Interview with Christian Patermann, DG Research
SB News: First of all – How do you see the possibilities for reaching the goal set out for 2010; to be competitive with the US? And what are the main obstacles to reach that goal?
CP: The ambitious goals of the Lisbon Council are looking increasingly challenging, as a number of the conditions required to make Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy have not been met. The level of investment in research in Europe is not growing fast enough; salaries and career opportunities for researchers are still unfavourable in Europe compared to the US; patenting is still too complex and expensive; and there are obstacles to entrepreneurship (educational, financial, fiscal, social, etc.).
In addition, for the life sciences area, a number of regulatory issues have not been clarified and stringent price control on medicines diminishes the attractiveness of the market and thus the incentive to invest in innovative medicines.
SB News: To what extent do you expect the European Research Area, ERA, to be instrumental in the process?
CP: The European Research Area, ERA for short, can play a part in this, by combining expertise across Europe to reduce fragmentation, avoid duplication and create critical mass, research can be made more effective. However, beyond research there are a number of factors to enable research and innovation. In the case of life sciences, both research and non-research aspects have been clearly identified and targeted through the Life Science & Biotechnology Strategy and action plan, for which a second annual progress report was recently published.
SB News: Do you see a role for meta-regions in the realization of ERA and other EU initiatives, and if yes, what should then be their responsibilities?
CP: Linking regions of competence together is very important to achieve ERA. Whether this happens through a trans-regional network, a meta-region or through virtual clusters in a specific sector, but covering the whole of Europe depends, very much on the objectives one wants to achieve. Meta-regions can clearly help to market a certain region and make it more attractive to outside investors. It is also an interesting test-bed for developing new network services and activities that could be useful for other meta-regions, or even the whole of Europe.
SB News: Can Meta-regions be a step towards de-centralization and increased bottom-up e.g. by being an operator on EU-activities in close contact with regional stakeholders?
CP: Meta-regions can ensure a better bottom-up approach – distinct from the purely regional and national view, but also slightly different from the overall European view. However, I doubt that adding an additional operational level (meta-region) between the regional, national level on the one side and the European on the other side would bring any benefits.
SB News: Do you see a need to create meta-regional university structures with the purpose of e.g. creating critical mass based on regional spear head competencies, increase brain circulation and brake down barriers?
CP: The Commission has already supported trans-regional activities in this area and surely widening this to a meta-region is beneficial for all players. Offering students in a meta-region a coherent curriculum that would include courses and educational periods at different universities in different countries – with a minimum of administrative burden would surely support the creating of the ERA.
SB News: Do you see any need for new financial instruments to support the development of meta-regions e.g. for the build-up of meta-regional university structures or do you find that the present financial instruments are sufficient?
CP: For the moment I do not see the need for any specific instruments. Meta regions can use similar instruments than pan-European or virtual cluster type of networks, whether this concerns university or other network structures. The SCANBALT Network for instance has been receiving financing for their activities through the Framework Programme.
SB News: In the enlarged EU, what do you feel could be the role of meta-regions for the integration of the new member countries?
CP: The role of meta-regions for the integration of the new member states is potentially huge, as it becomes increasingly apparent that networks can be created and experienced shared at (meta) regional level.
SB News: How do you look at the importance of cooperation inside research, education and innovation with Russia?
CP: The Russian Federation is one of a few countries that has signed a Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement with the European Union. Consequently, Russian organisations are more than welcome as partners in consortia funded through the Framework programme and we are making particular efforts to facilitate their participation.
Christian Patermann (Dr. jur.), formerly Deputy Director-General in the German Federal Ministry of Sciences and Education, has studied Law, Economics and Languages in Germany, Spain and Switzerland. He held numerous top positions in the international Science and Technology world (ESA, ESO, EMBL, etc.) From 1996 to 2003 he was Director for Environment and Sustainable Development in the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, Brussels. Since January 2004 he is Director for Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food.
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