EU research and innovation programmes are turning science into growth

The European Commission assigned a group of experts led by former WTO director-general Pascal Lamy to evaluate the impact of Horizon 2020, its 8th Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. In this column, Lamy summarises his conclusions and recommendations.

When we look at Europe’s “global market share” for science and innovation,  there is a conspicuous disconnect. With only 7% of the world’s population, Europe produces 25% of the new knowledge in science. In innovation, even if the yardsticks are less precise, we clearly do not hold the 20% market share that should be ours. Indicators such as the small number of unicorns on the Continent confirm that we’ve fallen behind.

There are various reasons for this. One is Europe’s aversion to risk, compared to the US. The financial system also plays an important role. The little debt that American banks carry is resold on financial markets, with the risk of provoking crises. The internal European digital market is still significantly more fragmented than its US counterpart. We will have to do much work to catch up and resolve these weaknesses one by one because, despite immigration, Europe is an ageing continent. If we hope to retain our heavily redistributive economic and social model, we cannot be satisfied with 1.5% growth.

In our Lab-Fab-App report, we suggest doubling the next programme’s budget to €160 billion, compared to FP8. Everyone agrees that we need to invest as much as possible in research and innovation because, in the dematerialised economy of the future, grey matter and talent will be the main resources.

A major problem for Europe is the brain drain that occurs as our researchers head to the US. To entice them back to our shores, we need to offer them prospects. Compared to the 1980s, when intellectual property and patents locked down science, the world of science is now fairly open. The entire world works together. Political powers, whether European, American or Chinese, have only limited influence.


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