was set up as an independent committee in 1985 by then EEC Commissioner Vicomte D’Avignon, in an attempt to ensure that European R&D programs would have an adequate industrial orientation. Through working parties, IRDAC has involved a wide spectrum of industrial experts, thus ensuring that a balanced view of European industry forms the basis of IRDAC’s advice to the Commission. IRDAC replaced an earlier advisory committee made up of member-state representatives, because it was felt that the advisory role of the committee was hampered by political considerations.
Five or 10 years ago the governments were spending considerable sums of money on the sunset industries, and now, they are putting much of their money into high-tech, or sunrise, industries. In the EEC R&D program, there is also a project called BRITE, Basic Research in Industrial Technologies in Europe, which is aimed primarily at the sunshine industries, which are perhaps less high-tech but are still earning money.
Through this endeavor, industry from one country works with a university in another country. IRDAC closely monitors this program and has established several working parties consisting of industrial experts to provide advice on relevant activities in, for example, the materials and mechatronics fields.
Although EEC funding levels may be lowered, funding of national R&D programs in some EEC member countries has increased. This has created a paradox in Europe as individual countries strive to increase funding for their national R&D programs at a time when they are trying to reduce the funding for EEC programs, which frequently address the same areas of technology.
Europe’s nationalistic tendencies have resulted in inefficient use of R&D funds. Countries claim to have a unique program designed to increase the competitiveness of a particular industry, while a neighboring country has exactly the same program for the same industry. A second problem is that small European companies need to be “Europeanized.”
Europe still has a long way to go, but it may help put the situation in perspective to remember that just over 40 years ago we were still at war with each other.