The economic recovery plan and the recent French Presidency conclusions underline that to maintain Europe's growth and employment prospects in the medium and longer-term, the current financial crisis should not lead to a delay or cut in research investment. The plan, the Czech Presidency and the Vision 2020' all aim to lay the ground for a more competitive Europe through more investment in research in the coming months.

The economic recovery plan calls on member states to increase investment in research, innovation and education and to provide more fiscal incentives, grants and subsidies to the private sector. It also encourages the development of clean technologies for cars and construction. The European Commission is proposing to launch three public private partnerships: a European green cars initiative' to achieve a breakthrough in the use of renewable energy sources and safety; a European energy-efficient buildings initiative to radically reduce energy and CO2 emissions in new buildings; and a factories of the future initiative to improve the technological base of EU manufacturers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

The recovery plan also aims to develop a broadband strategy to accelerate the upgrading and extension of networks and boost Europe's lead in fixed and wireless communication by reaching 100% coverage of high-speed internet by 2010.

Vlastimil Ruzicka, the Czech deputy minister for education, youth and sports, talked about the Presidency's three priorities at a recent press conference in Versailles. The first will follow on from the French Presidency's discussions on the European Commission's proposed legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures. These may be single-sited' or distributed' with an organised network of resources. The draft regulation aims to provide a uniform procedure for the shared use of research facilities by a number of member states and associated countries. Contentious issues have included whether these should be exempt from VAT and whether membership should involve at least two or three member states.


The Czechs will be advocating greater use of structural funds to finance research infrastructures and other aspects of the European Research Area (ERA). They want to ensure EU infrastructures are distributed evenly across Europe and not confined to a few countries. On 24-25 March, a conference on strengthening ERA through research infrastructures is foreseen in Prague.


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