Europe’s scientific community can be at the heart of meeting the unprecedented global and societal challenges we face. Climate change, energy and food security continue to be areas of major concern. Unparalleled environmental disasters and the choppy economic waters have dominated the media this past year. At the same time, crisis points draw ever nearer for the mounting health problems associated with ageing populations and the development of sustainable energy resources. Never has it been more important for the science community to gather and share knowledge, and contribute towards a better society and quality of life.
The European Commission’s announcement in summer 2010 of €6.4bn investment in cutting-edge research and innovation across the continent was a bold initiative to help solve the grand challenges. The funding covered a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines in an effort to improve how world-class research can be turned into commerce. The investment was a huge economic stimulus that aimed to deliver a more competitive Europe, one that can usher in a new age of prosperity. Yet, how has this wider strategy for growth been delivered in practice? The Innovation Union seeks to encourage cross-border cooperation and remove the barriers that prevent research outcomes reaching the market. Partnerships between public and private sectors will be pivotal; the introduction of the European Innovation Partnerships can stimulate industry and provide groundbreaking commercial opportunities.
However, to make the most of Europe’s talent, diversity and creativity, the Innovation Union must have the support from member states, academic institutions and industry stakeholders. National policy and funding for frontier research remain uneven. The impact that some national austerity measures will have on education standards and on high-level research undertaken across Europe’s institutions is a concern. Will research and development be seen as an easy area to target spending cutbacks? If innovation is seen as an economic driver, policies must be mindful not to cut it off at its source.
Europe is renowned for its inventiveness, calibre of scientific education and strong research base. Although our universities provide world-class research, we have often struggled to take these ideas into the market. How can we create the right conditions for R&D investment to flourish, and are the frameworks in place to make this happen? Encouragement for commercial lending and capital venture investment can help innovative businesses to thrive, and forge a new economic future for Europe. Given the challenges we face, it is vital that stakeholders, policymakers and the science community strive to get it right.
Join us at SciTech Europe where we will provide a fantastic opportunity to create new networks, promote debate and gain a better understanding of how policies can benefit knowledge, prosperity and society at large. We will bring together the leading industry stakeholders, academic experts and key policymakers to outline a collaborative approach to European science and technology frameworks.