Public response to European research area
The second stage of contributions to the debate initiated by the Commission on the need for a common European research area (ERA) have recently been published by the Research Directorate General, revealing a high level of public support for the idea. In January, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin outlined plans to exploit the potential of science and technology in the Member States through increased collaboration in a communication entitled 'towards a European research area.' Launching the initiative, he said: 'The European Research Area will not be created by a single decision; it will rather be the result of a process to which all the relevant actors will have to contribute.' EU institutions, and representatives and organisations involved in industry and research were therefore invited to share their thoughts of how a successful European R&D policy could best be achieved, and to share their experiences and concerns. The first round of the debate was published in March. Busquin promised to analyse the comments received with a view to formulating additional ideas for the ERA. Commenting on the response, Busquin said he was pleased with the seemingly high level of support for the general idea of a common area for European research. 'I greatly appreciate the input received, all of which have been closely studied,' he said. 'They show that we have, with the European Research Area, sparked up discussion on matters of real concern. Moreover, that people have been eager to draw on their practical experience to put forward concrete suggestions of what might be done. This is precisely the purpose of the debate.' Among other issues raised was the level of public spending on R&D, which is much lower in Europe than the USA. The need to encourage mobility of researchers was also discussed, as were the benefits of establishing a common system of scientific and technical reference and developing closer relations between scientific and technological organisations in Europe. Private enterprise should also be supported, said some contributors, by encouraging innovation, making risk capital more available, and developing tools to protect intellectual property.