The modern world is driven by innovation. It creates new jobs,
industries and products; it spurs the economy and gives us our
wealth. In the last sixty years, educated people have progressively
driven innovation. The main sources of these highly educated people
are the world's top research universities. Top universities like
Oxford, Zurich and Paris will be the key to future economic growth,
however to increase their beneficial effect to society policy
changes have to be made.
These institutions, with the support of governments throughout
Europe and working in partnership with all major industries, face
new challenges. The West is no longer the economic powerhouse of
the world, new economies and new technologies are constantly
emerging. The National Research Council (NRC) formed
recommendations for American universities, the US government and
others to give the American knowledge economy a boost. Can these
outcomes be translated into a European success formula?
Invest in higher education
The National Research Council states that universities are key
assets to the future. They are so because of deliberate decisions
made in the past, even (or especially) in tough times. Europe's
future now depends on the willingness and expertise of current
policy makers to follow their example. Europe can learn a lot from
the knowledge infrastructure yet successful in the United States,
or as the NRC puts it eloquently: "the unique partnership that has
long existed among the nation's research universities, the federal
government, the states, and philanthropy by enhancing their roles
and linkages and also providing incentives for stronger partnership
with business and industry."This will benefit society through more
high-end jobs, higher middle-class incomes and the security, health
and prosperity we expect.
Talented graduates of top universities have created
billion-dollar industries that employ millions of people. The
modern combustion engine, antibiotics and the television are all
European inventions that were realized by graduates of European top
universities. However, still of major importance, these industries
are declining. Continuous innovation of these industries is needed
to sustain their importance to the European economy. Even more
important is the development of new industries that will employ
millions of people in the future. And as history shows us, the
development of these industries often starts with research done at
So what lessons can Jose Manuel Barroso and Olli Rehn learn from
this NRC report to secure Europe's future and stimulate the economy
through higher education and innovation when it is needed most?
- Invest in a European framework for innovation and research and
development (R&D) strategies.
- Strengthen the business role in research partnership:
facilitate the transfer of knowledge, ideas and technology to
- Create a "Strategic Investment Program" that funds initiatives
at research universities critical to advancing education and
research in areas of key national priority.
- Reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative
costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy
without substantially improving the research environment.
- Improve the capacity of graduate programs to attract more
- Secure education in science, mathematics, engineering, and
technology for all Europeans, including women and underrepresented
- Ensure that Europe will continue to benefit strongly from the
participation of international students and scholars in our
With these seven tips at their disposal during the negotiations
on EU reforms this summer Europe can prepare itself for a bright
and innovative future.
For a direct link to the report by The National Research
Council (2012), click here.