Spring Council to reconsider R&D investment priorities

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Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik told the Council that he will establish a group to provide the Spring Council 2006 with recommendations on research investment priorities.

Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik has informed the Competitiveness Council of his intention to establish a group of personalities to identify priority actions for the EU to boost its investment in research. The group will be chaired by the former Prime Minister of Finland, Esko Aho, who played a major role in Finland's transformation into a knowledge economy. The group is set to provide recommendations on priorities for R&D activities for the spring summit in March 2006. 

The meeting of EU's research ministers on 28-29 November 2005 led to adoption of Council's first formal position on the FP7. In addition to this partial general approach (see EurActiv 13 October 2005), the ministers agreed that a review of the structure of the future European Research Council would take place by 2010. Some member states also made a public declaration on ethical principles in FP7, insisting on the principle of subsidiarity in research, which leaves certain activities to member states to fund - namely the embryonic stem cell research. 

The third meeting of the Space Council, a joint meeting of the European Space Agency (ESA) Council at ministerial level and of the EU's Competitiveness Council, confirmed Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) as the second flagship of EU space policy. The ministers discussed the development of an overall GMES co-operation strategy between ESA and the EU, their respective roles and responsibilities and the financial principles that should apply in funding GMES. 

As to the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP), Commission's Vice-President Günter Verheugen explained the complementarity between FP7 and CIP: CIP will create the conditions that enable innovation, whereas FP7 will support research in particular areas. "The added value of CIP in relation to FP7 is in its concentration on innovation and its understanding that innovation is a process that is close to the market and therefore undertaken by enterprises," he said.

Positions: 

In the Space Council meeting, Commission's Vice-President Günter Verheugen underlined the importance of Europe speaking with one voice to international partners. He underlined that GMES would have to be based on existing institutional and hardware capacities.

The German State Secretary, Georg Wilhelm Adamowitsch: "With the GMES Europe is building up a strategic global monitoring capacity. This will allow Europe to decide, on the basis of independent information, on issues such as the environment, sustainable development, natural resources and the security of its citizens. Germany will contribute to GMES not only via the EU and ESA, but also through national satellite missions and data processing structures.” 

According to UEAPME, the European small and medium business organisation, the Council "has made major strides towards improving the participation of small businesses in R&D in its decision on FP7 [on 28 November 2005]". UEAPME has strongly endorsed the decision of the Council to reintroduce the 15% threshold for SME participation in cooperative research programmes, which, according to the organisation, "sends the right message to small firms and will increase their involvement in FP7".

"The Council has significantly improved the original proposals on FP7 in way that will encourage the involvement of SMEs. However, it is important that the heads of state do not undermine the goals of improving R&D and innovation in Europe by seriously cutting competitiveness spending in the financial perspectives," said UEAPME Secretary General Hans-Werner Müller.

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