Towards Integration or Fragmentation?
Edited by Henri Delanghe, Ugur Muldur and Luc Soete
9. ERA and the role of networks Stefano Breschi and Franco Malerba Over the last couple of decades, the promotion of consortia between firms, universities, research centres and public agencies has gained centre stage in science and technology policy in Europe. Cooperative programmes in the form of shared-cost research and development (R&D) consortia have become the most important source of European Union (EU) funding and institutional support to innovation, international competitiveness and, by way of knowledge exchange and diffusion, intra-European cohesion. Cooperative policies have certainly been pervasive and effective in aggregating public and private institutions from national research communities. However, concerns have been expressed about their effectiveness in raising the level of innovative investments, supporting European competitiveness and providing an efficient mechanism for creating a critical mass of knowledge and competencies whose benefits may extend to laggards. Following recent political debate and the challenges posed by the enlargement of the Union, the implementation of cooperative policies by way of widespread support to a large variety of projects and institutions has undergone significant changes. The European Commission has called for a change in approach that responds to the need for reinvigorating the European research infrastructure and reflects the most recent theoretical and empirical debate about R&D networks. Starting from the Sixth Framework Programme (2002–06), policy actions have been more focused on identifying crucial ‘nodes’ and networking ‘centres of excellence’ that would represent the backbone of a truly European Research Area (ERA) and act as catalysts for smaller components...
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