Europe at a crossroads

© European Commission
© European Commission
© ESA
© ESA

“Our international partners are attracted to Europe as a model of regional integration, but they are faced with a multitude of governmental actors and research priorities when they want to engage in concrete cooperation. The aim of our strategic framework is to engage with Member States to transform Europe’s research labyrinth into a European Research Area open to the world, attracting the best brains and contributing to address global challenges.” These are the words, spoken in September 2008, of European Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. They sum up perfectly Europe’s present position: despite its advantages that are the envy of many all over the world, it is losing momentum and finding it hard to find its place in a globalised research area that is more multipolar than ever.

China and India are becoming genuine R&D heavyweights, the United States and Japan dominate dynamic sectors, while Europe is present everywhere but decisive nowhere. The famous 3% of European GDP to be invested in R&D, so central to the Lisbon strategy and vital for the creation of a ‘knowledge-based economy’, is still a long way off, mainly due to private sector shortcomings. Was this a fantasy? Does it mean efforts to build a European Research Area (ERA) have stalled? It is certainly too soon to say. Whatever the case, these mixed results should not cause us to forget the successes already achieved by the ERA, especially in the field of space research.


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