Commissioner urges universities to embrace modernisation
EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik claimed that Europe is at a pivotal point in its history as he encouraged universities to modernise and repeated warnings of increasing competition from Asia and South America.
The Commissioner was speaking to an audience at Warwick University in the UK on 20 September, where he himself had applied to study during his student days.
'I believe that we are standing at a point in Europe's history which could be as important as its reconstruction after the Second World War. Then the priority was peace, following the mass destruction of European society. Today, the priority is prosperity, with the mass construction of Europe's knowledge society,' said Mr Potocnik.
In post-war Europe, reconstruction depended on trade in coal and steel, while today these resources have been replaced by knowledge.
The Commissioner drew a further parallel: during the post-war period, the focus was on securing freedom. The EU has since established what has come to be known as the 'four freedoms': in labour, goods, capital and services. 'Now it is time for a fifth: the freedom of knowledge,' said Mr Potocnik.
Central to the Commissioner's vision of freedom for knowledge is the European Research Area (ERA). And key to the success of the ERA are universities. However, if universities are to contribute to creation of the ERA, as well as the knowledge society necessary to compete with emerging economies to the East, they must embrace modernisation.
'While the public mission and overall social and cultural remit of European universities and their commitment to basic science must be preserved, the demands of a modern globalised world mean that they increasingly need to become significant players in the economy, able to respond better and faster to the demands of the market and to develop partnerships which harness scientific and technological knowledge,' said Mr Potocnik.
He suggested that the future for universities lies in seizing the opportunities offered by new developments in existing fields, as well as by new, emerging lines of scientific inquiry. 'This could mean focusing less on scientific disciplines and more on research domains such as green energy or nanotechnology, associating them more closely with related or complementary fields,' Mr Potocnik suggested. These complementary fields could include the humanities, social sciences, and entrepreneurial and managerial skills.
The Commissioner closed by first looking back at the contributions to science by great inventors from history, and then looking to the future. The world has moved on from an age when a single genius working in relative isolation could start a revolution, he said. 'Today, more than ever, science requires a collective effort of the best minds. In Europe, we have an enormous potential to take advantage of this change.'
Category: General policy
Data Source Provider: European Commission
Document Reference: Based on a speech by Janez Potocnik
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Education, Training; Scientific Research