Scientific Europe’s Imperative

VIENNA – On June 29, the European Commission will present its budget proposal for the next multi-year period, which begins in 2014. It will include items such as the common agricultural policy, regional structural funds, and research and innovation. But how does the European Union envisage using these investments to shape its future?

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe’s member states are yet to have their say, as foreseen in the budget procedure. But several trends are discernible in the intense discussion that has already begun, both within the European Commission and among the various stakeholders,

For one thing, the term “framework program” will be scrapped. Even its name is up for grabs: the European Commission has just launched an open competition to come up with a new one. The goal is to capture the major underlying policy shift from a highly heterogeneous portfolio of programs – intended to support various goals in various ways and to varying degrees – to a legislative and budgetary package designed to serve as a common strategic framework.

But a framework constructed to achieve what? The strengthening of Europe’s position within an atmosphere of heightened global competitiveness remains at the forefront. The dramatic increase of China’s share in scientific publications worldwide, recently highlighted in a report by the Royal Society in London, is a good indicator of what lies ahead. The aim is no longer to become “the world’s most competitive knowledge economy,” as disingenuously announced in 2000. Rather, it has shifted in a more urgent, complex, and inherently unforeseeable way, as spelled out in the EU 2020 strategy’s vision of an “Innovation Union.”