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Groups push for R&D talks at Conference on Future of Europe

Image: Anna [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Research and innovation will be central to tackling European challenges, manifesto says

University and industry leaders across Europe have called on the organisers of the EU’s much-touted Conference on the Future of Europe to put research and innovation at the core of its discussions.

A manifesto on the issue and a campaign called Research for Europe were launched on 17 November by signatories including the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, the League of European Research Universities and the trade association Business Europe.

They argue that over the coming months and years, R&I will be “crucial to steer[ing] Europe’s recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic and to “preparedness and resilience” for future challenges.

Greater focus on R&I will also be needed to accelerate the transition towards green and digital economies, as well as to “support the EU’s aspirations of open strategic autonomy” around technology and other resources, the manifesto states.

But despite their “central role” in these regards, “R&I do not appear among the selected priority topics of the Conference on the Future of Europe”, the manifesto complains.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a two-year event launched last year by the EU’s policymaking institutions in response to the political and environmental challenges Europe is facing, ostensibly to gain public input on, and democratic legitimacy for, responses to those challenges.

It is due to reach conclusions by spring 2022, but research and industry representatives argue that their voices have not been sufficiently heard so far.

The conference “is a unique opportunity for European citizens to reflect and debate on Europe’s challenges and priorities,” the manifesto says. “We call on the Conference on the Future of Europe to discuss and deepen R&I issues over the months to come, so as to place R&I at the core of the debate on the EU’s future challenges and priorities.”