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Ireland and Finland advise EU on how to make research in Europe more competitive

In his introduction to the event, Irish Minister for education and science, Noel Dempsey, representing the current EU Presidency highlighted two areas where needs to improve its efforts: making Europe more attractive for researchers and making investment in research more efficient. What concerns Mr Dempsey a lot is the fact that around 400,000 of Europe's best researchers are currently based in the US and a large majority of them do not want to return to Europe. To tackle the brain drain phenomena, the minister pointed to the advances made in Ireland in the last decade. He said that Ireland's progress in the field of research was built on financing decisions based solely on scientific excellence and competitiveness which in turn had forced research institutions and universities to focus on the same principles.

In July 2003, the Commission adopted a package of measures to stop the brain drain to the US. Steps proposed include the development of a code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers, a common way of evaluating and recording researchers' skills, qualifications and achievements, advanced training tools, access to adequate funding and providing minimum social security benefits for PhD students (see EurActiv, 22 July 2003).

Minister Mr Mauri Pekkarinen, Minister of Trade and Industry, Finland was questioned by many MEPs and delegates on how Finland had managed to meet and surpass the Barcelona target of investing 3 percent of GDP in research by 2010. The Minister commented "The most important policy measures have been a determined investment in education and research, establishing regional universities and the two funding agencies Tekes and Academy of Finland as well as creation of the Science and Technology Policy Council."

In his concluding remarks to the Congress, MEP Rolf Linkhor (PES, Germany) summed up some of the sentiments expressed during the two-day congress: the 3 percent target was an important benchmark for the EU. The establishment of a European Research Council focussing on basic research was essential. More attention should be paid to SMEs given their large contribution to the EU's economy, especially in the light of the far greater US support to SMEs. Lastly, investing heavily in R&D was about securing a positive and optimistic outlook, and the EU was beginning, he said, to move in the right direction.








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