A new EU strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation was unveiled recently. The EU accounts for just 7% of the world population, but it is responsible for 24% of world expenditure on research, 32% of high-impact publications and 32% of patent applications. International cooperation is seen as a vital step towards homing in on opportunities and further development.
Ideas generated by the diplomatic corps meeting on the new international cooperation strategy involved looking at ways to strengthen excellence in research and innovation by facilitating access to knowledge, people and markets across borders and across the globe. Maintaining a strong focus on firms and innovation, which require a new or different approach between academia and industry and between research and innovation, was also highlighted. Other ideas included strengthening evidence or analysis-based decision-making, and analysing likely trends, future changes and systematic exchange of experiences.
It was also recommended that integrating the international perspective more fully into 'regular' EU programmes would enhance cooperation with international collaboration, and strengthen the priorities of EU's core research and innovation programmes.
With Horizon 2020 due to start in 2014, it is also being seen as one of the linchpins in the strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation. The project, funded to the tune of EUR 80 billion, is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union and Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness and creating new growth and jobs.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner responsible for Research, Innovation and Science, and one of the keynote speakers at the meeting, said: 'It makes perfect sense to cast the net wider and create and explore opportunities for research and innovation cooperation between Europe and the rest of the world. Not least because the societal challenges that we face today, such as climate change, the spread of infectious diseases or ensuring a steady supply of food and energy, are so big and so complex that we need the world's best scientists to tackle them together. Seeing at first hand the excellent research and innovation taking place in universities, companies and research centres in the four corners of the globe is another reminder that the global research and innovation landscape is changing profoundly and rapidly.'
International cooperation already builds on the achievements of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). FP7 projects have funded the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership programme, in which 14 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland, have cooperated with sub-Saharan African countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Moreover, researchers from 80 different countries have participated in the successful Marie Curie actions, and the European Research Council (ERC) has enabled top scientists from anywhere in the world to conduct their research in Europe. It is estimated that 20 % of projects funded under FP7 include at least one international partner in the consortium, most commonly from China, India, Russia, South Africa or the United States.
Conclusions presented on what more can be done to enhance innovation and development included considering the use of test beds and demonstration facilities to strengthen attractiveness, and test products for addressing global challenges. Facilitating internationalisation was also recommended, particularly for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Lastly, it was highlighted that Europe can play a key role in strengthening global governance of science, technology and innovation cooperation.