Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Fifth Report

CHAPTER 2: How we think the Commission should have formulated the EIT proposal

9.  We agree with the consensus view that there is a weakness in the European Union in the commercial application of technological innovation, which arises from its limited capacity to convert education and research results into business opportunities. However, our view is that the approach taken by the Commission in formulating its EIT proposal to address this problem has been misguided.

10.  The first step that should have been taken, in our view, was to have conducted, across the EU, a study of the type carried out in the UK by Richard Lambert, which resulted in the publication in December 2003 of the report Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration.[3] In that report, a careful analysis was made not only of the funding needs of universities to carry out innovative research, but also of how to ensure that there was significantly more business input into the priority setting and decision-making processes relating to that research. This business leadership was seen as a necessary condition for making sure that the projects carried out had more chance of taking account of consumer markets and of resulting in the introduction of commercially successful, as well as innovative, products and services.

11.  The European Commission told us (Appendix 2 page 15) that "the findings of the 'Lambert Review' have been a source of inspiration for the Commission's reflection on improving knowledge transfer between the public research base and industry across Europe". However, we believe that, had such a study been carried out across the EU, and had the views of business expressed in it been similar to those expressed in the UK, the Commission might have been persuaded to put forward a different, and more effective, concept for the EIT. This could have been a business-orientated innovation and commercialisation centre at EU level with the objectives of:

●  stimulating local business-university collaboration in technological innovation with a strong emphasis on fostering an understanding by all the parties involved of the market realities and the need to ensure that the projects undertaken are commercially realistic as well as technologically stimulating;

●  helping to join together related local efforts of this kind in cases where they could benefit from such wider cooperation;

●  encouraging and helping to finance the development of business-orientated skills in the application of innovation; and

●  directing the available funding not only to help university research related to technological innovation, but also to assist business start-ups that could successfully put into practice the fruits of such research.

3   HM Treasury: Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration, December 2003 Back

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