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Report calls for legislation on Lisbon Agenda

A report by the Stockholm Network, a European think tank, has recommended that specific EU legislation be put in place to monitor progress on the Lisbon Agenda and provide more measurable goals and timelines. It also calls for the European Research Area (ERA) to be placed furt...

A report by the Stockholm Network, a European think tank, has recommended that specific EU legislation be put in place to monitor progress on the Lisbon Agenda and provide more measurable goals and timelines. It also calls for the European Research Area (ERA) to be placed further up on the political agenda, and for the harmonisation of the European patent system. The report provides an overview of EU policies and practices in innovation, research, intellectual property and competition. These are areas which are considered key to reaching the strategic goal of the Lisbon Agenda of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. While recognising the 2010 objective as a laudable ambition, the authors of the report suggest the EU may have bitten off more than it can chew. They argue that the objectives of creating an information society for all, an ERA, and an environment friendly for starting up innovative businesses have yet to be secured. To make inroads on these targets, the report recommends introducing a specific 'Lisbon Directive' which 'would expedite major changes essential for the implementation of the Lisbon Agenda'. The legislation should seek to narrow the scope of the original text, focusing on areas of strategic importance that have a feasible chance of being accepted politically by the Member States. These could include areas such as intellectual property, public-private cooperation, use of publicly-funded research and supporting small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Providing clearly defined short and medium-term deliverables and concrete timelines that do not exceed three years would be factored into the proposed legislation. 'Although the Lisbon Agenda was designed to improve the EU's innovation performance over a decade, there is a dire need to more accurately define the timeline for completion of each deliverable. This way the textual statements can be translated into practical commitments,' write the authors of the report. The report also makes recommendations on some of the strategic goals of the Agenda. On the ERA, it calls for renewed political support in increasing the level of investment in research and development (R&D). While welcoming the increased support provided within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the authors argue that 'when the push comes to shove resources are still disproportionably allocated to other areas that arguably are less valuable to EU citizens in terms of the contribution to the economy and to society.' The only way to reach the Barcelona objective of increasing investment in research to 3% of GDP by 2010, it argues, is to 'put the issue of R&D side by side with other political issues such as the Common Agriculture Policy. It is important to make EU policy makers and politicians accountable for their current choice to under-invest in the ERA.' On commercialising research outputs, the report notes that there are considerable differences between EU Members States in terms of legal tools, structural mechanisms and cultural perceptions. It recommends the introduction of new pan-European legislation that seeks to level the playing field among Member States, as well as the creation of a more supportive environment for knowledge exploitation and technology transfer activities. To increase public-private collaboration in the ERA, the report welcomes the establishment of European Technology Platforms, but calls on policymakers to make use of the mechanisms available for closer cooperation under Article 171 of the EC Treaty. On the issue of harmonising the EU patent system, another strategic goal of the Lisbon Agenda, the report renews calls for the adoption and unilateral implementation of the London Agreement and the European Paten Litigation Agreement. This would provide the legal instruments necessary to improve the EU system until such time as a consensus can be reached on a Community patent. Other recommendations on the patent system include cutting red tape and establishing a fast track for SME applications, provisions for costs and further developing the idea of patent insurance as a means of protecting SMEs' rights.