EU and Japan agree on joint priorities for promoting research and innovation
The EU and Japan adopted a paper on 'Promoting research and innovation towards prosperity' at a joint summit on 5 June. The paper outlines four areas where ties can be strengthened: research cooperation; protecting intellectual property rights (IPR); supporting collaboration between the public and private sectors; and developing an innovation-friendly environment. 'By promoting research and innovation and their collaboration in these fields, the EU and Japan could lead the world economy through technological competitiveness, and bring prosperity to their peoples and beyond,' reads the paper. The text highlights the fact that participation by Japanese and EU researchers in the other's research programmes has, thus far, been relatively low. The figures do not reflect the huge research and development (R&D) potential of these two major players, or the common research challenges that they share, delegates from both sides agreed. 'These facts call for Europe-Japan cooperation in research and development to grow in vigour and stature, which in turn would give their relationship a new dimension,' the paper states. Both sides also underlined their dissatisfaction with current levels of researcher exchange. Traditionally, far more Japanese researchers have spent time in Europe than European researchers in Japan. The European Commission hopes that a new 'Staff exchange scheme', to be launched through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) in 2008, will balance out these exchanges. For those European researchers already in Japan, the extension of the ERA-Link scheme is set to provide a link back to Europe. ERA-Link has the aim of networking European researchers abroad. It was launched in the US in 2006, and Japan is next in line. Participants at the summit also noted the importance of cooperation between the private sector, business initiatives and academia. The paper commits both parties to further encouraging cluster cooperation. On creating an innovation-friendly environment, the paper outlines the shared view of both the EU and Japan that the convergence of regulations and standards can lead to the creation of an environment conducive to innovation. It also states that EU and Japanese representatives will address this issue in various dialogues set to take place during 2007. The paper also presents sector-specific initiatives for the life sciences, information and communication technologies (ICT), nanotechnology and energy/climate change. In ICT, for example, both parties confirmed their intention to accelerate cooperation in areas such as: the regulatory framework in the ICT sector; a more secure environment for ICT usage; using ICT to support public policies; joint research activities; and 4G mobile communication systems. The summit also saw the adoption of an action plan on protecting IPR. The areas for activity outlined in the plan include: furthering cooperation on IPR protection and enforcement in third countries; providing support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in third countries; improving patent prosecution at global level; and securing a predictable and stable international patent system. The summit was chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her current capacity as President of the European Council, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. Talks also touched upon topics including climate change, Japan-China relations, the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, assistance to Afghanistan, the Middle East, and poverty.