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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]

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Speech by François Biltgen: "A Spotlight on Research in Luxembourg"

Date of Speech : 17-03-2005

Place : Brussels

Speaker : François Biltgen

Policy area : Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry and Research) Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry and Research)

Dear Commissioner,

Dear Minister,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Everything started in Luxembourg: thus could be the résumé of the birth of Community research.

On the 10th August 1952, the institutions of the first European Community took up duty in Luxembourg. This community is known under the name of "Schuman Plan" or more officially as "ECSC: European Coal and Steel Community". The author of this project was a French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Robert Schuman, who was a Luxembourger by birth, whose mother tongue was Luxembourgish and who learned German and French at school as is still the rule in Luxembourg. Schuman himself summarized the European idea with this sentence: "It is not by pure chance that the idea for a community of steel, iron and coal stems from a Luxembourgish boy whose parents only knew too well what war is."

This tremendous project, by finally guaranteeing peace on a continent ravaged by wars and bringing freedom and prosperity, provided the building blocks of the current European Union.

In the forward looking view of the founding fathers of the ECSC Treaty, research as well as science and technology in general played a paramount and strategic role as leverage for progress and for bringing people together: collaborative research was part of the treaty from the very beginning.

The ECSC Treaty imposed on the Luxembourg based High Authority (the equivalent of today’s Commission) the duty to encourage research, to organize the appropriated contacts between research organizations and to disseminate the results of research activities, in the interest of the Community as a whole.

Nowadays, more than 50 years later, although the world has drastically changed and the frames of European research have become much more complex, the spirit of the founding fathers is still up-to-date and even at the basis of the current policy: the importance of European-wide collaboration to reinforce the competitiveness as well as the significance of research and research policy for the development of the European key sectors.

Although focussed solely to the sectors of steel and coal, key industrial sectors at that time, the ECSC treaty anticipates already to some extent the idea of the European Research Area with the development of the co-ordination and the strategic content of research at supra-national level with the aim to promote the long-term competitiveness.

Currently the 6th framework programme has reached its mid-term and the Commission proposal for FP7 will be published in less than a month. The main objective of FP6 is the realisation of the European Research Area, paramount tool to reach the final goal: the knowledge-based society. In spite of the efforts undertaken so far, the European Research Area is not a reality yet. FP7 must provide the necessary frames, instruments and financial means to further support the Union on its way to the European Research Area and, a fortiori, to the knowledge-based society and economy.

My wish is that the FP should offer some sort of "toolbox" where the scientific community as well as industry can find the most appropriate tool to consolidate and better exploit research capacities, performances as well as results.

Although the framework programme is of capital importance for the realization of the objectives of the Union, it is, however, not a panacea with a cure for each defect encountered on the way towards the ambitious Lisbon objectives. It is evident that efforts on Community level have a leverage effect, but above all we have also to mobilize resources at national level, I am fully aware of this. The European Research Area, the cornerstone of the knowledge-based society, will only become a reality if it can rely on joint and well coordinated efforts, both at national and at European level. Hence we have to concentrate our efforts on:

  • the Barcelona target, whilst developing the necessary guidelines and environments for a drastic increase in R&D investments, both public and private.
  • the optimization of human capital with the emergence of a transeuropean workforce market for researchers by creating a more favourable environment and thus attracting the most talented researchers to Europe and by facilitating their mobility.
  • the improvement of co-operation, technology transfer and innovation between public research and enterprises by public/private partnerships and the creation and development of centres of excellence.
  • the promotion of growth and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), in particular young and research/innovation-intensive SME, by facilitating their participation in research and by creating a favourable environment for start-ups and spin-offs as well as innovative projects.

Commissioner, Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Presidency provided us with the opportunity to show to the public, by means of an exhibition, the research made in Luxembourg. Indeed, the Luxembourg Government considers research and innovation as political priorities. The exhibition shows that Luxembourg is much more than a financial place in the heart of old Europe. It demonstrates to the visitor the variety of research, both public and private, in Luxembourg, and also gives insight in the economic context of our country.

Public research in Luxembourg is fairly recent and started in 1987 with a framework law and the creation of three public research centres. Currently, public research moves ahead at an impressive pace: this is best illustrated by the creation of a National Research Fund in 1999, as well as by the triplication of the budget for public research within the last 5 years. The current Government programme foresees even to ultimately raise these means to 1% of GDP.  Fully aware of the fact that for a country without natural resources, knowledge is the only sustainable resource, Luxembourg created its own University in 2003 and research is one of the main pillars of our university.

The exhibition introduces you to the public research centres as well as the university and describes the different research domains on roll-ups and show-pieces.

One of the characteristics of research in Luxembourg is the predominance of the private sector research and we are happy to show you here concrete examples of the variety of research activities in Luxembourg.

This exhibition will have been a success if after the visit you have the impression that Luxembourg is not only the Boulevard Royal with its large number of banks and insurance companies, but also stands for a country of technological developments and innovations, favourable political, economical and financial environment and high quality research in a selected number of domains.

Before concluding, I want to remind you that we have the day before the 300th CREST meeting and I am taking the opportunity to address a particularly warm welcome to the CREST delegates in this room.

CREST, the "Comité de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique" is an advisory body to both the Council and the Commission in the area of R&D. CREST gathers high-level civil servants from member states, candidate countries and associated countries. It currently plays an important role in the implementation of the open method of co-ordination applied to research policy in view of the Barcelona target. In its quality as advisory body, CREST will have to take position on FP7 by giving advice on working documents as well as on the final proposal. Hence the 300th meeting of CREST will certainly not be the last meeting and the high-quality work performed in the past by CREST made it and makes it an absolutely crucial committee in the domain of research policy.

We are looking forward to welcoming CREST in Mondorf-les-Bains for is 301st meeting on 23rd and 24th May. Beside the usual agenda, CREST delegates will have the opportunity to visit SES, created in 1985 among others by former Prime Minister Pierre Werner, one of the architects of the Euro, whose visionary power also set the scene for a media policy based on telecommunication satellites. Luxembourg’s SES is nowadays the world leader in global satellite communications and operates the ASTRA satellites.

The Research Working Party delegates will meet in Mondorf-les-Bains on the 25th May. They will visit IEE, a research intensive high-tech company, created in 1989 by Luxembourg’s steel company ARBED and the Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI). IEE develops sensors and sensor-electronic systems for cars.

Both SES and IEE take part in our exhibition.

Last but not least, I want to thank all the people who actively helped to realize this exhibition and I wish it to be a great success.

Thank you for your attention.

This page was last modified on : 22-03-2005

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