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Speech by Neil Kinnock, to the Industrial Research and Development Advisory committee of the European Commission - "The role of research in transport policy" - Brussels, 24 October 1996

"This morning I would like to set out some of my ideas for research in the Fifth Framework Programme and, as will be obvious, I'll be taking up a number of the points which you have outlined in your own valuable opinion on that programme.

I begin with the issue of research on mobility - and I must say that I read your strong and persuasive arguments for a specific programme on the subject with great interest.

This Advisory Committee will not be surprised to know that I consider that your emphasis on research with a broader "mobility" perspective rather on a narrower "transport" perspective to be entirely positive. Indeed it is an emphasis which is reflected in our preparations for future research in the Fifth Framework Programme. Mobility is obviously central to modern economic and social activity - without exaggeration, it is essential to life and liberty and its implications for spatial planning, urban and rural development, the organisation of industrial production and distribution, the security of the environment, the use - or misuse - of energy resources and the quality of existence are patently endless.

But for just about all species (other than sharks that must move perpetually in order to stay alive), mobility for its own sake clearly has no more value than transport for its own sake. Effective, useful, pleasurable mobility requires accessibility - the ease of connection with the necessities and the nonsenses - and future research must cover all of these aspects. The consequences of that are that mobility must be considered globally and holistically and secondly, research must assist in the effort to ensure that mobility is more sustainable and not just more plentiful.

That fundamental requirement is clearly identified in your emphasis that research must focus on solving problems. And whilst that must obviously involve the development of new products sometimes, it is clear that full and practical effect has to be given to research programmes which - as you put it - "embrace the integration of existing technologies to tackle problems". In other words - "don't re-invent the wheel, find out what the wheel can really do". I suppose that approach is typical of some of the greatest researchers. As Aldous Huxley said after reading Darwin's "Origin of the Species": "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that!".

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Last Updated: 28-05-97