The international S&T activities of the member states and the community contribute to the internationalisation of the European Research Area (ERA). A closer coordination of these activities will help to increase Europe’s competitiveness and to strengthen its attractiveness for research and technology investments.
In its communication of 24 September 2008, the European Commission formulated a Strategic Framework for the International Research and Technology Cooperation, implemented on 2 December 2008 by the European Council’s conclusion to establish a Strategy Forum for International S&T Cooperation. Four times a year, SFIC holds a meeting with representatives of the EU-commission and the EU-member states, both regarded as equal members and tries to improve the synchronisation of the international research policy by exchanging information, organising joint initiatives and events and by making recommendations to the commission and the council.
At the first meeting on 18 February 2009, Germany’s representative, the ministerial director Volker Rieke from the BMBF’s Department of European and International Cooperation in Education and Research, was elected as chairman, but since 25 February 2011 it has been chaired by Finland. However, Germany is still very involved in this committee in order to extend the achieved success and to advance ideas. The International Bureau provides general organisational support and participates in workgroups, which will be established by the strategy forum if necessary.
Background information about SFIC on the commission’s website for the European research area:
Germany, as presidency of the SFIC, invited the member states and the commission to an informal strategy-workshop in September 2010, with a view to discuss working methods, future priorities and the role of the forum referring to the external dimension of the European research area (ERA). Thus, the tasks of the forum are amongst other things:
An improved coordination of existing measures, the pooling of resources and the joint priority setting are important aspects, when developing a European strategy for the international research cooperation. SFIC constantly tries to determine complementary or overlapping activities of individual members, thus to create added value.
Cooperation with third countries and regions
Since a closer and strategic cooperation with other regions of the world is of great importance to SFIC, the forum proceeds successively, here. SFIC has compiled two reports: one regarding the research system, -policy, and –strategy in China, which belongs to the BRIC countries, as well as one about proposals on how to act as a body, when dealing with China. Early May 2011, a workshop with national experts and SFIC members was organised under the aegis of the Finnish Presidency in order to develop and to determine measures.
SFIC also works on a strategy with regard to the USA. In Europe, bilateral cooperation with the USA is very brisk. It is precisely this point at which the SFIC tries to combine activities, to add value and to find a coherent approach for Europe. SFIC tries to become more actively involved in the biregional political dialogue, particularly the EU-LAC- and EU-AU- council. SFIC’s close cooperation with the respective EU council presidency makes it possible to put greater focus on research and innovation at summits and ministerial meetings. Thus a high-level dialogue on research was initiated at the EU summit in November 2010, which is being developed on the basis of SFIC’s recommendations.
SFIC principally promotes cooperation and networks between the EU and the member states. Scientific consultants from third countries are closely involved in the discussion process on specific countries.
Other initiatives within the framework of the ERA concerning the international research and technology cooperation will be considered by the SFIC (e.g. Joint Programming or ERAC Working Group on Knowledge Transfer). Projects of the Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for Research, particularly projects of the “international cooperation” programme, also provide a wide range of information and have a role to play in pilot initiatives. The mutual exchange, which takes place in the international R&D cooperation between the member states, is a further contribution to the ERA by the strategy forum. It promotes the learning effect among the member states, makes the member states act uniformly toward the outside and offers possibilities to start common activities EU-wide at a political level.
One initiative that has already been launched in the first year of the strategy forum is the Indian Pilot Initiative (IPI): “Water and bio resources” are rated high in India, which is a major priority for many European countries regarding the international research policy. A stakeholder-conference promoting an Indian-European partnership with the leading issue “water”, organised by SFIC, was held under the EU commission’s leadership in November 2010. In the post processing phase of the conference’s results and discussions, SFIC will develop a strategic research agenda and measures for India in summer 2011, which will then be also open to other issues.
The worldwide important topic “energy” is on the agenda of the strategy forum, as well. For that reason, a close contact is held to the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET PLAN), which is an EU-initiative focused on energy. SFIC will also approach other topics of global challenges in future.
SFIC’s high-level panel meets about four times annually. These meetings are prepared by thematic working groups, which, on that account, meet partly and more frequently with other participants.
Task Force I for information management was established by mid-2010 and developed a SharePoint as a database, which enables the distribution of documents and the administration of contact details. Thus, all forum members have access to already existing mappings and reports, composed on national and EU-level.
Task Force II for priority setting is currently still active. It initially dealt with the SFIC’s first key aspects of activity, more precisely with choosing them (e.g. “India” or “Energy”). This has changed in the meantime: it completely prepares SFIC-meetings and develops detailed proposals for specific topics, upon the committee’s request.
A thematic working group has been established for the purpose of the Indian Pilot-Initiative, consisting of representatives from the member states, who are also experienced with national activities with regard to India.
SFIC’s financial, structural and personnel resources come from national and EU-sources. All members act on the basis of a variable geometry.
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