You may or may not have noticed, but the EU is going through something of a rough patch at the moment. Eurozone members are battling against an ongoing debt crisis that threatens to tear the union apart, and all across the continent governments are frantically trying to cut spending. In an earlier post, Debating Europe examined some of the different opinions on austerity from Europeans politicians. Most accept that some form of cuts are necessary in the short-term to keep the wolves from the door. However, in the long-term, should we actually be spending more than we do today? At least, on certain things?
We had a suggestion from Novik about increasing EU spending on research and development projects. Cutting research grants and projects might save pennies in the short-term, but it could cost a fortune over the long run. Does Europe need a radical re-think of its industrial innovation and R&D policies to survive in the global marketplace? We asked Elmar Brok, a centre-right German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for his comments:
Innovation and R&D are essential for Europe to keep its position as the biggest economic power in the world. Our efforts to promote more innovation and R&D are unsatisfying until now – The figures speak for themselves. The United States invests around 2,7 % of their GDP in R&D and Europe only about 2%. The self-committed target of the Lisbon Strategy of investing 3% of the GDP to Research and Innovation are not fulfilled. So Europe should be more ambitious and invest in innovation, develop new products and services – these will create new sources of employment and growth, something which will render Europe more competitive and improve its quality for life.
Concretely, however, what needs to be done?
We need to envisage the target of a single market for R&I in the form of a “fifth freedom”. Therefore we have to promote research and innovation! We have to concentrate our potential! Further, cooperation with our partners such as the US and also cooperation between politics and businesses is very important to realise better R&I. We have to be aware that there has to be strong cooperation between the world of business and politics in order to reach the targets of the Lisbon strategy. R&I does not happen in the Prime Minister’s office, but in the researcher’s laboratory. Thus we should encourage our small and business enterprises to invest in new technologies, new ideas. To support the harmonization of the rules and procedures to apply for Framework Programme is crucial. The EU should also ensure that its regulations support R&I. And last but not least we need a new approach to intellectual property. But over all we need reciprocal confidence involving all stakeholders! Woody Allen one said “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” Europe should take this seriously.
Not only should Europe invest more in R&D,I we should probably consider to reorganise our entire education system in such a way that students leave the education cycle with a job and a degree. So, what is more important: a job or a degree? I would say give them both at the same time! Hence, the schooling system must be directly linked in a strong, mutually beneficial partnership with the business and industry as well as the politics (government). After all 3 out of the 5 current jobs had no curriculum before as they have emerged from the business and industrial needs as they develop. There is a gap between progress in education and progress in industry, with education losing out. By freeing up the defence budget the EU can easily dedicate 8 to 9% GDP to education R&D,I. The only way to sustain prosperity without growth is by investing in innovation. With it’s strong background and experience Europe can do this and thus remain a global powerhouse in a global environment where specialisation and niches will prevail.
I’m OK with you