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RTD info MAYO 2005 - Surt

RTD info MAYO 2005 - Surt

I N T E R V I E W

I N T E R V I E W RTD info No. 45 May 2005 3The LOGICof the ‘LEAP FORWARD’European research is on the eve of anunprecedented shift. In announcing, in 2004, itsproposal to double EU funds allocated toresearch under the Seventh FrameworkProgramme, the European Commissionspectacularly thrust to centre stage the keypriority of the Lisbon Strategy: to root renewedEuropean growth and competitiveness in aknowledge-based economy. RTD info meets thenew Commissioner responsible for science andresearch, Janez Potoãnik, now one of thedriving forces behind this ‘leap forward’.ˇJanez Potoãnik,Commissionerfor Science andResearch© Christian VerreydtIn doubling the Community research budget – which now ranksthird, behind agriculture and the Structural Funds – the Commissionis surely proposing a significant adjustment to the hierarchy ofUnion policy?budget does not call this model into question but will, we believe, helpto improve synergies and eliminate duplication of national efforts.Nevertheless, how do you justify an increase on such a scale?Janez Potoãnik – To avoid misunderstanding, this announcementof a doubling of research funds needs to be stated in the clearest terms.I prefer to talk about absolute numbers, rather than increases. The Commissionproposal was made in the context of the financial perspectivespresented in 2004. These were formulated as part of the traditionalseven-year cycle of decision-making that applies to all the Union’s policies– in this case, for the years 2007 to 2013. There has always been adiscrepancy between this global seven-year budgeting cycle and the fiveyearFramework Programmes. This is illogical and does not aid transparentaccounting. In economics and politics, as in science, the choice ofthe units of measurement is more than a detail, especially if you wantto compare the respective weight given to actions and policies.From the Seventh Framework Programme onwards, we propose tosynchronise these cycles by extending research budgets from five to sevenyears. The present average for Union research expenditure is €5 billiona year. The doubling the Commission requested would mean allocating€10 billion a year to research between 2007 and 2013 – equivalent toa total budget of €70 billion for this period. That is the measurable ambitionthat is proposed at the outset.But this ‘quantum leap’ must be put into perspective. In the UnitedStates, 95% of public research investment is in one way or another underfederal control, whereas in the European Union the present CommunityFramework Programme represents scarcely 5% of total public expenditurein this sector. That is the nature of our European model. Distinctively, itconsists of a mosaic of national research policies. Doubling the EuropeanThe most essential argument is simply that we have no other option.Over the past five years, Europe has adopted the direction set by the LisbonStrategy, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed by successive EuropeanCouncils. This means that all the Member States are firmly behindit. The objective is to maintain and strengthen our continent’s prosperitywhile, at the same time, safeguarding the social, economic and culturalmodels and lifestyles to which we are attached. To achieve this ambition,the Union has set itself the challenge for the future of becoming oneof the world’s key centres of knowledge creation. The response is thereforeone of simple logic: the whole Lisbon Strategy loses its credibility ifwe fail to give European research the resources with which to create thiseconomy and knowledge society.What is the present feeling among the Member States about thefinancial expression of this ‘logic of credibility’?As I have just said, the consensus on the Lisbon objective is deeperthan ever. It relates not just to science and technology but to the ‘knowledgetriangle’ – that is, the close synergy that must be created betweenresearch policy, innovation policy (which includes support for the developmentof fields such as risk capital and intellectual property rights), andeducation policy.But the ‘moment of truth’ has yet to come. What is finally decidedfor the Seventh Framework Programme depends on the global negotiations,which are now beginning, on the way in which the Lisbon Strategywill be translated in terms of the total resources allocated to Union

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