The European Commissioner designate for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, pledged to move research, innovation and science 'to the heart of European policy' in her hearing at the European Parliament on 13 January. Speaking to the European Parliament's committees on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and Culture and Education (CULT), the new Commissioner designate said that the European Union must become an Innovation Union.
'Knowledge, research and scientific excellence is a cornerstone of innovation,' she stated. 'In the new economy, refined knowledge will replace crude oil as the economy's prime motive force.'
During a confident performance, Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn said that if approved as Commissioner, her policies would focus on three main areas: completing the creation of the European Research Area (ERA), addressing societies' grand challenges, and creating an innovation research culture.
In her opening speech, she also highlighted the importance of bringing more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) into the EU's research programmes, and leveraging additional EU funds, such as the Structural Funds, for research.
After the speech, the floor was thrown open to questions from the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), and during her grilling, Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn gave an idea of the kind of Commissioner she would be.
Asked whether she would be a Research Commissioner who comes up with the big idea or one who improves the instruments we have available, she replied forcefully: 'I'm a politician, not a civil servant. I'm going to use the instruments that are already there to ensure that we deliver research to where it is needed.'
Describing herself as 'a doer', she continued: 'I will be robust in pushing this forward.' She concluded by expressing her desire for 'action and delivery'.
Responding to a question on how she would obtain a large block of funding for research during the next round of EU budget negotiations, she said: 'I'm up for the challenge. I've done it before in government. I will fight to get as much as I can.'
In reply to a query on how she would attract more people to science, she commented: 'We should make science sexy. Do we have celebrity scientists? We should have!'
If approved by the parliament, Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn would be the first EU Research Commissioner to have 'innovation' added to her job title. Some MEPs pointed out that innovation is a cross-cutting issue covered by many Commissioners' portfolios, and wondered how the Commission as a whole would manage this.
The Commissioner designate replied that she would chair the group of Commissioners whose portfolios involve innovation, and pledged to work closely with Michel Barnier, the Commissioner designate for Internal Market and Services, on issues such as intellectual property rights and patent protection.
Until recently, Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn was a Member of the European Court of Auditors, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that many parliamentarians quizzed her on how she would use this experience to cut through some of the red tape surrounding European research grants.
In her replies, she stated that procedures were already considerably simpler and shorter than in the past. Pointing out that research funds are public money, she said: 'I don't want to do anything that will compromise sound financial management.'
Nevertheless, she admitted that more could be done, and noted, 'If we have less rules, we have less errors.'
The hearings of the Commissioners designate began on 12 January and will run until 19 January. The European Parliament will vote on the new Commission on 26 January.
For more information, please visit:
The European Parliament's hearings website:
European Commission website on the Commissioners designate:
Category: General policy
Information Source: Hearing at the European Parliament of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
Document Reference: Based on the Hearing at the European Parliament of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn