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Raising R&D spending to 3 per cent of GDP will boost EU GDP by up to 10 per cent, says Potocnik

EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, has said that should the EU increase its investment in research to three per cent of GDP, it would result in an average increase in GDP of between 3 and 10 per cent by 2010. The Commissioner was speaking at a Commission...

EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, has said that should the EU increase its investment in research to three per cent of GDP, it would result in an average increase in GDP of between 3 and 10 per cent by 2010. The Commissioner was speaking at a Commission conference on the open method of coordination (OMC) in research, in Brussels on 18 May. The figures come from the Dutch National Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, and back up Mr Potocnik's support for both the Lisbon targets and the Aho group's report on innovation in the EU. To achieve this, the Commissioner called on Member States to increase their spending in research and development (R&D), because, 'at the moment about 94 per cent of all public investments in R&D are made by Member States. Even though there will be a substantial increase in the budget of the Community Framework Programme, Member States need to continue to increase their investment in R&D in the future.' Commissioner Potocnik went on to suggest that the 'Open Method of Coordination' (OMC) is the best way to monitor the investment that Member States put into R&D, especially in coordinated actions. 'There is ample evidence, for example from the Framework Programmes, that in many cases coordinated actions are more effective policy responses than uncoordinated actions.' The OMC three per cent target is designed to do three things: - enhance mutual learning, peer reviews and the identification of good practices; - help Member States to develop more coherent and concerted policies, as well as joint initiatives on issues of common interest; - help identify areas where Community initiatives could reinforce actions at Member State level. Commissioner Potocnik believes that so far, the OMC approach has been a success. 'We believe that mutual learning by Member States has been intense, that good practices have been identified in a number of areas and that guidance has been provided so that Member States can improve their policies. We believe all Member States have benefited from the OMC 3 per cent,' he said. Specifically, he said that Member States have used the OMC to inform policy decisions, and so spending decisions, involving billions of euros in Member States' spending. For example, Member States have looked at how others have reformed public research organisations, and then applied their own reforms as a result. Six Member States have opted to have their research policy mix peer reviewed. The Commissioner called for two areas to be strengthened: trans-national industry-university collaboration and fiscal measures for research. He said that the Commission has prepared papers with recommendations in each of these areas. He also highlighted specific pilot OMC-NET calls, for Member States to coordinate policy areas of common interest. These calls will continue into the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Mr Potocnik outlined a forthcoming report from the Committee for Scientific and Technical Research (CREST) into the Member States' approaches to the Lisbon agenda. The report will pool progress reports on each Member State's National Reform Programmes to make specific recommendations to the Council. Finally, the Commissioner said that the progress made by Member States has been encouraging so far, and that broadly, they need to do more of the same, but with particular attention to four key areas: 1. The OMC should focus on areas where trans-national dimensions are greater, and where impact can be increased. Specific areas of mutual learning and coordination could use Structural Funds for regional development to support research and innovation. 2. Mutual learning should take place amongst policy makers at the level of CREST, as well as at the level of experts. This should for example be the case with mutual learning in the National Reform Programmes. 3. The OMC process needs to produce clear guidance, identifying good practices and producing strong recommendations, if Europe is to move quickly towards a knowledge based economy and improve its productivity, especially in light of increased competition from emerging and fast-growing economies like India and China. 4. The OMC should be embedded in research policy making in the Member States, to ensure the effective take-up of results. Good practice and guidance should be readily used.

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