Our society is currently undergoing several big changes that pose challenges and opportunities for the future. The increasing digitalization and automation, the growing globalization, and improved financial durability offer many excellent opportunities for development. There is more research funding in the system than ever before. On the other hand, our society is vulnerable; we have challenges in relation to inequality, an environment put under severe stress, and more hostile tendencies than we have seen in a long time, despite the good times and economic growth. In our work at the European Commission Independent High Level Group on Maximizing the Impact of EU Research & Innovation Programmes,4 we try to understand and elaborate on these challenges to be able to propose a suitable strategy for future research funding from the European Commission.
I foresee a time when learning is a lifelong commitment, with people spending 10%–20% of their work time continuing their education in order to learn new skills and make oneself relevant as the future unfolds.
With an area of 10 million square kilometers and a population of 740 million, Europe is a substantial region of prosperity and development. Many EU countries lead in rankings of prosperity, education, digitalization, equality, and low corruption.
Investment in research and innovation has been substantial and recognized as important for the development of the society, for ensuring a high level of skills, and for contributing to the creation of jobs and growth, albeit not to the extent demonstrated by North America or South East Asia. With just 7% of the world's population and 24% of global GDP, the EU produces approximately 30% of the world's scientific publications.4 Several European countries are leading the research investment competition as a share of the country's GDP—after the three top countries Israel, Korea, and Japan—with Europe at 2.03% and Sweden leading in Europe with investments of 3.26% of the GDP.a In the Lamy report,4 we argued for a European target of 3%.
However, the business economy in high-tech sectors and PCT patent applications per-million population both show a lower growth rate in Europe than in U.S. Hence, Europe must focus on innovation and investigate the mechanisms within its society that prevent development on a scale the same as the U.S.
Figure. Comparative and growth rates of scientific publications, highly cited scientific publications, researchers, patent applications and valued-added of high-tech sectors in the EU compared to the U.S.
The EU funding program Horizon 2020 that focuses on scientific impact was prioritized particularly through the ERC program for funding excellent basic research. This turned Europe into an attractive arena to develop research careers and thus strengthening European research quality and performance.
Some of the most prevalent trends and needs that may influence future research and innovation throughout Europe include the following:
A value-driven research process, recognizing the European values of participation, gender equality, and low corruption has been powerful throughout Europe. The key factors in reducing inequality include a strong focus on education, health, social protection, progressive taxation, higher wages for the general workforce, stronger labor rights, especially for women.6 These values makes Europe a unique place to develop research that features strong human and humanistic values, a strong commitment to the U.N. sustainability goals, and recognizing the opportunity for overall participation on equal terms beyond hierarchies, knowledge levels, education, or assets.
1. Brown, R.R., Deletic, A. and Wong, T.H.F. Interdisciplinarity: How to catalyze collaboration. Nature 525, 315–317 (Sept. 17, 2015) doi:10.1038/525315a
4. Lamy, P. LAB-FAB-APP. Investing in the European Future We Want. European Commission, Luxemburg, 2017; https://bit.ly/2sEIMKP
5. Mazzucato, M. Mission-Oriented Research and Innovation in the European Union—A problem-solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth. European Commission; https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/mazzucato_report_2018.pdf
6. Oxfam. The commitment to reducing inequality index 2018—A global ranking of governments based on what they are doing to tackle the gap between rich and poor; www.oxfam.org
9. United Nations. Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN), 2015; https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org
a. UNESCO Institute for Statistics; http://bit.ly/2R7q2jg
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