European Research, and more specifically the creation of a European Research Area, are now high on the policy agenda in Europe. What are the roots of this debate?

Conducting European research policies and implementing European research programmes is in the first instance a legal and political obligation resulting from the Amsterdam Treaty. The Treaty does in fact include a whole chapter on research and technologial development (RTD), so as to underline that RTD is an essential element in the functioning of industrialised countries, such as EU Member States: the competitiveness of companies and the employment they can provide depend to a great extent on RTD; and RTD is also essential for the support of other policies such as consumer protection of the environment. In short: the individual and collective wellbeing of citizens depends on the quality and relevance of RTD.

But Europe must also play an activate role in RTD because of a number of developments inherent to the RTD sector itself

  • high level research is increasingly complex and interdisciplinary;
  • high level research is increasingly costly;
  • high level research requests a constantly increasing "critical mass".

Hardly any research team or research laboratory, hardly any company can reasonably claim to be able to respond to these challenges. Even entire Member States find it increasingly difficult to be active and play a leading role in the many important areas of scientific and technological advance.

Organising co-operation at different levels, co-ordinating national or European policies, networking teams and increasing the mobility of individuals and ideas is therefore a requirement resulting from the development of modern research in a global environment. Without determined actions at European level the present fragmentation of Europe's efforts cannot be overcome.

Taking up this challenge the European Commission, Member States and the European Parliament, the scientific community and in dustry are now committed to work jointly towards the creation of a "European Research Area" (ERA)