Commission hits back in R&D job forecast row

The EU executive has hit back at doubts cast in the European Parliament over its models for calculating efficiency in the use of research funds and predicting how much employment they will create.

Stanford-based expert Burton Lee, who specialises in European entrepreneurship, said Europe lacked impact assessment methodologies critical for attracting venture capital investment and forecasting the number of jobs that could be created.

Lee referred to the employment impact estimated for the EU’s proposed ‘Horizon 2020’ R&D programme, saying the Commission had estimated it at 3.7 million jobs by 2025. He then questioned whether this forecast was credible without “pipeline analyses” to track the number of start-ups in a given sector from inception to failure or success.

Lee was invited to address the European Parliament’s industry and research committee on March 21.

Wrong estimates

But the European Commission challenged Lee’s claims, saying he had mixed up the figures.

“The employment impact for Horizon 2020 has never been estimated at 3.7 million jobs by the year 2025,” said a Commission official, but 830,000 jobs by 2030.

The 3.7 million jobs figure, he said, referred to estimates suggesting that if all member states increased their research budgets to 3% of GDP by 2020, then the knock-on effect on employment by 2025 could result in those extra jobs.

The official said that the analysis under Horizon 2020 had been done using the “Nemesis-model,” which he described as “a pioneering model with a long and distinguished track record operated by a research consortium involving Europe’s leading economists”.

The Nemesis-model had been recognised by many international institutions, the official said, adding: “This casts serious doubt on Lee’s assertion that Europe does not have at its disposal appropriate tools to estimate employment impacts.”

Need to focus on job creation

Lee said that he had only intended to “offer tentative impressions and ask pointed questions, rather than providing hard statements or critiques”.

But he stuck to his initial analysis that “simply pumping more money into a highly dysfunctional research and innovation system” was unlikely to deliver the desired job forecasts.

Dutch MEP Judith Merkies (Socialists and Democrats), who attended Lee’s presentation last week, defended the US expert.

“I completely agree with Lee that the European Commission needs to focus more on job creation and for that we need efficient and correct calculating models,” she said.



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