Dear Minister [Sofie Carsten-Nielsen, Minister of Higher Education and Science]
Dear Chair of ESOF [ESOF2014 Champion Professor Klaus Bock]
[Euroscience President, Professor Lauritz Holm-Nielsen]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today for the 2014 Euroscience Open Forum. I would like to thank you for inviting me to take part in this very important event.
In a country with over 400 islands, with three bridges over six kilometres long, what more appropriate theme could have been given to this Forum than "Science building bridges".
A country world-known for its scientific leadership; for its expertise across a range of fields, from clean technology to biotechnology, from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications.
A country proud and confident about its knowledge-based society, renowned for its openness, and
Ladies and Gentlemen,
[Europe 2020/Horizon 2020]
As we start to move out of the worst financial and economic crisis since the 1930s, now is the time to focus on building a strong, sustainable future.
On building a bridge between our past scientific traditions and a world where we share increasingly important global challenges and where we need innovative solutions.
That is precisely why, back in 2010, we put in place our new Europe 2020 strategy, designed to build a balanced, knowledge-based economy, with education, science, research and innovation at its very heart.
That is also why we have managed to make the seven year budget for our European research programme, Horizon 2020, 30% larger than its predecessor, despite the slight decrease in the European budget as a whole. It was not easy but we got it. We managed to convince Member States that at least the science and innovation budget should be increased. At 80 billion Euros over seven years, Horizon 2020 is one of if not the largest research and innovation programme in the world, designed to complement other sources of national and private financing.
We have therefore managed to match ambition with resources, giving you the researchers the stability and long term commitment that you need.
This goes to show, as we discuss the challenges facing us in the years ahead, that science does indeed matter for the future of Europe.
Not just to a large audience such as yours, but to everyone in our societies. Because I believe that our social and economic progress and many of the solutions to today's problems will come from science. And I would even say that "The future of Europe is science".
As our recent Communication on research and innovation as sources for growth has shown, we have a lot to be confident about.
Europe undoubtedly remains a world leader in science and has the capacity to innovate.
Our European Research Area remains the largest knowledge-production house in the world: we have twice the number of science and technology graduates in Europe than in the United States; and with 7% of the world's population, we still produce roughly a third not only of the GDP, but also of patents and high impact scientific publications.
And despite the financial and economic crisis we have managed to halvethe innovation gap that we still have with the United States and Japan.
[More to do]
But we cannot afford to stand still, in a world where scientific and technological progress is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, and where South Koreais moving further ahead, with China quickly catching us up.
So we must adapt to the new challenges and new ways of working in the 21st Century.
The role of digital technologies and the wealth of information and data that is being produced pose many questions about how science and research will be performed in the future. I know that Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, whom I would like to congratulate, for her commitment and passion on these issues during her term as Commissioner, will discuss this particular matter with you on Tuesday morning.
We must also adapt our culture so that women are better represented in research and science, another matter close to my heart: indeed, whilst women hold 45% of all PhDs in Europe, they only represent 30% of career researchers.
Last but not least, we must bring in our younger generation into science and innovation, reinforcing and tailoring our educational systems so that they more fully embrace creativity and risk.
This is key to Europe's future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to highlight briefly five bridges that we have been building and that we must collectively continue to build.
First, we are building bridges between all the scientific disciplines. Our Innovation Union seeks to mainstream science and innovation across all sectors, and cross-fertilise your ideas to develop new technologies, products and services for the complex multi-disciplinary challenges in our societies. This is why Horizon 2020 champions a challenge-based approach and why the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, recently launched its Call for Proposals for the Knowledge and Innovation Communities.
Secondly, we are building bridges between researchers and the general public. Horizon 2020 is a large programme, with a broad set of objectives from excellence in science - with the European Research Council now chaired by Professor Bourguignon - to industrial leadership and a number of key societal challenges, allowing us to focus on the big priorities relevant to every European citizen. I am very proud of the ERC. But in order to ensure that the progress you make, for example on new vaccinations or nano-technology, is properly explained and embraced rather than feared, across society, we need a considerable communication effort from scientists themselves as well as from policy makers. There is an important role for the media here.
Thirdly, we are building bridges between the laboratory and the marketplace. After 30 years of negotiation, we finally agreed a European-wide patent. Once fully implemented, this will reduce the cost by up to 80% for small and medium sized businesses and individual researchers to register their creative ideas. This should encourage more private investment, because at 1.30% of GDP, we still lag behind the United States, Japan or South Korea, where private investment, venture capital and the culture of risk are more widely shared.
Fourthly, we are building bridges between Member States. With the European Research Area, we are encouraging reforms for a greater mobility of researchers and for pan-European research infrastructures.
But our countries must make an equal effort in research if we are to bridge the gap in investment across Europe, and if research opportunities are available across Europe. Collectively, we are missing our Europe 2020 target of 3% GDP in research and development, averaging just under 2%, with more regional disparity and ten Member States still averaging under 1%. We are doing fiscal consolidation but we need smart fiscal consolidation.
Finally, we are building bridges internationally, trying to reach out to all countries in the world. Only two weeks ago, I signed an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, granting Israel – a leading nation in science and innovation - access to our Horizon 2020 programme, as part of our science diplomacy. The principle behind this agreement, as well as with agreements we have with twenty other partners, is simple: it is that we can tackle together more smartly and efficiently the global challenges we face. And this is also why I am pleased to see so many international participants at today's Forum.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We cannot afford to rest.
And although Niels Bohr once said that prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future, I have nevertheless asked the Science and Technology Advisory Council and Professor Anne Glover, my Chief Scientific Adviser, to produce a report on foresight. Let me take this opportunity to thank them for their dedication to this work, which will be unveiled in the conference "The future of Europe is science", to be held in Lisbon on 6th and 7th of October.
I look forward to a successful Euroscience Forum and to an ever increasing role of Europe in science and innovation, with a view to the next Forum in 2016, in Manchester.