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The view of the European Parliament at the Industrial Technologies Conference

The Commission's Industrial Technologies Conference, in Toulouse, from 27 to 30 October 1997, was addressed by Professor Umberto Scapagnini, Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy. In his view, research, although a vit...
The Commission's Industrial Technologies Conference, in Toulouse, from 27 to 30 October 1997, was addressed by Professor Umberto Scapagnini, Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy. In his view, research, although a vital instrument, is only one of the policies which need to be integrated and coordinated to tackle Europe's problems and improve its competitiveness.

The driving force for European research comes from the needs of society, according to Professor Scapagnini, who underlined the need for the objectives of strengthening the scientific and technological basis of EU industry and strengthening its competitiveness at international level to be understood in their widest sense. European research needs to be more innovative in orientation. Innovation is also vital to job creation.

Rapid technological developments, together with institutional and social changes, are a fact in today's world. Among the problems facing Europe are climate change, security of energy supply and sustainable development. Moreover, the creation of employment and ensuring individual quality of life has to be achieved in tandem with improving industrial competitiveness. Research is essential for tackling these problems, according to Professor Scapagnini. However, it cannot solve them alone. The real challenge will be to bring together different policy areas.

Industrial and materials technologies are of key importance to the future success of Europe's manufacturing industry, he continued, noting that the three themes of the conference each reflected the challenges Europe must confront. The conference would, he hoped, succeed in finding a common approach to some of these challenges.

SMEs will need special support and help, according to Professor Scapagnini, who acknowledged that they are often more productive in R&D than large companies. The Community should, therefore, do its best to facilitate the access of SMEs to the Framework Programme. A second essential area for success is risk capital, with employment created by investment, both through traditional mechanisms such as the European Investment Bank, and newer ones such as EASDAQ (the pan-European stock market aimed primarily at small, high-technology companies).

Professor Scapagnini concluded by calling for better coordination between research at EU level and at national level. Member States, he said, should work to improve links between research and industry, particularly to improve mobility of researchers. They should set up suitable frameworks to help SMEs obtain economic intelligence. Finally, they should give the Commission more authority for the management of the Framework Programme, and resist the urge to cut down on their national research budgets.
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