A group of experts has urged the European Commission and Member States to recognise the synergy between the proposed ERA (European research area) and European education area projects. The international panel was appointed to produce a report as part of the benchmarking process for the ERA, and studied the theme of 'public and private investment in research and development'. Among its conclusions, the group stated that in order to be truly efficient 'A European Research and Innovation Area and a possible European Education Area should not be developed as completely separate elements. The European Commission and the Member States should reflect on the creation of effective links between them.' These comments reflect the view that human resources, and in particular a sufficient supply of qualified personnel from higher education, is a critical element in the review of public and private investment. With more than 75 per cent of the cost of research and development (R&D) projects being spent on personnel, the report suggests that 'private investment in many emerging fields will only take place after consistent and extensive public investment in human resources.' The report also outlines specific ways in which to increase investment in research. These include policies aimed at promoting links between small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies within the industry, and increased public support for R&D activities during times of economic downturn, when traditionally both the private and public sector tend to reduce funding. On the question of how to use resources more efficiently and effectively, strong emphasis is placed on the role of local government in creating and maintaining R&D capabilities. The disproportionate success of some European regions in the area of research, the report said, 'reflects both historical strength and conscious public policy action to maintain local capabilities.' Devolving responsibility for public R&D from central to local government, the group felt, would ensure that programs were better placed to respond to local needs and opportunities, thus generating additional funding. Additional groups of experts have produced reports on four other themes associated with the European research area. The benchmarking process is part of the overall aim, identified at the Lisbon European Council in 2000, to boost R&D expenditure in Europe to three per cent of GDP by 2010.
Policy making and guidelines
20 September 2002