Stakes high for EU science plans
1 December 2004, BBC News

Europe must make good on plans to set up an independent funding body for science or face an unprecedented brain drain, according to Carl Sundberg of the Euroscience forum. Proposals to boost Europe ’s knowledge-based economy have so far failed to live up to their promise. If the current push for a European Research Council failed, scientists could flock to the US and Asia for work. EU ministers expressed support for the council at a recent meeting in Brussels . “This is a one-off chance for the European system to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of scientists,” Dr. Sundberg, told the BBC News website.

In Europe , research is funded by individual national agencies as well as the EU Framework 6 program (FP6). But FP6 has been criticized widely for being over-bureaucratic, skewed towards big, complex collaborations and subject to political pressures. Perceived shortcomings have led to calls for a European Research Council (ERC) to support basic research across all disciplines. According to Lord Sainsbury, UK science minister, “There have been many successes in previous years under earlier programs, but the system now needs a thorough overhaul. It is too bound up in red tape and does not provide applicants with sufficient support, guidance or feedback”.

The 25 member states of the EU invest roughly 176 billion euros a year in research and development, as compared with more than 398 billion euros spent by the USA . This disparity in research funding is already feeding a brain drain of scientists from Europe to the United States . EU member states tried to address the imbalance in the 2000 “ Lisbon strategy”, which promised an agenda for transforming Europe into “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”. A mid term review has been highly critical of progress on delivering the strategy, blaming a “lack of determined political action.