De meningen ge-uit door medewerkers en studenten van de TU Delft en de commentaren die zijn gegeven reflecteren niet perse de mening(en) van de TU Delft. De TU Delft is dan ook niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van hetgeen op de TU Delft weblogs zichtbaar is. Wel vindt de TU Delft het belangrijk - en ook waarde toevoegend - dat medewerkers en studenten op deze, door de TU Delft gefaciliteerde, omgeving hun mening kunnen geven.

EU Must Act Fast and Share Knowledge With China



Dirk Jan van den Berg is President of Delft University of Technology, former chairman of the IDEA League of European Universities, and former Dutch ambassador to China and the UN. This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal on October 8, 2010.

The fog of diplomacy at Wednesday’s EU-China Summit distracted onlookers from the critical issue facing Europe’s future competitiveness: its ability to remain a global power in innovation.

With the event heavily over-shadowed by tension over Chinese currency policy and bilateral trade imbalances, there were no breakthroughs. Moreover, key issues on the agenda such as Beijing’s reticence to open Chinese state purchasing procedures to European companies; and the EU’s reluctance to recognize China as a "market economy" will not determine the destiny of the European continent anyway—the harnessing and application of knowledge will.

Europe’s future as a world-leading innovation hub is already challenged by the rise of China, and the summit took scant measures to address this and seize what should be a very meaningful partnership. If Europe is to retain its economic pre-eminence, it must act urgently now to "lock-in" much greater science and technology-led business collaboration with China.

The key question is whether Europe’s leaders will seize the moment, or fail to capitalize on this major opportunity to spur economic growth?

The omens are not good. With policy at a roadblock in many European capitals, and much initiative focused upon national rather than international issues, the continent is at an effective standstill except for momentum generated by Brussels, especially through the EU’s 2020 initiative.

It is no exaggeration to say that Europe is facing an innovation emergency as Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, asserted Wednesday. This situation is a potential tragedy as, right now, a "one-time-only" opportunity is arising to move EU-China scientific and technological ties on to a different level. However, this window will last perhaps only 5-10 years before China’s innovation system approaches, and perhaps overtakes, that of Europe. Seizing this historic opportunity, while there still exists mutual bilateral interest, requires a fundamental shift in the scale of European thinking and effort.

Understanding the fleeting nature of this opportunity requires an appreciation of the rapidity of China’s emergence as a science and technology superpower. It is spending some 1.5% of GDP on R & D, twice the rate ten years ago, and may reach the U.S. figure of approximately 2.5% by 2020 (the EU average is about 1.8%). It has also quickly become the world’s second largest producer of scientific knowledge, as measured by the number of research publications.

To be sure, China’s overall scientific position right now is sometimes exaggerated. Concerns rightly persist, for instance, about whether its educational system sufficiently encourages individual creativity (often key in forging scientific breakthroughs), lack of systems thinking, and whether Chinese enterprises are capable of absorbing so much research.

Such issues mean the scale of China’s future achievement is uncertain. But, it is indisputable that we are witnessing the dawn of a new science and technology world order.

Firstly, the era of North American and European scientific dominance is ending, with fundamental implications not just for the global economy but also geopolitics. Secondly, the diffusion of scientific expertise is helping create a globalized commons of knowledge which China’s millions of scientists and engineers are well placed to tap into.

This transformation is, in turn, catalyzing a more collaborative and trans-border model of cooperation which will redefine the R & D world of the 21st century. Already in China there are some 1,200 foreign R & D centres. The key opportunity here for China is to continue moving up the R & D value chain. Its firms will become innovation powerhouses and rivals to European counterparts. We will ignore this at our peril.

How should Europe secure the prize of locking in collaboration with China before our opportunity disappears? Firstly, every link of the innovation chain from research to commercialization must be strengthened, including through the Europe 2020 strategy. We also must give greater urgency to national initiatives to reform R & D and innovation systems.

At this crucial point, however, it will not be enough for national and EU leaders to endlessly debate plans. The time for talking is over. We must act urgently and what is required includes sound, detailed budgeting to facilitate successful implementation.

Europe must capitalize on existing strengths and find synergies between Chinese growth needs, and the potential and objectives of European industry, research and consultancy. Europe’s strengths include exceptionally high quality of research; ability to work in interdisciplinary fashion (which makes research increasingly effective); and a very successful international corporate sector. World-leading specialities include in health with GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, and food and nutrition with Nestlé and Unilever.

In food and nutrition, there is a need in China for international scientific expertise owing to the need for better production efficiency and quality: food production scale in rural areas is below critical mass, and food quality is not suitable for export. China cannot, as yet, tackle this issue as it lacks a sufficiently robust quality assurance system.

If Europe can raise its game and step up to the historical challenge it confronts, compelling value propositions can also be developed in virtually all fields of science and research, including biotechnology, medical technology, nano-electronics and embedded systems, pharmaceuticals, and creative and design.

The challenges are real, but if we can surmount them, the prizes will be stronger bilateral partnerships; locking in China to world trade and investment rules; and a new foundation stone for sustainable growth.

Will our leaders seize the opportunity, or let it slip?

Be Sociable, Share!


I’m gonna to apply for postgraduate education in urban planning in TUD, hopefully that will be a part of communication of Netherland and China:P

BTW, China’s international images are always too extreme – politically dictatorship, economically miracle, and for culture nothing is well-known except for some ancient names. As someone who has lived here for 22 years, I really cannot agree to either.

China now is moving fast from labor intensive production to technology based production. However, in my opinion, it is still long way to go, from education reform to enterprising spirit, and social security system reform.

Needless to say, sometimes, political debates are not useful and powerless. When a system is truly release individual freedom and offer the opportunity of people, living up with god given potential. I think it is good for everyone.

Leave a Reply

© 2011 TU Delft