Call for aligned EU research priorities

European Commissioner for Research and Innovation Maire Geoghegan-Quinn. Photograph: Eric Luke.

European Commissioner for Research and Innovation Maire Geoghegan-Quinn. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 00:00

EU research priorities must be aligned and expenditure co-ordinated in order to get the most from Europe’s investment in scientific research, the Commissioner for Research and Innovation Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said today.

She was speaking at a conference on “joint programming”, organised under the Irish presidency of the EU. Joint programming is a model of research where member states work in a coordinated way to tackle societal issues in a “strategically-aligned process”, she said.

With public resources including funding for research and development under pressure, joint programming offered a way “to get better value, better results and bigger impacts from national research programmes”, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said. This meant better prioritisation and also achieving a better match-up of research agendas, she said.

“By aligning and co-ordinating the institutional and competitive funding committed under national research programmes, which account for 88 per cent of the public research investments in Europe, we can better exploit our resources for maximum societal impact,” Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said at Dublin castle.

The meeting entitled, “Agenda for the Future and Achievements to Date”, attracted more than 400 delegates from across Europe and further afield. Science Foundation Ireland are hosting the event.

The Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock said that joint programming was found at the very heart of the European project. Yet being able to measure the success of joint programming was “perhaps the most challenging aspect”.

He planned to use the Irish Presidency to gauge what level of political will existed across the EU to pursue better research coordination and investment via joint programming. He intended to bring the matter to the EU Competitiveness Council and proposed to initiate a policy debate on the issue.

He also pointed out that joint programming could also maximise academic researchers’’ engagement with industry. This would bring private sector resources and funding into the process.

The conference was important to help identify areas where “sensible synchronising” of policies across Member States could be progressed, said Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland. Joint programming mirrored the recent “seismic shift” towards forging partnerships between traditionally distinct sectors, he said.