Sarkozy renews electoral pledge to boost research
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has renewed his electoral promise to reform the country's research and higher education system. Priorities will include providing universities with greater autonomy and improving research funding structures. Speaking at a ceremony in Paris to honour the late French physicist and Nobel laureate Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Mr Sarkozy said that he had big ambitions for French science, which has all the right 'resources, competences and talent', but lacks the means and organisational structure needed to reach its full potential. He promised to introduce 'major reforms', for example allowing universities greater autonomy to recruit their own staff and manage their own budgets, and improving the efficiency of research funding structures. In terms of funding, during his presidential campaign, Mr Sarkozy had pledged that between now and 2012 the French Government would inject additional funds of €4 billion - a 25% increase - into the current public research and development (R&D) budget. The newly appointed Minister for Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse, recently confirmed that the sector's budget will benefit from an annual increase of €1 billion. These additional funds, said Mr Sarkozy, would go towards supporting results-oriented research projects and ensuring rigorous standards of evaluation. This would re-orientate research towards industrial application, which the President has made a priority. 'We must put in place the tools and the conditions, particularly financial and fiscal, that will enable innovation to cross into the laboratories and bring about economic and social progress.' Mr Sarkozy said he also planned to improve the working and salary conditions of researchers, particularly those starting out in their careers. He also indicated that he would soon present a new education programme for the country in which science would be given top priority.