COST was created to help European researchers share their work to foster breakthrough, progress and innovation. Supporting networks that gather academia, research institutes, SMEs and industry, COST still excels at what it does best: bringing people together to foster innovation in Europe. This was the core message of the event held at the European Parliament from 18 to 20 October 2011.
“Networks of Science and Technology” is the name of the exhibition created by COST to showcase the scientific and societal impact of science and technology networking. The nature of COST and the aim of this exhibition project could not have been explained better than through the words of Dr Ángeles Rodríguez Peña, President of the COST Committee of Senior Officials, who introduced COST as “a very simple, yet very powerful bottom-up instrument – where the best ideas are put forward and driven by science” during her speech at the opening reception.
Hosted by Pilar del Castillo Vera MEP, the COST exhibition received a very warm welcome in the European Parliament, and undoubtedly raised interest and awareness on bottom-up programmes for science and technology networking.
A number of COST networks, known as ‘COST Actions’, were put on display. They spanned from forest management and bioenergy to honeybee extinction and sustainable fishing; from wireless technologies and information access to smart materials and nanotechnologies, privacy and data protection, mobility, hazards and natural disasters in European cities; from issues within food and health to biomedicine, neurodegeneration, drug development, diagnostics and cancer treatment.
The opening ceremony of the exhibition was marked by the distinguished presence of high-level speakers who made the COST community proud and honoured. Pilar del Castillo Vera was an excellent COST ambassador and testified to the key role that networking plays in the European Research Area (ERA). COST is indeed a unique programme in that it offers the European scientific community a funding scheme corresponding to their need. As Dr Rodríguez-Peña stated “COST is a flexible tool that works towards connecting people and researchers, both in research communities and local communities”.
One of the fundamental advantages of COST is that it paves the way to pan-European research networking, beyond the EU Member States. And this is because “we believe that knowledge is produced in a team, in a common brain; its creation, dissemination and application is done collectively. In order to create this community and this collective thinking, COST needs to be the instrument that connects all these people” added Dr Rodríguez-Peña.
COST was the very first framework for international cooperation in Europe, well before the creation of the EU’s Framework Programme (FP). It is intergovernmental, thus representing an agreement among member states, and has received the support of the European Parliament because it responds to societal needs: connecting science and technology in order to create a competitive advantage in Europe’s innovation and quality of life.
COST’s Networks of Science and Technology were also celebrated by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, who gave a warm welcome to all guests and visitors of the COST exhibition through a video message. He emphasised the essential role of networking programmes for Europe’s scientific excellence: “As a scientist, I know how networks are key to research: you can divide tasks, share best practices, compare results, feel both challenged and motivated in the pursuit of a common goal”.
President Buzek also took the opportunity to highlight the role that COST plays in pooling and sharing national R&D investments: “COST also acts as a catalyst to leverage funds for science and technology: its 240 million euro budget ultimately leads to research worth billions” and added that “In the midst of fiscal pressure on national budgets, we need COST’s network more than ever to make the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs into a reality and to strengthen European innovation”.
In order to create this community and this collective thinking, COST needs to be the instrument that connects all these people.”Dr Angeles Rodriguez-Pena, President of the COST Committee of Senior Officials
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, gave the keynote speech and applauded this opportunity “to bring researchers, business, parliamentarians, and governments together, to work together to improve our science systems and policy”. Commissioner Geoghegan Quinn highlighted areas in which the flexible, bottom-up nature of COST has proven to add real value saying that “COST identifies, supports and gives visibility to ‘pockets of excellence’ throughout Europe”. Underlining the importance of pan-European programmes, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn added that “COST can be instrumental in helping research communities in less advanced regions to develop their capacities, strengthen excellence and thus boost their participation in FP7, and indeed in the future research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020”.
With its 40th anniversary, COST has marked a milestone in the ERA. Today, more than 200 networks are active within the COST Framework – involving some 30 000 researchers. As this year of celebration is drawing to a close, COST remains firmly committed to offering European scientists networking opportunities as – in the words of Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn – “a marvellous way to improve Europe’s scientific excellence”.