29/01/2004

Tánaiste tackles imbalance created by EU 'brain drain'

The capacity of the European Union to hold onto its science and technology graduates is a key issue for the future growth and competitiveness of EU industry, according to Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Mary Harney.

Addressing members of the European Parliament, Ms Harney stated: "Some 400,000 EU science graduates are currently working in the US, representing about 40% of the entire US science and research community, and for every three science and technology graduates from the Far East who move to the US to work, only one moves to Europe."

Ms Harney told the Parliament's Committee on Industry, External Trade and Research that the Irish Presidency would prioritise the ongoing negotiations designed to facilitate the free movement of scientists and researchers within the EU.

She continued: "Innovation drives economic activity, growth and enterprise, which is why the research agenda is so critically important for the EU. We produce more scientists and researchers than the US but too many of them move to the US to work. We must provide more incentives to keep these graduates in Europe and to attract others to work here."

Ms Harney also suggested that a larger proportion of the EU budget should be devoted to research to kick-start investment and activity in the private sector, and that the rules and regulations dealing with access to research funds needed to be greatly simplified. There was also a need for closer linkages between industry and the higher education system - similar to the linkages which have been developed in the US.

The Tánaiste said that innovation would be the theme for a meeting of EU Ministers scheduled to take place in Shannon in April 2004, with an invitation extended to "leading lights" from the global IT industry to speak at the meeting, with the objective of stimulating dialogue between business leaders on the one hand and European competitiveness ministers and the European Commission on the other.

"This form of dialogue is new and has the capacity to stimulate original thinking about how Europe is to encourage growth and a knowledge-based economy," she added.

(CL)

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