Speech at the European Federation of Chemical Engineering - Buzek awarded Honorary Fellowship
I would like to start of by thanking you for the Honorary Fellowship of the Institution of Chemical Engineers. It is a great, personal honour.
If somebody asks me what my profession is my answer is always engineer. I am a scientist and an academic first. Politics came later in my life. When I was elected Prime Minister in 1997, I was very proud because I could serve my country. I was even more proud that I was given my Professorship that same year, because I could serve future generations.
That is what we scientists, engineers, academics do, we serve future generations. I think this is why your survey shows that eight out of ten chemical engineers are satisfied with their careers.
I would like to make a few points on where I believe we as the European scientific and engineering community are today: and where we should be tomorrow.
My first point point is that the EU is unfortunately falling behind in both hard sciences and engineering. In this we need your advise on how we should reverse this trend - perhaps more full scholarships at Universities? Perhaps more mobility by creating a specialised Erasmus programme for the hard sciences?
I benefited enormously from a scholarship in Cambridge at Darwin College. It allowed me to work with Peter Danckwerts and later finish my habilitation on Cellular convection accompanied by absorption with chemical reaction. I give you the exact title because I know that the only people who know what I am talking about, are sitting in this very room!
However, I personally think that we need to start with investments in our primary education. We need to teach science and math more, earlier and better than we do now.
My second point is that industry, academics and the wider scientific community has to better benefit from EU financing available. I was the Rapporteur for the 7th Framework programme for research and technological development. The European Parliament managed to negotiate a €54 billion budget. The largest up to date. I hope that the 8th programme will have more and not less financing.
There are some lessons we can learn from the 7th Programme though. For example, that the money available should be used by all 27 Member States. But what is clear, is that even in this time of economic crisis, we must continue to fund our scientific and research community.
I am convinced that the only way we will come out of this economic crisis is to grow out of it. The only real way we will grow is through research and innovations applied in our businesses. These innovations create jobs.
Unfortunately the EU is not close to the 3% of GDP goal for research and development we have set ourselves. I hope our new EU 2020 Strategy, which has a strong emphasis on education and research will help with this statistic.
My third point is that you as EFCE should help us identify interesting innovations and new ideas that need to be invested in. Let me give you one example, in my home institute we are working in a clean coal technology cluster together with the business community. This institute is coming up with innovations on how we can use the fossil fuels we have in a cleaner way.
There must be hundreds of such innovative ideas and research that should be funded. We need you to help us identify such clusters that need special attention.
My final remark is that I agree with the results of your survey of our chemical engineering community that we should be worried about sustainability. In energy. In water. In climate change.
As a politician I can assure you that the European Parliament is also deeply concerned by these issues. You will find us a partner in trying to find practical solutions to face these challenges.
I used the term "practical" not because I am engineer, but because I am convinced that the solutions will be found through research, development, and applied innovation.