Research is a key area for job growth
Mobility of researchers is crucial to meeting targets for high-value jobs
The European Commission’s Innovation Union 2010 sets a clear target of an extra million researchers in Europe by 2020 if the EU is to meet research investment targets.
Across Europe more than five million jobs have been lost between 2008 and 2010.
In contrast, knowledge-based jobs driven by research and innovation increased by more than 800,000. The current economic crisis had made it difficult for countries to maintain their levels of investment in R&D.
However, there is one area that goes beyond funding and it is the underlying suite of policies that ensure that Europe can attract and retain the best researchers.
Since 2000, the goal of having a borderless Europe for the free movement of researchers and knowledge has been encapsulated in the European Research Area (ERA) policy. This policy focuses on the underpinning issues that are necessary for free movement; fast-track immigration and merit-based recruitment.
There is urgency about this policy now as nations become more competitive in attracting researchers. Also, the deadline for achieving the European Research Area is imminent – the end of this year.
To come up with practical solutions, the Irish EU presidency hosted a conference on researcher careers and mobility last week organised by the Irish Universities Association, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the European Commission.
The conference brought researchers and policy makers from 33 countries in Europe.
It ensured a variety of perspectives with contributions from academia and industry; governmental and funding agency representatives. There was strong participation from the European Universities Association, EURODOC, the European Research Council, the European Science Foundation and Science Europe.
The European Commission’s Innovation Union 2010 sets a clear target of an extra million researchers in Europe by 2020 if the EU is to meet research investment targets. The increased supply of researchers must be based on the understanding that the majority will work in sectors outside of academia.
This poses a real challenge in achieving different objectives within the same policy agenda. There is the basic need to attract and retain the most talented researchers – whilst also ensuring the majority who do not pursue academic careers are properly equipped for employment across the public or private sectors.
Delegates discussed topics such as how to support researchers in making the transition from university to industry.
For all researchers there must be a balance of the primacy of research with skills acquisition and employability. There was full agreement that the Horizon 2020 programme should ensure that all of those funded must implement the ERA policies.
Conor O’Carroll is research director in the Irish Universities Association, iua.ie