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Recherche et développement régional durable

Corinne Larrue

Session 5. La mesure du développement régional durable / Measuring Sustainable regional development


Christian Patermann

Texte intégral

  • 1 European Commission, Director Environment and Sustainable Development, DG research.

1Note portant sur l’auteur1

2The EU Research Policy is in an evolutionary phase which will in all likelihood lead to more concern for sustainable development and more concern for the regional dimension.

3This year the Commission has adopted and widely disseminated two policy papers on the creation of a “European Research Area”. The aim is reinforce the role of research in the working of Europe's society and economy, and to increase its impact through more coherence of research activities and research policies in Europe.

4At the March European Council in Lisbon, the Heads of State and Government fully endorsed this project as a central component of the establishment of a European knowledge-based society. The other European Institutions, in particular the European Parliament, also expressed their support to the Commission's orientations.

5On this basis, the Commission has now initiated the preparation of the 6th European Framework Programme of Research, which will cover the period 2003-2007. This programme will be designed to help reinforcing or creating synergies between national programmes. The research topics will be very focused, targeting issues of clear European relevance.

6In this context, I would like to stress two elements of direct interest to the theme of this Symposium :

  • first, a strong research effort, cutting across the whole Programme, will be devoted to the ways and means to realise the objective of sustainable development – in other words it will address the question : “how can progress be made simultaneously on the environmental, social and economic conditions, in a long term perspective ?” This is part of a wider-ranging, systematic effort initiated by European Commission to prepare an EU strategy on sustainable development in order to meet the commitments taken at the Rio Conference 10 years ago ;
  • secondly, – and this has been noted in the resolution of the November Research Council under French Presidency – the programme will have to contribute to the scientific and technological enhancement of the all regions of Europe.

7One can distinguish three aspects in the regional dimension of the European Research Policy :

  • over the recent years, the regions, as political or administrative entities, have been playing and increasingly important role in research and in innovation, for example in supporting research projects or research infrastructures, as well as in establishing cooperation networks between themselves ;
  • regional actors are faced with new issues and challenges which require specific knowledge, tools or methods. Sustainable development is typically such a challenge, in that commitments have been taken at all policy levels, including the regional one, but those in charge of putting the principle in practice still often lack the necessary scientific knowledge and the practical means ;
  • a third important element of the regional dimension, seen from the European research perspective, is its territorial aspect. “Regions” can indeed also be natural entities like biogeographical areas or water catchments, or zones sharing a common problem like old industrial areas. These regions, whose limits do not match the political or administrative boundaries but rather cut across them, often constitute typical “European research objects”.

8The European Research Area and the 6th Framework Programme for Community research will be implemented through a set of instruments which are significantly different from those of the previous programmes. European research policy will develop in particular through the coordination of national programmes, the establishment of networks of excellence, the financial support of large projects as well as of research infrastructures of European importance.

9Finally, I would like to stress that a key feature of our 6th Programme is that it will have, even more than its predecessors, to contribute to the making and implementing of Community policies. And I am pleased that this Symposium is very much in line with this approach in that it seeks to confront research results and regional policy needs and to discuss respective needs as well as prospects for cooperation. This obviously is also the case of our session “Measuring sustainable regional development”.

10A good information is obviously central to policy making in all fields. However, as we all know, this is difficult to obtain. And for sustainable development it is very difficult. The difficulty is both of scientific and of organisational nature :

  • there not enough scientific knowledge about the interactions of the environmental, social and economic components of sustainable development ;
  • there is not enough compatibility between the data, models and methods of the numerous disciplines which are called upon to cooperate towards tackling the challenges of sustainable development.

11For this reason we have decided that one section of the current call for proposals under our Environment and Sustainable Development Research Programme should focus on the improvement of “tools for the production of information” in support to sustainable development policies.


1 European Commission, Director Environment and Sustainable Development, DG research.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2002

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