I write my column Europe's MIT? in TCS Daily on 31 March 2006.
What EU research needs now is not new institutions but new priorities
There are different ways of coping with global competition. Unfortunately Europe's favorite method is to centralize everything. So it was no surprise when the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recently unveiled a plan (part of the vaunted Lisbon agenda) for a new pan-European institution for research and teaching. With the European Institute of Technology (EIT), he hopes to create a research Mecca to rival to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. Even though there are already many such national centers (such as France's CRNS), the proposed EIT would be on a very different scale.
Research is a gradual, cumulative and dispersed process that is best served by mobility and experimentation. So in a way the debate on whether to create a new centralized research institution or provide for several venues for creativity to blossom mirrors many other discussions in Europe. The centralized approach has been tried before, and failed to produce results in making the EU more competitive. What European research needs now is not new institutions but new priorities.
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