April 03, 2017
Given the rich functional variety of the European research landscape, fierce global scientific and technological competition, and in the face of the centrifugal forces in Europe, 26 high-level representatives of European research organizations, universities and companies came together in March for a round table conference on the topic of “The added value of excellence in European research”. At the invitation of the President of the Max Planck Society (MPG), Martin Stratmann, and the President of the French Centre de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Alain Fuchs, leading representatives from science and industry discussed the conditions needed for excellent research and the contribution they made to the economic added value and competitiveness in Europe. The President of the European Research Council ERC also participated in the two-day meeting.
The conference produced a Declaration which is now available and states: “Europe should less focus on gradual improvements of existing technologies but rather on fundamentally new ideas and disruptive innovation”. This premise is seen as the key to transferring results of excellent research into innovative products, which in turn generated economic prosperity upon which the research support in the future crucially depended.
European institutions had furthermore achieved “tremendous progress towards open circulation of researchers and ideas” in recent years, as the declarations points out. At the same time, it warned that priorities had to be set more clearly in the future: “Global competition demands that research funding – at the national and the European level – be driven exclusively by scientific excellence, and that the European Framework Programmes be continued with a bigger budget.” There is also a list of concrete recommendations such as greater support of young, highly talented researchers across the whole continent, and “guaranteeing open access to knowledge and to excellent cutting-edge research infrastructure”. The importance of the European Research Council ERC is highlighted in particular, which considers solely scientific aspects when awarding its research funds in the competition for the best ideas. This strength of the ERC, which had developed into a “global benchmark and the strongest driver for research excellence in Europe” since its foundation ten years ago, had to be sustainably supported and financially enhanced when the next EU research framework programme in its present form was drawn up.
The Declaration is supported by the 26 participating institutions and is aimed at political decision-makers in the EU as well as on the level of the Member States. The plan is to publish all conference contributions of the round table meeting in a white book in the near future.