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Thursday, 31 January 2008 - Brussels
The European Research Area: new perspectives

European Parliament resolution of 31 January 2008 on the European Research Area: New Perspectives (2007/2187(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission Green Paper of 4 April 2007 entitled The European Research Area: New Perspectives (COM(2007)0161),

–   having regard to the Commission staff working document (SEC(2007)0412) accompanying the abovementioned Commission Green Paper,

–   having regard to Decision No 1982/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007-2013)(1) (FP7),

–   having regard to Council Decision 2006/973/EC of 19 December 2006 concerning the specific programme 'People' implementing the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities(2),

–   having regard to its resolution of 24 May 2007 on putting knowledge into practice: a broad based innovation strategy for Europe(3),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the opinions of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Regional Development (A6-0005/2008),

A.   whereas the European Council of 23 and 24 March 2000, held in Lisbon, endorsed the objective of creating a European Research Area (ERA),

B.   whereas the European Council of 15 and 16 March 2002, held in Barcelona, agreed on a target of increasing total R&D expenditure to 3% of the Union's GDP by 2010 (two-thirds of which should come from the private sector),

C.   whereas FP7 is designed to support the creation of the ERA,

D.   whereas the creation of the ERA should be accompanied by the establishment of the European Area of Higher Education and the European Innovation Area, thus completing the three sides of the so-called knowledge triangle,

E.   whereas the ERA encompasses three main aspects: an internal market for research, where researchers, technology and knowledge can freely circulate, effective coordination at EU level of national and regional research activities, programmes and policies and initiatives implemented and funded at EU level,

F.   whereas greater efforts, particularly as regards coordination, are needed in all dimensions of EU research: people, infrastructure, organisations, funding, knowledge sharing and global cooperation, in order to overcome the fragmentation of research in the EU and realise the EU's potential therein,

G.   whereas job opportunities and working conditions are not such as to encourage young men and women to enter the research sector, which means that valuable human resources are going to waste,

H.   whereas R&D funding in the EU is still far behind the Lisbon objective of 3% of GDP,

I.   whereas a broader view of the creation of the ERA is needed, involving all relevant stakeholders,

J.   whereas women are still under-represented in most areas of science and engineering and in management posts,

K.   whereas the EU's private sector R&D contribution is lagging behind that of its direct competitors,

Creating a single labour market for researchers

1.  Would welcome the common definition of research careers and the establishment of an information system on the employment of researchers and research practices throughout Europe and believes this will help the EU reach the highest levels in research;

2.  Urges the Member States and regions to devise strategies for the development of material and human resources in research and innovation covering, for example, the upgrade and supply of research infrastructures, increased mobility for researchers through greater financial support, local initiatives to attract researchers, the removal of legal, administrative and language barriers, staff exchanges and guaranteed access for all, especially female and young researchers;

3.  Strongly supports the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for their recruitment as a means of making the ERA more attractive to researchers; calls on the Commission to publicise the degree to which the Charter and Code of Conduct have been implemented in the Member States;

4.  Stresses the need to establish and introduce a single European career path in the field of research and to introduce an integrated information system on job vacancies and training contracts in the research sector in Europe; believes that it is essential to create a single labour market for research workers;

5.  Stresses the importance of making the recruitment and promotion procedures for research workers fully open and transparent; calls on Member States to ensure a better balance between men and women on recruitment and promotion boards;

6.  Regrets that the net transatlantic outflow of R&D investment is still increasing; emphasises the importance of preventing the further outflow of competent European researchers; calls for the adoption of appropriate measures to retain researchers in the EU and to bring them back to the EU, notably by ensuring wide career prospects and attractive working conditions for both men and women;

7.  Endorses the plan to increase the geographical mobility of researchers as well as their inter-sectoral mobility (that is, between universities and research organisations and between academia and the business world) as a means of achieving knowledge sharing and technology transfer; calls, to that effect, on the Commission and the Member States to enrich post-graduate and doctoral curricula by encouraging joint research supervision in different countries and to consider the launching of European postdoctoral fellowships and training schemes building on the highly successful Erasmus programme;

8.  Emphasises that a well-functioning internal market is important for successful development of the ERA and that the free movement of researchers in particular is vital; regrets that obstacles still hamper the mobility of researchers within the EU; calls for measures to improve the free flow of researchers, in particular by lifting all remaining transitional restrictions on the free movement of workers, as well as by improving the EU's research infrastructure; supports the creation of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT);

9.  Considers that access to the EU for researchers should not be impeded by existing national barriers, such as insufficient recognition and portability of acquired social entitlements, tax disadvantages and difficulties in relocating families; urges the Member States to design their national legislation on public law employment in such way that researchers from Member States and third countries have comparable working conditions and are not prevented from taking up research work;

10.  Recalls that one way of making researchers more mobile might be the creation of a research voucher which could be used by researchers in other Member States and hosting institutions and universities, the voucher thus making available additional financial resources for the actual research that attracts foreign researchers; believes that this would not only make it more interesting for research institutions and universities to host researchers from other Member States and to attract the most talented scientists, but would also contribute to the development of centres of excellence by making it possible for the most attractive research programmes and institutions to appeal to more researchers and to improve their financial situation; believes that this extra support for researcher mobility should be additional to current mobility funding schemes and that funding could be allocated from the "Cooperation" and "Capacity" programmes of FP7;

11.  Points to the need to provide support for young researchers in particular, so as to ensure that they continue receiving grants when they change their place of work within the EU;

12.  Believes that the Community regulatory framework on the free movement of researchers within the ERA should be reinforced so as to facilitate the issuance of visas and work permits to nationals of third countries;

13.  Considers it necessary to introduce specific measures to promote greater participation by women in all research activities, with the aim of significantly increasing the proportion of women pursuing research careers;

14.  Believes that the fact that the younger generation is less interested in pursuing an education in science and technology is closely linked to the lack of cooperation between the private sector and the academic sphere; calls, therefore, on the Member States and the Commission to increase their efforts to promote frameworks for collaboration between these two sectors;

15.  Calls for exchanges of experience among the Member States in order to develop a coherent approach to promoting the participation of the disabled in Community-funded research and an increase in the proportion of disabled people embarking on and pursuing research careers;

16.  Considers that public authorities, research bodies and undertakings should promote measures to reconcile professional and private life;

17.  Calls on the Commission to investigate how the teaching of sciences in the EU can be improved at all levels; deplores the lack of human resources in R&D in many Member States, which may be attributed to a declining interest among the younger generation in following scientific curricula and engaging in scientific careers; proposes, therefore, the launching of initiatives which familiarise schoolchildren with laboratory and field research; proposes, in addition, the promotion of active and investigatory methods of teaching, using observation and experimentation, the creation of professor-researcher exchange programmes and the support of innovative training methods by local and regional authorities; considers that rapid developments in science risk creating a gulf between ordinary citizens and scientific and technological research; considers that there is a need to promote and support dialogue between scientists and society at large and that, accordingly, scientists should make the results of their research comprehensible to all and available to all;

18.  Considers that social conditions for researchers should be improved by creating employment opportunities for the partners of researchers and the provision of support in their search for care facilities or schooling for their children;

Developing world-class research infrastructures

19.  Welcomes the progress made in developing research infrastructures with the adoption of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap; nevertheless believes that provision should be made to include new facilities and infrastructures currently being developed by Member States alongside the infrastructures identified by the ESFRI;

20.  Urges that funding for new, pan-European research infrastructures only be provided if there are no national infrastructures of equal value providing similar access opportunities for researchers from other Member States;

21.  Emphasises the role and importance of the Research Performing Organisations (RPOs) in the European research landscape, alongside the universities and the research funding agencies; calls on the Commission to establish a degree of collaboration with national agencies, universities and RPOs in Europe, in association with regional authorities, before agreeing a common policy and implementation plan;

22.  Calls on the Commission to propose a legal framework to facilitate the creation and operation of major Community research organisations and infrastructures and to consider the involvement of existing European institutions and agreements, such as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA), albeit that intergovernmental treaties to implement such organisations should be avoided;

23.  Recommends at the same time that bodies from countries with less dynamic research sectors but appropriate research potential should be fully involved in the process of building the pan-European research infrastructure;

24.  Considers that, in order to ensure long-term operations and continuous improvement, the approval processes for large research infrastructures should cover R&D, information technology and operational funding;

25.  Recognises that the EIT will be an important factor in strengthening the EU's research infrastructure;

26.  Calls upon the Commission to support RPOs, universities and research funding agencies both to increase their capacities and to link their resources in building the ERA, the goal being to reach global leadership in major scientific areas;

Strengthening research institutions

27.  Regrets that figures for expenditure on research and development show that the EU average is only 1.84% of GDP compared with 2.68% in the USA and 3.18 % in Japan, and that expenditure varies from 0.39% in Romania and 0.4% in Cyprus to 3.86% in Sweden; emphasises the importance of increasing the average spending as well as of raising expenditure in some Member States; highlights the importance of better focussing the diverse research and development efforts throughout the Union, especially in order to facilitate the transition towards the digital economy; believes that this is of fundamental importance for the creation of appropriate conditions for the achievement of the knowledge-based economy called for in the Lisbon Strategy;

28.  Acknowledges the importance of the ERA's regional dimension and considers that the development of regional clusters is an important means of achieving critical mass, bringing together universities, research institutions and industry, and creating European centres of excellence; believes that the 'Research Potential' and 'Regions of knowledge' programmes and the Structural Funds promoting the research and innovation potential of the regions should be seen as a key contribution to the objectives of FP7;

29.  Emphasises the importance of national and regional contact points in strengthening the effects of framework programmes and calls for deeper cooperation on their part;

30.  Calls on the Commission to establish a European forum with high-level national representation, including national research councils, entrusted with the mission of identifying, developing and supporting major pan-European research initiatives, as well as a common system of scientific and technical review to better exploit the results of European programmes; believes that it would be beneficial to put in place a reliable system for validating knowledge and methods of analysis, control and certification and to network centres of excellence in the EU;

31.  Calls on the Commission to make sure that networks of excellence and online research communities are fully complementary, by spelling out their objectives, operating rules and funding arrangements;

32.  Calls on the Commission to further promote public procurement to support R&D at EU level by virtue of the more consistent use of public instruments and resources;

33.  Welcomes the initiative for a European Charter for the use of intellectual property from public research institutions and universities, endorsed by the European Council held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2007, provided that it leads to a usable set of rules which in particular take account of the needs of developing and transferring scientific knowledge;

34.  Draws attention to the role to be played by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as research bodies; believes it is necessary to strengthen their participation in R&D projects at EU level in line with the objective of earmarking at least 15% of the budget of FP7 for SMEs;

35.  Considers that strong research must be closely linked to innovation; therefore believes that concrete steps towards the creation of a fully integrated European research and innovation area should be envisaged;

Sharing knowledge

36.  Believes that investments in infrastructure, functionality and electronic cross-reference initiatives have enabled major improvements in the dissemination and use of scientific information and that the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities is an example of how opportunities for experimentation with new models have been opened up by the internet; underlines the importance of respecting authors' freedom of choice and intellectual property rights (IPR), ensuring the continuation of quality peer reviews and the trusted secure preservation of refereed work, and encourages stakeholders to work together through pilot projects to evaluate the impact and viability of alternative models, such as the development of Open Access;

37.  Agrees with the "open innovation" concept promoted by the Commission according to which the public and private sectors become full partners and share knowledge, provided that a balanced and fair system is developed between open access to scientific results and a use of such results by the private sector (fair sharing of knowledge); believes that the rule of a fair and equitable financial reward for use of public knowledge by industry should be officially recognised;

38.  Firmly believes that the legal uncertainty and high costs currently prevailing in the field of IPR contribute to the fragmentation of research efforts in Europe; therefore urges the Commission to proceed to an impact assessment of the different legal instruments that can be used to reduce existing barriers to knowledge transfer within the ERA; Or. PL notes that properly registered inventions can be an important source of knowledge and that legislation on IPR protection, including EU patent law, cannot be a barrier to knowledge-sharing; highlights the vital importance of establishing a Community Patent and a high-quality, cost-effective, innovation-friendly judicial system for European patents which respects the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Communities; notes the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on enhancing the patent system in Europe (COM(2007)0165); notes that the resulting legal framework will provide better incentives for private business involvement in research and will strengthen the position of EU innovators at international level;

39.  Calls on the Commission to establish, in collaboration with the Member States, a European forum whereby European and national processes of civil society involvement in the discussion of science, research, and technology can be coordinated;

40.  Considers that, in the context of the ERA, the capacities of Joint Research Centres (JRCs) should be exploited as high-level, independent, neutral, scientific and technical structures providing common expertise to the EU institutions and supporting decision-making processes on key issues (for example, quality of life, food safety, the environment, consumer protection);

41.  Believes that, with a renewed mission supporting and encouraging their activities and focused on optimising the benefits to be derived from their structures, the JRCs could also promote "truly European opportunities" in the field of training and mobility of young researchers;

Optimising research programmes and priorities

42.  Deems it appropriate to implement the principle of the reciprocal opening of national programmes to participants from other Member States since this would be a step towards the exchange of information on existing national programmes and would encourage the evaluation of national research activities by international panels;

43.  Notes that many Member States − especially those with less developed R&D structures − fear brain drain within the EU; calls for measures to prevent that by making national research policies complementary rather then competing, especially in order to promote the coordination of resources and prevent their duplication and dispersion;

44.  Considers it worthwhile to explore potentialities offered by the "variable geometry" mechanism as a suitable way of developing adequate flexibility in the realisation of thematic programmes;

45.  Stresses the need to enhance complementarity between EU and national research funding;

46.  Believes that the financing of the opening up of national research programmes to all researchers in the Member States should start, above all, in the area of fundamental research or so-called "frontier research";

47.  Observes that local and regional authorities should be engaged in creating a research-friendly framework and should make a significant contribution to the realisation of the ERA and that this could be brought about through Community funding programmes such as FP7, but that considerable progress could also be made by means of agreed programmes funded by the Structural Funds; considers, in particular, that the R&D potential of scientifically weaker regions urgently needs to be enhanced through the combined use of Structural and FP7 funds, as well as national and regional investments, in order to efficiently address, among other things, local needs in society-driven research;

48.  Notes that the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy cannot be achieved without a serious increase in the involvement of the private sector in research activities; calls on the Commission to take actions to enhance the incentives for the private sector to invest and participate in research; supports the view that is necessary to develop a European lead in technology-intensive markets supported by stringent standards of IPR protection; holds the view that expanding Public Private Partnerships within well-functioning markets is important to this end;

49.  Urges the Member States to ensure optimal funding of national and regional research activities defined in the operational programmes and to ensure the efficient exchange of good practices and cooperation between regions; notes that examples of good practice that are effective in one region cannot be transferred to other regions without adaptation; emphasises, therefore, the specific nature of assessments carried out at regional level using reliable, transparent and universally accepted indicators;

50.  Stresses the importance of unlocking the research potential of all European regions as a means of raising the competitiveness of European research;

51.  Considers that actions should be taken to update forms and instruments of cooperation and to adapt them to the ERA objectives; recommends that initiatives such as that of European cooperation in the field of scientific and technical research (COST) and the pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D (EUREKA) be developed further;

52.  Recognises the role that the networks of excellence are playing in creating the ERA through durable integration, thus avoiding fragmentation of research efforts, and calls upon the Commission to continue to support successful networks in order to reach this goal;

53.  Emphasises that targeted R&D cooperation could foster important world-wide opportunities for European-led R&D; therefore, urges that national and regional research systems be connected with networks in Europe and beyond, while guaranteeing the coherence of national and regional research programmes and priorities of European interest, such as the EIT in particular, be ensured; in this connection, calls on the Commission to acknowledge the importance of spatial and regional sciences for territorial cohesion, with particular reference to the European Spatial Planning Observation Network 2013 programme; believes that territorial cooperation should be developed as a means of achieving critical mass and preparing for internationalisation; therefore calls on the Member States to remove cross-border administrative barriers that hinder cooperation between knowledge institutions; recommends the open coordination method for comparing best national practices in this field;

54.  Considers that a broader approach to establishing priorities for strategic decisions on public funding is needed and that the European Technology Platforms and Joint Technology Initiatives, among other things, would benefit from greater involvement on the part of public and private organisations, such as universities, RPOs and SMEs, in order to develop long-term strategies;

55.  Emphasises the need to increase R&D investment and boost innovation in Europe; refers in this context to the combination of the European Territorial Agenda and the Lisbon objectives taken up in the strategic guidelines for cohesion policy, both being preconditions for ensuring competitiveness; stresses the need to combine the ERA's top-down approach with the bottom-up approach of regional policy; highlights the need to improve the coordination of research activities and programmes, such as the European Technology Platforms and the "ERA-NET" programme;

56.  Believes that foresight and strategic agendas drawn up by the research community should be taken into consideration when designing work programmes and calls for proposals in FP7;

Opening up to the world: international cooperation in science and technology (S&T)

57.  Considers that R&D cooperation can help to achieve specific Millennium Development Goals and therefore believes that it is important to align EU scientific co-operation policies with EU foreign policy and development aid programmes;

58.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen research cooperation to foster dialogue, peace, security and economic and social development; believes that such cooperation will further enable the EU to address highly relevant issues, such as regional sustainable development, health, food security and climate change;

59.  Calls on the Commission to initiate, implement and support measures to improve the level of participation of scientists from developing countries in international collaborative science and R&D projects and to promote access to existing intellectual property globally; emphasises the importance of attracting researchers from third countries to the EU, particularly from the European neighbourhood countries, inter alia, through swifter transposition of Council Directive 2005/71/EC of 12 October 2005 on a specific procedure for admitting third-country nationals for the purposes of scientific research(4), taking full account of the needs of researchers; supports the Commission's proposal for the creation of a blue card system which would be of great value for human resources in S&T not covered by the directive;

60.  Hopes that the ERA, from the point of view of its openness to the world, will favour the outermost regions and the Overseas Countries and Territories in order to make the most of the advantages and riches offered by these European or partner regions, by incorporating them coherently into scientific and technological cooperation actions in the context of networks of excellence;

61.  Considers that the countries neighbouring the EU and countries that are more aligned with the EU's geopolitical priorities, such as those of the Mediterranean basin and Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America, should be encouraged to participate in the ERA through further promotion of scientific and technological cooperation agreements;

62.  Considers that countries that are more aligned with the EU's geo-political priorities, such as those of the Mediterranean basin, should be encouraged to participate in a broader European Research Area that may gradually extend its coordination schemes, knowledge-sharing principles and researcher mobility beyond the strict boundaries of the EU and its associated countries;o

o   o

63.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 412, 30.12.2006, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 400, 30.12.2006, p. 272. Corrected in OJ L 54, 22.2.2007, p. 91
(3) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0212.
(4) OJ L 289, 3.11.2005, p. 15.

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