“European enlargement will increase our science skill pool and therefore our ability to innovate,” says President of CEFIC, Eggert Voscherau.
What do you see as the main contribution the new accession states can bring to the promulgation of European Science and Technology?
We recognise that many of the new member states have a long tradition of science and well known and outstanding academia and research institutes. As a matter of fact science crosses national boundaries easily and many scientists from eastern European countries are well established in the wider science community. I expect that the European enlargement will simply increase our science skill pool and therefore our ability to innovate. The new ‘Europe’ has enormous potential, it is up to the policy makers to create the framework conditions to make it happen.
Do you feel there are already essential mechanisms in place to ensure integration of Eastern expertise and for sharing information and resources across the East-West divide?
Probably not. However, in the area of chemistry and related sciences and technologies we (Cefic) have a long standing partnership with the European federations for Chemical Societies (FECS) and Engineering (EFCE). Their membership includes the chemists and technologists of the new member states. We will build on these partnerships to expand the network of the chemists and related scientists (biology, physics) thereby contributing to the integration of Eastern expertise and establishing a European Research Area.
What impact will the newly agreed Community Patent have on the promotion of European scientific expertise world-wide?
By the political agreement reached, the Member States have given a green light to the creation of the long-awaited Community Patent. Nonetheless, this new instrument if put in place as such neither close the competitiveness / cost-gap compared to other regions such as Japan & the USA, nor meet the user’s needs in terms of quality, costs and legal certainty.
Which suggestions would you make to decrease the ‘brain drain’ of highly-qualified European scientific researchers and personnel to the US and elsewhere?
Indeed Europe needs a strong science base and to make it attractive again for young talented people to seek a carrier in science we need to establish ‘EU centres of science excellence’ in competitive research areas and provide attractive career opportunities for scientists. We would also like to see that actions are taken and supported to increase the value that society gives to science. Europe must overcome its general skepticism, which today focuses on breakthrough technologies. To decrease the ‘brain drain’, in addition to a change in the attitude to science, conditions and the regulatory environment have to be much more friendly to nurturing and capitalizing on scientific excellence. Finally Europe should be made more attractive for foreign researchers.
Which technological innovations are crucial for the successful, full integration of the 10 new Member States into the Union?
This is a difficult question and whilst there may be science/technical areas where some catching up needs to be done e.g. biotechnology, genomics and nanotechnology, I believe that the barriers for innovation are not different from those in the rest of Europe. There are two points I would like to highlight. Firstly, Europe needs to develop highly efficient structures for technology transfer; instruments that could help transforming research findings into new value added products and services are: a strong market oriented entrepreneurial environment, venture capital markets, investment banks, technology platforms and science & technology parks. Secondly, the shortage of capital available to private investors may become a major drawback for innovation and therefore for the high tech industry in the European region. The European Commission should and has to play an important role to find opportunities to make financial resources.