Lisbon and Washington

A bit over a week ago, President Bush has delivered his State of the Union. Last Wednesday, the Budget for 2007 was presented. In both, the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) played an important role. The ACI sets the following goals:

  • 300 grants for schools to implement research-based math curricula and interventions
  • 10,000 more scientists, students, post-doctoral fellows, and technicians provided opportunities to contribute to the innovation enterprise
  • 100,000 highly qualified math and science teachers by 2015
  • 700,000 advanced placement tests passed by low-income students
  • 800,000 workers getting the skills they need for the jobs of the 21st century

140 business, political and educational leaders have instantly taken action and expressed their opinion:

“Thirty-one college presidents and chancellors are among the 140 business, political, and educational leaders who have endorsed an advertisement appearing in today’s issues of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal that urges readers to help keep America the driving force in innovation.”

The ACI can be seen as the US version of the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy. The Lisbon Strategy’s goal was to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010”. The main issues for the realisation of the Lisbon agenda were:

  • the necessary investment in R&D, that is three per cent of GDP;
  • reduction of red tape to promote entrepreneurship;
  • achieving an employment rate of 70 per cent (60 per cent for women)

After an evaluation by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, the strategy was re-launched in 2005. More focus on growth and employment, simplification and national ownership via national action plans are the key elements to re-launch the Lisbon reforms agenda.

Comparing the two strategies exposes the problem of the EU (at least in this field of innovation). The USA can establish hard quantitative targets to which it can be held accountable. The United States of Europe sets targets but cannot enforce implementation. Also, in the US, leaders around the nation form a coalition to see to it that things get done. In Europe, leaders from around the continent gather, write, gather, write, establish a compromise that everyone can live with and then hope that things get done.

Either increase European authority on these issues or stop formulating, evaluating and re-launching strategies.

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