‘Risk-averse’ Europe failing to capitalise on high-tech research

25 Jun 2008

Europe needs to move up a gear to bridge the innovation gap with other parts of the world.

That is the conclusion of an independent report chaired by former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho, which analysed the effectiveness of information society research under the EU’s sixth Framework Programme for Research and Development.

While acknowledging that Europe has considerably improved its high-tech research, with the European Commission taking the lead in boosting micro computer and nano-electronic research, the report stated there is still big room for improvement, especially on capitalising the results of this high-tech research.

The report concluded that high-tech research in Europe is too often stifled by red tape, a lack of venture capital and a risk-averse mentality in both national and European administrations.

“In recent years Europe’s information society research has delivered encouraging results from mobile communications to electronic stability control systems in motor cars. However, I believe a systemic change in the EU’s research policy is needed to avoid the situation where EU research spending is not more than a mere drop in the ocean,” said Aho.

“I call on the EU member states and on the European Parliament to equip the EU with the right, flexible tools to better focus European high-tech research and to open it up to more risk and to new international partners.”

“The Aho Report should be a wake-up call for all policymakers responsible for economic policy, research and budgetary rules,” commented Information Society Commissioner, Viviane Reding (pictured). “The €4bn spent on high-tech research is a considerable amount of taxpayer’s money. However, Europe does not get the most out of it in terms of growth, jobs and innovation.”

Reding said stakeholders would consult further on how to move high-tech research forward. One measure that will be explored is to centralise and focus EU research in one department.

The EU has invested over €4bn in information society research between 2003 and 2006, complementing the €100bn invested by member states and private companies.

By Niall Byrne