Research policy and its implications for Europe
The European Commissioner for science, research and development, Mrs. Edith Cresson, delivered the Zuckerman lecture entitled "Europe needs research: Research needs Europe", to the Royal Society in London, United Kingdom, on 13 May 1998. In her lecture, she addressed three main points, namely the political imperatives that are driving current European research policy, the main developments that have taken place in R&D throughout the Community, and their implications for current and future policy. Mrs. Cresson also gave a brief assessment of expenditure on research in Europe and emphasized the need to improve Europe's record in the utilization of research. Focusing on three aspects of the EU's current research policy, the Commissioner underlined that research must respond more closely to the needs of the citizen, must be better embedded in the EU economy, and Europe's human research base must be developed and improved. Mrs. Cresson noted the importance of women in science as a means to improve this human research base, and stated that a forthcoming communication from the Commission will encompass the setting up of a "Gender Watch" system within the Fifth Framework Programme, and promote a network for women in science. Making better use of Europe's scientific knowledge, in particular through turning it into new jobs and improving Europe's industrial competitiveness, is a key concern of the Commission, according to Mrs. Cresson. The Action Plan for Innovation has been the spur for a number of activities, such as improving the ability of European companies to protect their intellectual property, and in encouraging venture capitalists in Europe to invest in high-tech companies. Other areas where the Commission is active include encouraging technology transfer across the EU, and here Mrs. Cresson noted the value of the CORDIS databases which provide a valuable tool to assist this process. The Commissioner concluded on the budget for the Fifth Framework Programme, emphasizing the need for sufficient EU funding. The Council has agreed on a budget of ECU 14 billion - well below the Commission's proposal of ECU 16.3 billion - which would mean a decrease, in real terms, in EU research funding. The Commissioner underlined the fact that, if such a budget is implemented, serious implications would result for EU-funded research in national institutes and universities. It could also mean, she stated, the closure of parts of the EU's Joint Research Centre, which provides a unique service in allowing important European medical, biotechnological and industrial research to be carried out in a politically neutral environment by quality researchers.