The European Commission has published its Report “International Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation: Strategies for a Changing World” to support the further development of an EU international STI cooperation strategy. Due to a changing global landscape, EU STI policies are fragmented. A more strategic European Framework which focuses on global challenges and thematic priorities is required to increase coherence as well as to ensure sufficient resources and funding. Download The Report of the Expert Group - International Cooperation in STI.
Conclusions and key policy recommendations
Pulling all elements of the present analysis together, it is clear that Europe finds itself at a crossroads: Fundamental changes in the global research and innovation landscape are taking place. The increasingly pressing global challenges urgently require a strategic and forward looking response at EU level. Hence, the overall recommendation is to develop
1) A strategy with a focus on strengthening European attractiveness as international research and innovation hub and partner in order to strengthen European competitiveness and prosperity
Europe needs to get at the forefront of international collaboration in STI by making it the place to be for international researchers and non-EU MNEs. Secondly, the EU must provide their stakeholders an infrastructure to expand to other regions into the world and help universities, SMEs in particular to reach out to those markets in selected themes addressing the grand challenges of the next decades.
Only few countries have so far developed an integrated policy strategy. In the US and the UK the overarching, strategic orientation of policy is to support world-class excellence in science with the aim of generating attractiveness for R&D activities by MNEs. The emergence of China on the global S&T scene is backed by elements of an integrated policy strategy, albeit with strong elements of a planned economy context.
Currently there is a dominance of geographical prioritization through picking countries. This has been especially evident in SFIC. This should change:
2) Theme- and problem-oriented prioritization is needed rather than geographic; Grand Challenges as a clear prioritization tool to be mainstreamed also in the international dimension. Prioritization of international collaboration should follow closely the priorities of the EU’s core research and innovation programmes, while the geographical approach should be the core of an implementation strategy. This also implies that
3) The international perspective needs to be more fully integrated into ’regular’ programmes at EU level
All EU programmes (old and new instruments) should be required to have an international dimension, e.g. through benchmarking and monitoring, identification of relevant partners –and competitors– outside Europe and activities for strengthening cooperation with non-EU partners and/or activities aimed at increasing proximity to relevant markets and users outside Europe. This requires the ability of evaluators and evaluation criteria to valuate and evaluate international partners and collaborations; criteria should be based on complementarities and critical assets for R&D projects.
The EU Framework Programmes are seen as the key vehicle to foster effective international cooperation:
4) Make the Horizon 2020 truly open and attractive to the best and brightest in the world allowing European actors to work with the best brains wherever they are.
International cooperation in STI is impeded by numerous bottlenecks:
5) Strengthen framework conditions for and removal of barriers to international cooperation.
This concerns in particular issues like mobility, standards, IPR, opening national research programmes, simplification of Framework Programme, increasing the competitiveness of European universities, realizing the ERA as a prerequisite to an effective international dimension.
6) Design targeted initiatives for strengthening cooperation in selected (prioritized) areas: these can be multilateral, bilateral, and unilateral. The key criteria should be achieving benefits for European stakeholders.
The EU should become a stronger international actor in international science and technology fora and in taking the initiative in international science, technology and innovation collaborations through such targeted initiatives.
7) A strong focus on firms and innovation is needed. This has not been properly addressed before and it requires a new/different approach; there are fundamental differences in drivers of international cooperation between academia and industry and between research and innovation. Actions should e.g. be taken along several lines:
• Make Europe the global lead market for innovations to be deployed. Provide the leading Research and Innovation infrastructures for pilots and early adopters.
• Leverage Europe’s diversity in language and jurisdiction to allow for true international products and solutions to be developed that can easily be sold globally.
• Domestic clusters of S&T excellence are an important attractor for innovative companies, R&D institutes and R&D workers from abroad. A strong and vibrant academic and industrial research base, efficient protection of intellectual property rights and a well-trained workforce are major determinants for MNE investment in R&D, but will also promote the growth of domestic enterprises. Hence, such policy measures should be aimed simultaneously at creating favourable conditions for domestic and foreign-owned domiciled enterprises.
• In order to benefit from the internationalisation of R&D, economies should optimize their absorptive capacity and networking with multinational firms.
Among the factors that improve absorptive capacity, two stand out, viz. a high educational level of the local labour force and a well-developed technological capacity of domestic firms.
• Stimulating the development of excellence in local Science & Technology capacities and providing an innovation friendly environment is key to any policy towards R&D internationalisation.
Many countries have not fully recognised the implications of the current internationalisation of STI. In part this is because the full implications are not yet clear, and this is certainly an area in which further research and analysis is required. The increasing mobility of financial resources for STI is accompanied by the increasing mobility of highly skilled scientists and engineers. This has implications not only for education policies, but also for a wide range of policy arenas – tax policies, regulatory frameworks and standards setting, among others. Although many of the instruments needed are already in place in most national and supra national policy levels, they need to be mobilized better to fit into a coherent, systemic policy approach to face the challenges of internationalisation of R&D.
An ambitious strategy for international cooperation will need to leverage the resources and initiatives in the Member States. The Commission should contribute to making the Strategic Forum for International S&T Cooperation (SFIC) a truly high-level and effective body with a capability to engage strategically in this policy field.
8) Variable geometry should be exploited to the full, with flexible arrangements (within EU and with countries outside EU) including multilateral platforms for strategic cooperation. Variable geometry initiatives should also build on lead initiatives by individual Member States that expands their successful bilateral programmes or activities to several European partners.
A credible and effective strategy on international cooperation needs to build on reliable information made available to key prioritization processes. There is a need for more structured information resources:
9) All initiatives must be based on more evidence- or analysis-based decision-making, including forward looking analysis to inform decision making about likely trends and future changes and systematic exchange of experiences. Download The Report of the Expert Group - International Cooperation in STI.