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Science & Research

1. Remaining competitive

Science, research and technological development all help deliver jobs, prosperity and quality of life. The objective of the European Unionís research policy is ďto organise cooperation at different levels, coordinate national and European policies, encourage the networking of research teams and increase the mobility of individuals and ideas in order to reinforce European competitiveness.Ē

European research began in 1956 with the Euratom Treaty and concentrated first on nuclear science. Expansion of European-level research was slow, though, and it was in the early 80ís when the first research and technological development framework programme Esprit was agreed for the years 1984-1994. Since 1984, six framework programmes have steered European research efforts and cooperation. The latest, 7th Framework Programme for Research, runs from 2007 to 2013 and is specifically designed to create growth and jobs.

Today, the EU leads the world in many technologies, but faces increasing challenges not only from traditional competitors such as the United States and Japan, but also from emerging economies like China, India and Brazil.

Although research is high on the policy agenda in Europe, it has taken time for this to show as increased funding for science and research. According to Eurostat, in recent years the research and development expenditure has stood at 1,9 percent of GDP in Europe against 2,7 percent in the US and 3,2 percent in Japan. China reached 1,3 percent in 2005. Within the EU, variations between member states remain wide, with Sweden and Finland investing over 3,5 percent of GDP to research and Cyprus and Romania 0,4 percent.

When measuring innovation performance, however, the EU has been slowly closing the innovation gap with the US in the last five years (see European Innovation Scoreboard 2006). Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany have been named innovation leaders not only among EU members but also globally, performing far better and investing much more than average in the field of innovation.

EUís goal is to bring research and development investment to an average of 3 percent of national GDP by 2010, as a part of the unionís Lisbon strategy for growth and competitiveness.

ďThe next seven years will not only see a bigger, bolder framework programme for research. They will also see an increasing dependence on research as Europe continues to build a knowledge society,Ē said Commissioner Janez Potocnik during the launch event for the EUís 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technology in January 2007. Without dynamic scientific progress, it is hard to imagine European economic growth and job-creation, much less new and innovative products and services that will make European businesses competitive in an open, globalised economy, as envisioned in the Lisbon strategy.

The European Union has recently geared up its efforts to support innovation in Europe. The EUís newest scientific agency, the European Research Council , was launched in early 2007 to fund cutting-edge research into new technology that keeps Europe competitive. The Research Council has a budget of Ä7,5 billion until 2013. Its 22-strong panel of renowned scientists will direct funds for researchers and scientists based in Europe, for investigator-driven projects in science and technology, social sciences and humanities. The ERC wants especially to encourage creativity, risk-taking and young scientific talents.

Another new initiative, the European Technology Institute, is set to start work in 2008.

There are two main aspects to the EUís science and research policies: 1) By 2010 the European Research Area (ERA) aims to create a more coherent science and research environment across the EU, a single market of knowledge; 2) The EUís research Framework Programmes are the financial instruments that make the ERA happen.

Further information on the research sector in the EU can be found at the Commissionís web service, Research or at the Joint Research Centre , created to provide independent scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of the EUís research policies Ė in the common interest of the member states.

Up-to-date information on the specific initiatives and activities in sector is available through the Cordis information service.

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