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Research high on agenda at Spring Council

Once again the importance of research for Europe was underlined by its inclusion in the items for discussion at the annual EU Spring Council, where Europe's Heads of State and Government get together to discuss European competitiveness. The Council's conclusions ensure that t...

Once again the importance of research for Europe was underlined by its inclusion in the items for discussion at the annual EU Spring Council, where Europe's Heads of State and Government get together to discuss European competitiveness. The Council's conclusions ensure that the Commission and Member States have a 'to do' list that will keep them busy for some time. Included on the Commission's list are guidelines on technology transfer between public research and industry, patent strategies, proposals for Joint Technology Initiatives and activities based on Article 169. 'Member States are determined to improve the framework conditions for innovation such as competitive markets and to mobilise additional resources for research, development and innovation activities,' begins the section on research in the Council conclusions. They then go on to emphasise the importance of synergy among Community programmes, the importance of improving the transformation of research findings into innovative products and services, and ensuring knowledge-sharing between all partners. The Council invites the Commission to present recommendations for guidelines on cooperation and technology transfer between publicly funded research and industry and, 'as a matter of priority', to put forward intellectual property rights (IPR) and patent strategies. Both the Commission and Member States are also invited to push forward the implementation of the previously discussed innovation policy strategy. Now that the Seventh Framework Programme for research (FP7) is now up and running, the Council would also like to see concrete proposals for Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) in areas of strategic importance, and for initiatives based on Article 169, which allows the EU to participate in research programmes undertaken by several Member States. In both cases, the Council would like to see initiatives launched during 2007. Heads of State and Government are also eager to see movement on the proposed European Institute of Technology (EIT). The conclusions ask the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to conclude their thorough examination of the Commission proposal during the first semester of 2007, and to take a decision before the end of the year. Much of the coverage of this year's Spring Council has focused on the agreement of new environmental targets. The meeting resulted in a new target for the use of renewable energy, and for cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. The binding target on the use of renewable energy is set at 20%, and must be met by 2020. Each Member State will decide for itself how to meet this target. 20% is also the figure for cuts to carbon dioxide emissions - to be reached by 2020, using 1990 levels as a starting point. Commission President José Manuel Barroso described the agreement as the most significant yet in which he had played a part, while Council President and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: 'I personally am very satisfied and happy that it has been possible to open the door into a whole new dimension of European cooperation in the years to come in the area of energy and combating climate change [...]. We can avoid what could well be a human calamity.' Proposals for achieving an integrated strategy for promoting eco-innovation, which the Council invited the Commission to present early in 2008, could well contribute to the meeting of these new targets.

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