Commissioner warns against ‘research protectionism’

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The development of the European Research Area (ERA) must be defended against nationalism if Europe is to have an efficient and cooperative research infrastructure, according to European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Poto?nik.

At a research infrastructure conference in Prague yesterday (March 25), Poto?nik said cooperation between member states on major projects is essential if the EU is to address the “fragmentation and duplication” of research, which has led to resources being wasted. 

Referring to the free movement of knowledge as the “fifth freedom” of the EU – in addition to goods, people, services and capital – the commissioner said “the growing and developing ERA must be defended from research protectionism”. 

Poto?nik acknowledged that research infrastructure is complex and expensive, saying it can be mutually beneficial for member states to invest jointly in major long-term projects as these are often “simply beyond the reach of one region, one nation or even one continent”. 

“The size of these projects, costing hundreds of millions of euro for construction and several tens of millions of euro every year for operation, means that we have to combine our efforts between member states and across Europe. This is even more critical in times of increasing pressure on national budgets,” he said. 

He pledged to put in place a legal framework for research infrastructure which would allow faster construction and more efficient operation. 

“We must reduce the waste and duplication that has dogged European research efforts for too long,” said the commissioner. 

Poto?nik highlighted a number of examples of cooperation, including the new International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Portugal, which is a shared project between Portugal and Spain. Both countries will benefit from any innovations in nanomedicines and nanomachines that are produced at the institute. 

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