On 1 October 1996, the European Parliament's Committee for Research, Technological Development held a public hearing on "European research and development in the 21st century". The aim of the hearing, which took place in Brussels, was to inform debate, within the Committee, on the development of future Community research policy within the context of the preparation the Community's Fifth RTD Framework Programme, due to start in 1998. Participants in the hearing, who included a wide variety of scientists and researchers from across Europe, covered an extensive range of topics including: - Major trends in basic research and knowledge production; - The social context of research and development; - Globalization, competitiveness and cooperation; - The evaluation of RTD programmes; - Structural features of EU RTD policy and possible needs for change. Participants spoke of the need to improve Europe's capacity for innovation, relative to that of its competitors, and many pointed to changes in the central processes in research and scientific policy - both those of recent years and those expected to be introduced in the future. In addition, the increasing globalization of the European economy, and the future accession of Central and Eastern European countries, were seen as factors that will necessitate a different approach to European RTD policies than in the past. Many of the participants called for greater flexibility - in programmes, in projects, in funding arrangements and in decision-making. The need to ease the difficulties experienced by SMEs in participating in Community RTD programmes was also underlined. Mr. Claude Desama, the Belgian Socialist MEP who is drafting the Committee's opinion, noted, in concluding the hearing, that there had been broad agreement among the participants on changes in the scientific intellectual process and hence in the approach to science and technology policy. He pointed out that research, technological development and innovation are increasingly based on a "systematic" approach rather than the previous "linear" model in which disciplines were more tightly defined and compartmentalized. Mr. Desama expressed concern that the needs of society were note sufficiently being taken into account under this new model and that the European social model could come to be at odds with competitiveness at a time when the economy is becoming increasingly globalized. He suggested the definition of a "revised" European social model reconciled with "qualitative" competitiveness based on more than just short-term calculation of maximum profit. The Committee is due to adopt its opinion at the end of October, with adoption by the full Parliament due before the end of 1996. The initial opinion of the Parliament on the Fifth Framework Programme should, therefore, be in the hands of the Commission for some time before the formal legislative proposal is launched in the spring of 1997.
Policy making and guidelines
29 November 1996