EIT and Policy Research

A few weeks ago, I discussed a study of Luc Soete and Peter Tindemans on the feasibility of the European Institute of Technology. On the basis of a comprehensive analysis, they concluded that the decentralized EIT that has been proposed by the Commission was not feasible. It is too dispersed; it would not increase significantly the research output in a field; it cannot match a top tier university in providing an environment for training graduates; and a dispersed institute cannot adequately organize technology transfer. As an alternative, they suggested a clustered model for an EIT. Food for thought, you would think…

In the last weekend of April, EU competitiveness ministers backed a German EU presidency initiative on gradual progress towards a European Institute of Technology. In a public hearingCommissioner Figel said that it was time for the initial EIT plans to reach a conclusion. He claimed that there is a positive momentum now: “either we get it now or it’s lost”.

Obviously I was surprised to read nothing about the Soete/Tindemans study in the report of the hearing. As far as I could see, the design and organisation of the EIT presented in the hearing was exactly the same as the one suggested by the Commission before the study was published. This is all the more surprising considering that the research was conducted for a committee of the European Parliament. Of course government bodies are not obliged to follow the recommendations of reports that they have commissioned. But you would expect that it would at least be taken into consideration, especially since the authors are well known and respected researchers in this field.

This seems to be a typical example of the political (ab)use of policy research and policy analysis. If the results and recommendations are politically opportune and correspond with the politicians objectives they are praised and heralded as ground breaking landmark studies. If not, let’s just neglect them and get on with what we planned.

You would at least hope that decision makers on research policies in Europe would take research seriously…

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