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Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
Tapping Research and Innovation for Jobs and Growth: Strengthening EU-US Cooperation in Research, Innovation and Science
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Lunch at the European Institute
Washington, D.C., 1st June 2010
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m delighted to be in the United States and to be with you all today. I want to thank the European Institute for its hospitality and for the opportunity to talk about translating research and innovation into the growth and jobs of the future.
It’s a great pleasure for me to spend time with Congressman Gordan. He is a true champion for science and technology in the US and he is certainly no stranger to Europe.
This is my first foreign visit as a Commissioner, but the US is not so foreign to me. On the contrary, I feel somewhat at home.
There is a rich blend of cultures and influences that make up the US. But on every occasion I see so much that I recognise and identify with, from my own country and continent of birth. But that personal connection is, of course, only the tiniest reflection of the mighty transatlantic bond.
The European Union and the United States have a unique rapport as international partners. We share common values and interests, and between us we form the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world.
This is reflected in our scientific and technological exchanges. The US is the international partner with whom we have the richest and most intensive relations in research and innovation. This is true from all points of view: amounts of mutual R&D investment, flows of scientists and researchers, the number of cooperative projects and the number of co-authored publications and patents.
The Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the US was renewed last year until 2013. Last month, senior officials from the European Commission and US government departments and agencies took stock of our annual progress under the agreement.
It is clear from the results that we are developing new ways of working together. This ranges from the twinning of projects through to the mutual opening of research programmes, as we achieved in the area of health research with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
As the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, I am responsible for the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for Research. It is a 7-year programme worth 50 billion euro, running until 2013.
The US is the number one partner in our Framework Programme outside Europe. Its participation is particularly strong in the areas of information and communication technologies, health and nanotechnologies and materials. Other favoured topics are food, agriculture and biotechnologies.
Our cooperation in research and innovation goes back a long way and has its own natural and self-evolving reasons. By the nature of their work, scientists are outward-looking and work successfully across frontiers.
However - despite this somewhat positive picture – I am not satisfied. There is more that we can – and should – achieve together.
Firstly, because I know that the ground for cooperation between us is so fertile, and secondly because of what is at stake.
We are facing a daunting economic environment, to say the least. We are both fighting to retain our competitiveness. We strive to provide the growth that leads to jobs, and to the improvements in quality of life that our citizens demand.
We are struggling to transform how we produce and use energy, in order to provide for our needs while addressing the environment and climate change. We are confronted by the problems of global health and an ageing populations, food security and other pressing challenges.
For these issues the case for collaboration in research and innovation has never been greater. This has been a theme of the many positive discussions I have held with members of the Obama administration, members of Congress, industrialists and academics during my visit. It gives me confidence in our ability and our willingness to broaden and deepen EU-US cooperation into the future.
One example is the work of the EU-US Energy Council. It was created in November at the EU-US Summit and is co-chaired by Secretaries Clinton and Chu, and by myself, Commissioner Oettinger and Vice-President Ashton. It has made pleasing progress in establishing the cooperation needed to secure our energy supplies, as well as to develop and deploy the clean energy technologies our economies need for a sustainable future.
I discussed today with Secretary Locke how we can establish a transatlantic Innovation Partnership. When launched, we will address together the conditions needed to encourage the development and market take-up of products, processes and services based on breakthrough technologies.
However, you should not think that I don’t believe in competition. Competition is also important for the dynamism and creativity of our economies. It is natural and healthy and promotes excellence. The trick is to know when to go it alone and when to work together –with whom and in what field. It is a wholesome blend of competition and collaboration that fuels the engines of progress.
The contribution of research and innovation to competitiveness and productivity growth is already well-researched, well-documented and well known. I am sure you don’t need me to convince you of this.
That is why the European Union is reinforcing its commitment to research and innovation.
Advances in science and technology are now an explicit goal of the EU within the new Lisbon Treaty. At the same time, innovation is recognised as essential for the economic competitiveness that leads to jobs and growth.
Promoting research and developing an “innovation culture” will be central elements of the EU's economic policy over the next 10 years. As you know, the Commission has unveiled the Europe 2020 Agenda as our new economic strategy. It aims to achieve growth that fulfils three criteria:
Also at the heart of the new agenda is a commitment to address the grand challenges related to energy security, climate change and health. I see similarities in this respect between the goals of the Europe 2020 initiative and President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. International cooperation will be an important component of those efforts and the US is our most important partner.
As the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science I’ll be developing the European Research Area, to boost our capacity as a world-class research base and to achieve the free movement of researchers, ideas and technologies within the EU. We want to use research and innovation to help us exit the economic crisis and to improve our ability to compete in the global economy.
I am the first Commissioner expressly responsible for innovation, and I will be chairing a cross-cutting group of Commissioners dedicated to creating and implementing a new European Research and Innovation Strategy, to be put to the EU heads of state and government this autumn. This strategy will spell out how we will work with EU Member States, businesses and other stakeholders to transform Europe into a vibrant innovation-driven economy - what I call an "i-conomy".
Encouraging private investment and public-private initiatives in research and innovation will be a major part of our efforts. We’ll continue to promote investment of 3% of the EU's GDP in R&D (like the new US target). And we’ll address the conditions needed in Europe for our companies to create new products, processes and services that the world will want to buy.
For example, industry needs access to a workforce whose knowledge and skills are world-class. So we will also enhance the quality and attractiveness of Europe's higher education system by promoting student and young professional mobility.
We will provide more access to the best and brightest by making vacancies in all Member States more accessible throughout Europe, while professional qualifications and experience will be properly recognized. And together with the EU Member States we will tackle the labour market rigidities that are all too prevalent.
A knowledge-based i-conomy needs a 21st century infrastructure. With the creation of a Digital Single Market, all Europeans should have access to high speed internet by 2013.
Innovative companies in the EU, especially SMEs, need greater access to start-up and investment financing. So we’ll propose measures to increase the availability of venture capital in order that promising new ideas can make it to the marketplace.
Another example - it is still too expensive and time-consuming in Europe to protect our intellectual property. The introduction of a Community Patent to replace individual Member State patents could save companies roughly €300 million each year.
On top of these initiatives we will bring together R&D programmes with demand-side measures on public procurement, standardisation and regulation. They will be ambitious in both scope and scale.
The details of our strategy are still in the making. The specific actions will be known later this year. But we have to act quickly.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The partnership between the European Union and the United States in matters of science and technology - as well as in trade and investment - is rich, deep and fruitful.
But if we want to continue to thrive, we should go further. We should pool more of our efforts in research and innovation to bring solutions to global problems.
We need to pursue regulatory and policy cooperation for closer integration of our economies. The result will be to boost growth and job creation, while supporting strategic societal goals.
Over the next few years as Commissioner I will be applying the results of our science to inform our policy-making. And I will be applying our policy-making to enhance our science.
My desire and commitment to work with the US is strong. So I am very much looking forward to engaging with you to enrich our cooperation.