European research is fundamental for guaranteeing future competitiveness to our economies, as acknowledged by all EU member States that committed to reach investments in research and development equal to 3% of GDP. Up to date, however, the funds allocated by the 28 Countries of the Union remain below the 2% of GDP and on average do not exceed 0.7% (Fig. 1). Some Nations, however, are reversing their route.
Despite Italy investing so little in research, Italian researches are holding on, at least if we consider the number of cited publications at international level. What is critical, however, is the following step: from research to industrial applications, as shown from patents, start-ups and other indicators statistics. Yet, it is the combination of research, innovation, industrial dynamism and capability of winning new markets that can really “re-start” our Country, recovering employment and withstanding the more and more intense international competition.
According to Patrick Cunningham, professor of animal genetics and scientific consultant for the Irish Government, research needs to be rethought by remodelling its priorities. In an article published on October, 24, on Nature, Cunningham underlines that we are fully in economic recession and states that the only way out is by increasing, not diminishing, the investments in research and development.
“Chinese Universities are getting too successful. Tell them to stop. We need workers more than graduates. Workers are not enough, whilst academics cannot find a job”.
On April 29 2013, Barack Obama left his busy political agenda to go to speak to the members of the National Academy of Science (NAS) at their annual meeting. He went there after being reelected to remind them that the President of the United Sates is well aware that science and technology are extremely important for America and he wanted to personally pass on this message, highlighting that in a moment of serious economic difficulty the country cannot cut research investment funds, because it is innovation which gives energy (powers) to t
The European Commission embarked on the preparation stages for the next financing program for research activities for the 2014-2020 period. It will be called “Horizon 2020”, thanks to the “You name it” competition launched by the Commission to enable European citizens to select the future name of the research and innovation program online. However, there is still time before it begins. In fact, the seventh and penultimate call for the 7th PQ projects has just ended and assessment is in progress.
The theme of scientific research has been totally neglected in the election campaign, which has paid no more than lip service to this issue. Italian scientific research needs a better future, made up of strategic investments, planning, transparency and merit-based incentives. Most of all, Italy needs a productive and competitive scientific research in order to put an end to the decline to which it is heading in the wake of the current severe economic and financial crisis. Our country needs new jobs and an economy that gets back to growth.
There is an idea of research policy that is making inroads in Italy and also in Europe: we should do as the U.S.A. does. Let us be guided by the tough but efficient market forces. No more luxuries, therefore. No more intellectually satisfying idleness.
The European Commission's proposal will be made public only at the end of next November. However, Nature magazine was recently able to anticipate the main news that, according to the “Bruxelles government”, will form part of Horizon 2020, the European financing program for research that, as from 2014 up to 2020, will substitute the FP7, the Seventh Framework Program which expires in 2013.