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Current efforts to meet Barcelona goal 'not enough', says Potocnik

Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has called on the EU's Member States to do more to meet the Barcelona goal on research investment. Recognising the important role that research must play in meeting the Lisbon target - making Europe's economy the most competiti...

Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has called on the EU's Member States to do more to meet the Barcelona goal on research investment. Recognising the important role that research must play in meeting the Lisbon target - making Europe's economy the most competitive in the world by 2010 - the European Council agreed in 2002 to set the goal of increasing Europe's research investment to three per cent of GDP by 2010. This became known as the Barcelona goal. In 2002, the EU was spending 1.95 per cent of its GDP on research, 40 per cent less than in the US. 'Some notable advances have been made since then at both EU and national levels, but overall progress is far too slow,' Mr Potocnik told participants at an SME (small and medium sized enterprise) union symposium on 25 January. 'Member State investment targets, for instance, are too often put aside, policy measures do not go far enough, or are not pursued,' he added. While some countries will meet their own national goals, the current effort is not enough to increase European investment to three per cent of GDP. Current estimations are that the EU will only reach 2.5 per cent by 2010. 'This is not enough,' said the Commissioner. He blamed this 'failure to progress' on the relatively low priority awarded to research as an instrument for economic growth, as well as the economic downturn in 2002 and 2003. This led to unfavourable conditions for private research, and in particular affected the pharmaceutical sector, said Mr Potocnik. As the Barcelona goal foresees two-thirds of research investment coming from the private sector, the relocation of several pharmaceutical research centres outside of Europe was bound to have a negative effect on progress towards the three per cent figure. The solution, according to the Commissioner, is for the Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission to work together, and to take full advantage of both the economic up-turn and the Lisbon mid-term review, due in March.