2005 EIB Forum: Lisbon Strategy - Closing the Gap took place in Helsinki on 27 and 28 October.
The annual European Investment Bank Forum was dedicated to the Lisbon Strategy of the European Union, in an effort to highlight the need to increase investment into research and development in Europe, if the goal recorded in the strategy of making the European Union a leading knowledge-based economy in the world is to be met.
The forum took place at the same time as the Hampton Court informal summit, during which the heads of state also addressed the challenge of supporting innovation.
The welcoming address came from Paavo Lipponen, Speaker of the Parliament, Finland, who noted that his country was an exception among EU member countries in investing heavily into R&D.
Philippe Maystadt, President of the EIB, opened the forum. He stressed that creating a more innovative Europe was not only a question of financial resources but also of organization and microeconomic reforms. Europe needed universities that competed with one another and for the best students and for research funding. The EIB President noted that research results had to be protected heavily by a badly needed European patent, and that non-European researchers should be able to work in Europe without barriers, all essential things when wanting to reap the benefits of an investment drive.
The forum featured also keynote speakers Günter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, and Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, Director of BRUEGEL, Brussels European and Global Economic Laboratory and Professor of Economics, University Paris Dauphine, and John Dryden, Deputy Director for Science, Technology and Industry at the OECD, noted Europe had lost many of its comparative advantages in the global market and that it had to find new ones. It was facing pressure from both the USA and Japan, which were way ahead of it in terms of investment into R&D, and countries such as India and China, which were attracting investment.
Tero Ojanperä, Senior Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer at Nokia, Finland, found great promise in European companies networking and outsourcing into countries such as China and India that could offer not only basic manufacturing but also low-cost R&D. Accordingly, Nokia has cut down R&D jobs in Europe and founded R&D centers in China.
A third of our employees work in research and development, Mr Ojanperä said. He noted that a strategy was a group of measures, and that each measure had to support the strategy. Now we have decided we need more people with doctor's degrees. So I have told my staff to consistently hire only Ph.Ds.
Prof. Franz Josef Rademacher, Director of the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing at the University of Ulm, Germany, pointed out that R&D did not necessarily bring more jobs, as R&D meant more efficiency, and subsequently less people were needed. He also noted that, temporarily, social spending might need to be cut.
Auvo Kaikkonen, CEO, Inion, Finland, told the R&D success story of his company in the field of medicine, now listed in London. Inion, with its new plastic polymer surgical nails eventually melting in the body making removal operations unnecessary, has filled a niche. There has to be a real need for something for it to work. Bad ideas should be killed before too much money is lost, Dr Kaikkonen said.
During the forum, a number of financial agreements were signed:
- The EIB lent EUR 153 million for the extension of the E18 motorway, filling in the missing 51 kilometers on the way between Helsinki and Turku. The motorway is part of a priority TENS (Trans-European Transport Network), known as the Nordic Triangle, Oslo-Stockholm-Helsinki, qualifying it as such for EIB financing. The project will take the form of Public Private Partnership (PPP), the first one to be financed in Finland.
- Likewise, the EIB granted a second facility of EUR 25 million to the Oulu Region Joint Authority for Vocational Training for the purpose of improving education facilities in northern Finland. The project involves the building, upgrading and refurbishment of vocational schools and polytechnics in the Oulu region.
- Finally, the EIB granted EUR 25 million to Finland's Aktia Savings Bank in support of investments into R&D made by small and medium-size enterprises operating in the sectors of environment, education, health and the development of a knowledge-based economy all over Finland. Aktia is to act as intermediary between the EIB and the SMEs financed, appraising each project according to EIB criteria.