Brussels, 24 March 2006
Brussels European Council, 23-24 March 2006
18. In view of the importance of R&D for future growth and in providing solutions for many of the problems confronting our society today, the European Council reiterates the commitment entered into at Barcelona, welcomes the progress made concerning setting specific national targets and calls upon all Member States to promote policies and actions aiming at the established overall 3% objective by 2010, taking into account the different starting points of Member States (see Annex I). To provide more and better resources for research and innovation, Member States should refocus their public expenditure on research and innovation as well as promote private sector R&D, in particular by improving their mix of support instruments.
19. The European Council calls for the speedy adoption of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development and the new Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. It calls for the quick establishment of the European Research Council working on the basis of criteria aiming at raising yet further the excellence of Europe's best research teams. Action undertaken under the Research Framework Programme should be better coordinated with other European and national actions to promote public-private partnerships, including intergovernmental initiatives such as Eureka.
20. The European Council calls on the EIB to support innovation and to reinforce its action in R&D, through a risk-sharing finance facility to be finalised as soon as possible. The European Council expects up to 30 bn € in venture capital and guaranteed bank loans to be leveraged by the new financial instruments based on EIB and EU budget cofinancing for the period up to 2013 and private sector involvement.
21. A dynamic environment should be fostered by the creation of attractive clusters. Member States are invited to create a single, open and competitive European labour market for researchers, notably by overcoming remaining obstacles to geographical and intersectoral mobility, and by improving employment and working conditions for researchers as well as by attracting young research talent into research careers. The cooperation and technology transfer between public research and industry should be enhanced, both within and across national borders, and also creating conditions for placement of researchers in industry.
22. A comprehensive approach to innovation policy can be achieved by supporting markets for innovative goods and services and excellence in research in new technologies, including information and communication technologies (ICT) and eco-innovations. This would imply inter alia identifying best practices in innovation policies that would have the greatest potential for creating real value added and boosting procuctivity. Furthermore links should be stengthened between R&D, innovation systems and business environment in order to improve the effectiveness of the innovation process and shorten the time needed for innovations to mature and to be translated into commercial products and services. The European Council accordingly calls for a broad-based innovation strategy for Europe that translates invetsments in knowledge into products and services. In this context, the European Council notes the significance of the Aho report on Creating an Innovative Europe and invites the Commission to assess its recommendations and the incoming Presidency to report on progress before the end of 2006.
23. Education and training are critical factors to develop the EU's long-term potential for competitiveness as well as for social cohesion. The search for excellence and innovation at all levels of education and training, in particular through better links between higher education, research and enterprises is crucial. Reforms must also be stepped up to ensure high quality education systems which are both efficient and equitable. National lifelong learning strategies should provide all citizens with the competences and qualifications they need, increasingly assisted at Community level by educational and training programmes such as Erasmus and Leonardo. To support greater mobility and an efficient labour market, progress on a European Qualifications Framework (EQF) should also be achieved.
24. Investments in education and training produce high returns which substantially outweigh the costs and reach far beyond 2010. They should be targeted on areas where economic returns and social outcomes are high. Education and Training must occupy a central position in the Lisbon reform agenda, in this context, the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 will be essential. The European Council calls on the Member States to facilitate, in line with national practices, universities' access to complementary sources of funding, including private ones, and to remove barriers to public-private partnerships with businesses. Furthermore, it underlines the crucial role of universities and their research staff in the dissemination and transfer of research results to the business community and hence the need of developing managerial skills and competencies for the people involved. The European Council looks forward to the report of the Commission on higher education which will address in particular the triangle education-research-innovation as well as the links between universities and the business community.
25. The European Council notes the significance of the Commission's communication on the European Institute for Technology and will further examine the ideas in order to enhance together with other actions networking and synergies between excellent research and innovation communities in Europe. The European Council recognises that a European Institute for Technology - based on top-class networks open to all Member States - will be an important step to fill the existing gap between higher education, research and innovation, together with other actions that enhance networking and synergies between excellent research and innovation communities in Europe. The European Research Council should have a guiding role in this context. The European Council invites the Commission to submit a proposal on further steps by mid June 2006.
38. It is urgent to improve the situation of young people in the labour market and to reduce significantly youth unemployment. To that end, the European Council stresses that in line with the agreed target for 2010, efforts should be intensified to reduce early school leaving to 10% and to ensure that at least 85% of 22 year olds should have completed upper secondary education. By the end of 2007 every young person who has left school and is unemployed should be offered a job, apprenticeship, additional training or other employability measure within six months, and within no more than 4 months by 2010.
Research, development and demonstration - technology development
[extract from Annex III to conclusions]
31. Increasing the priority for energy in national and Community RD & D budgets, especially within the 7th Framework Programme, focusing on energy efficiency, sustainable energies and low emission technologies responding to the challenges faced by the EU.
32. Supporting these technologies through a broader range of platforms and partnerships with third countries, and facilitating the market take-up of the resulting technologies including through relevant Community instruments, so as to comfort the EU leadership.
News release 7775/06 CONCL 1