The Research Ministers of the European Union adopted a comprehensive policy decision on the European Institute of Technology at the Competitiveness Council in Luxemburg on Monday. "By agreeing the general orientation of the European Institute of Technology (EIT) we have today taken an important step towards securing Europe's future," said Council President Annette Schavan, the German Research Minister, at the final press conference in Luxemburg. This may be seen as a result of the German Presidency and a "particular success at the conclusion" of the German Council Presidency, the Minister said.
"I am delighted that we have reached this agreement today after months of intensive consultations," said Schavan. "The EIT will provide new and lasting impetus in the fields of education, research and innovation and will thus make Europe more competitive." The core element of the European Institute of Technology are the planned Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). The Ministers agreed to establish the EIT in two phases and adopted a funding framework of 309 million Euro. Furthermore, the ministers agreed that academic qualifications should only be awarded by institutions entitled to do so under national law, e.g. institutions of higher education within the different KICs. An EIT label can be added to the qualification.
Financing secured in the long term
The Ministers agreed that 309 million Euro are to be provided from the budget of the EU Commission for the initial phase of the EIT. The discussion also revealed that an EIT can only be successful if the financing of the networks can be secured in the long term. In this respect, many Ministers voiced their expectation that industry should make a substantial contributions. The Council decided that there will be two to three KICs. They are to focus, inter alia, on renewable energies and climate research.
According to Schavan, the Council Conclusions on the German initiative for a charter for the management of intellectual property from public research institutions and universities (IP Charter) are another success of the Council Presidency. This is an innovative approach to counteract the threat of uncontrolled loss of know-how and to strengthen research and economic cooperation: "Knowledge is the decisive basis for Europe's economic power. In global competition, Europe can therefore afford neither growing product piracy nor uncontrolled loss of know-how. The European Union will use the IP Charter in a targeted way to meet the challenges of growing globalization," the Minister said. It was now up to the Commission to ensure the rapid development of guidelines which can serve as basis for all research collaborations and thus strengthen Europe's competitiveness.
Schavan acknowledged another initiative of the German Council Presidency: "I am particularly pleased that today's Council Conclusions and the Report by the Scientific and Technical Research Committee (CREST) are making a lasting contribution to better research conditions in Europe. Better coordination of the use of Structural Funds and Research Framework Programmes is an important element of sustainable investment in the future," said the Minister. For the first time, specific support is thus provided for improving the coordination of the most important tools for implementing research and regional policy. Above all, the report suggests the areas in which funding programmes should be linked. Regions, for example, should orient their research and innovation strategies in a way which provides for good links to the Research Framework Programme.
Switzerland accedes to 7th EU Research Framework Programme
Following the Council, Minister and Council President Annette Schavan, EU Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik and the Swiss Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin signed a bilateral research agreement between Switzerland and the EU. The agreement regulates the participation of Switzerland in the 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7). The total budget of FP7 is 54.4 billion Euro. The contribution to be made by Switzerland in line with the agreement is linked to its gross domestic product and will be about 1.4 billion Euro over a period of seven years.
During the signing ceremony of the Agreement of Scientific and Technological Cooperation, Schavan stressed that "the Agreement helps to continue our long-standing proven and successful partnership in the area of research." The full association of Switzerland to the 7th EU Research Framework Programme is an important step towards further integration of Switzerland into the European Research Area.