The League of European Research Universities (LERU) welcomes the announcement of the nominations for the EU college of Commissioners and wishes to convey to them and to the Commissioner-designate for Research, Science & Innovation in particular its top priorities.
In its May 2014 Briefing Paper “An ERA of Change”, LERU has formulated a number of key recommendations which it would like to see included in the 2014-2020 EU Research & Innovation Policy.
Europe can boast a strong and thriving research landscape. However, in the face of fierce competition from established and emerging research powerhouses, Europe needs to nourish its research prowess unabatedly so that it can harness its full competitive power as a dynamic and smart player. Europe should acknowledge that a world class research system needs to be driven relentlessly by international competition in the pursuit of excellence and with a long-term horizon.
Research universities, which are characterised by the quality, breadth and depth of their commitment to research and the advancement of knowledge, play a distinctive and crucial role in this landscape, producing very tangible and some rather intangible benefits to the economy, to society and to each and every individual.
Prof. Alain Beretz, President of the University of Strasbourg and Chairman of LERU says: “It is critical that all relevant policies recognise the broad, pervasive and long-term benefits of university research and education and provide the support and environment that will ensure that these institutions continue to flourish. The foundational characteristics that make research universities an invaluable part of any national infrastructure must be sustained.”
LERU urges the EU’s political leaders to set ambitious and concrete goals for the next legislature to use smart investment in research and innovation as a winning investment for Europe’s future, to help Europe power up economically and to build a better society for its citizens. To achieve this, we need new mechanisms, incentives and rewards to harness the strengths of the EU’s R&I policies and programmes and forge smarter links with those of the Member States (MS), including for example the use of evidence-based growth and reform programmes, smart fiscal consolidation and contractual arrangements between the EU and MS on R&I policies. The 3% of GDP as a target for investment in R&I should be maintained.
LERU supports the goals of the European Research Area (ERA), Innovation Union and Europe 2020. In particular ERA, which is included in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), is a potentially powerful driver in building a successful and effective European research ecosystem of global renown. Therefore, the next EU governing period should aim to achieve a true ERA of change and progression.
To achieve real progress, ERA needs a changed and improved partnership between the MS and the EU institutions, in which the European Semester is correctly applied and observed, including corrective measures where appropriate, and leading to structural changes in research-performing and –funding organisations.
LERU’s Secretary-General, Prof. Kurt Deketelaere states: “Specific legislative measures, to be proposed by the Commission, are needed in cases where the internal market for research and innovation is clearly distorted and real progress cannot be achieved only by voluntary initiatives by member states or stakeholder organisations. These could include such issues as divergent open access schemes, VAT on the purchase of research infrastructures and research content, and social security of mobile researchers.”
Moreover, LERU proposes six topics that have not been ERA priorities thus far and invites the new policymakers to take them up as focus areas for ERA. They are:
(1) Anchoring ERA in a strong international strategy;
(2) Linking education research and innovation;
(3) Including the Humanities and Social Sciences (SSH);
(4) Understanding Science 2.0;
(5) Promoting the enhancement of research integrity;
(6) Fostering effective science and society interactions.
We also recommend that the way in which research, innovation and education policy development is organised and coordinated in the relevant European institutions and bodies be strengthened. A comprehensive policy needs to be better aligned among the Commission services to achieve consistency of initiatives and transparency towards stakeholder organisations such as LERU and others. This has ramifications for the organisation and coordination of activities among the Directorates-General of the so-called research family, the research Executive Agencies, the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser and entities such as the ERC, EIT and JRC.
Finally, LERU calls upon the to be appointed Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation to take, as a first mission, all possible measures to close the gap between commitments and payments in the 2015 budget, which is now under negotiation. If this is not dealt with as a matter of urgency, EU funded research projects all over Europe will run into problems.
LERU would be happy to exchange views on all of these issues with Carlos Moedas and his colleagues involved in Research, Science & Innovation policy.