The journey towards a Common Research Area for the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean

8 June 2015, EU-CELAC summit, Brussels

Carlos Moedas - Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

Check Against Delivery

Esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure for me to address this distinguished audience at this prestigious Academic summit.

Your presence here today, from so many European, Latin American and Caribbean countries confirms that knowledge and science really have no boundaries. Not even an ocean can keep our work at bay. As politicians, scientists, researchers and academics you form a global community, working together towards the same horizon and for the same, noble objective. Nothing less than the progress of humanity.

Taken together, the EU and CELAC represent sixty-one states, about one-third of United Nations members, and more than one billion citizens. Faced with the pressing challenges that affect all of us, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean have a great affinity. This is the result of our shared history of strong socio-economic relations, trade and investment, and – important for us here today − profound academic and scientific ties. But ultimately, it is the result of our shared principles and values.

Our cooperation in research and innovation has flourished and strengthened over the years, both at bi-regional level and with individual CELAC countries. Since the first bi-regional Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1999, the importance of academic and scientific exchanges between our regions has been recognised by the Heads of State and government of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean. This was reiterated by the Madrid Summit of 2010 and the Santiago Summit of 2013.

Since then our political leaders have consistently given priority to higher education, science and technology. And important new decisions have been taken, like the creation of the Euro-Latin American Knowledge Area and the Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation. In the short time since its launch in 2013, the Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation has succeeded in creating a valuable dialogue on areas of common priority in research and innovation: pooling financial resources from different European and CELAC countries for cooperation on concrete research actions. And during the seven years Europe's previous research funding program FP7, over 750 CELAC partners were supported in cooperative projects. With as many as over 2900 Marie Curie grantees from CELAC countries.Taken together, that amounts to around 100 million euros from FP7 granted to CELAC participants. An achievement entirely down to your own to your own excellence in research and scientific endeavour, representing a tremendous partnership for the EU.

Today more than ever, the European Union wants to stand as an even stronger global partner to you in research and innovation. A period of political and economic hardship has thrown into stark relief the benefits of research and innovation in stimulating economic growth, employment and societal well-being.  International cooperation is therefore an essential element of our research policy. The more open we are in the increasingly globalised world of 21st century research and science, the better our ability to learn and adapt will become. But more than that, we recognise the power of research, science and innovation in bringing different peoples of the world closer together: united in our innate curiosity and desire to explain the mysteries of the universe.

Science diplomacy and international cooperation help us to understand our precious planet from a vital diversity of perspectives. And science diplomacy and international cooperation help us all to tackle the challenges that we all face − such as maintaining global public health and dealing with the human, societal and environmental consequences of conflict. Through science diplomacy, the scientific values of rationality, transparency and universality foster common understanding, build trust and promote cooperation between peoples, regardless of cultural, national or religious background.

There is a strong human dimension to academic and scientific cooperation.

Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean already share the same interest in cooperating on important areas, such as health research, renewable energies, the bio-economy, marine sciences, sustainable urbanisation and many others. We enjoy a friendship, based on mutually beneficial cooperation that can only become more profound and productive.

Horizon 2020, the EU's latest research funding programme, is the biggest of its kind in the world: contributing to improving knowledge in Europe and the world every day. Horizon 2020 is based on three pillars synonymous with European ideals and aspirations: Scientific excellence; Industrial leadership; and Societal Challenges. And it is fully open to the world.

This means that researchers from Latin American and the Caribbean, but also other regions of the world, can work together with European researchers in practically every field of research and innovation covered by our programme. What's more, Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean are perfectly positioned to create a Common Research Area together. One that builds on the EU-CELAC Knowledge Area and increases strategic research cooperation between our regions.

A first area in which we could step up our cooperation in this manner relates to the question of how best to connect the on-going trans-Atlantic activities on marine research in the North Atlantic with the Southern Atlantic. Another potential area is renewable energy, including biofuels and geothermal energies where many CELAC countries have huge untapped potential. A third area of potential common interest is the testing of nature-based solutions for sustainable urbanisation, disaster risk reduction and tourism. And a fourth is the development of climate services to support international and national decision-making. The EU is investing a great deal in this field through Horizon 2020 and the Copernicus Climate Change Service. We could work together through regional Climate Service Centres and sector-specific applications in strategic fields, as part of an EU-CELAC Common Research Area.

But the creation of a Common Research Area does not have to be limited to cooperation on thematic priorities alone. It could also include cooperation on funding researcher mobility, access to research infrastructure and data, and of course sharing know-how and best practices. Researchers in Europe and in Latin America are already working together every day on the most fundamental questions about life, nature and the advancement of humanity.

Our regions are already united by the highest ideals. Our scientists, our scholars share the same motivation to work together to face global challenges and to improve the life of our future generations. They strive to identify ways to innovate existing technologies to ensure economic growth while preserving the planet. We have come a long way together since the Rio Summit in 1999; we are keeping together and we want to work more together.

We have the will, we can build on our past experience, and we can count on the stamina of our researchers to realise our shared vision for the future. We have all we need to build a Common Research Area.

What a wonderful journey it could be, I look forward to seeing you all at the destination!

Thank you