The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani explained how EU science research and innovation has changed our daily lives, and how this integrates with the European value of freedom.
Tajani spoke during the joint European Parliament and European Commission high level conference which SciTech Europa attended in Brussels on 27 November 2018.
The search for knowledge is in Europe’s DNA
Tajani began his opening speech in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament by acknowledging Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage. He paraphrased Dante’s writing on the importance of following virtue and knowledge rather than living like brutes, and commented that this notion is “part and parcel of our DNA” as Europeans.
“Consider your origin. You were not formed to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge” – Dante Alighieri
He led the audience through the progress of Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato who went beyond the Sophists and in Tajani’s opinion laid “the philosophical foundations for the search for truth and the search for knowledge”, and then the Renaissance which led to modern scientific technique.
He also mentioned Enrico Fermi, the creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor, as an example of European excellence. For Tajani, Europe’s heritage is of great importance: “Europe has been at the heart of all technological and industrial revolutions.”
The impact of investment in European research and innovation
Speaking about the impact of European investment in research innovation, Tajani added: “Since the 1980s, the European Union has pushed forward a research and innovation programme that would bring together national programmes and would use economies of scale and synergies. We have spent more than 200 billion euros and this investment has had a great multiplier effect on competitiveness, exports, and innovation capacity.
“This had led to developing new technologies. We have created millions of new jobs and we have supported a network of academics, researchers and universities of great excellence. Many researchers have been involved in the Horizon 2020 programme that has funded more than eighteen thousand projects”, he continued.
Tajani’s examples of the benefits of EU research on every sector include:
- Food safety;
- The environment;
- The fight against aging;
- Artificial Intelligence;
- Defence; and
Tajani reminded his audience: “Thanks to European research, we have a vaccine against Ebola, we have managed to cure tumours and save thousands of lives, we have new immunodeficiency treatments, we have artificial limbs and prosthesis, in order to improve the lives and save the lives of millions of people. ”
European freedom and quality of life
He connected research and innovation to European ideology, saying: “This is always about freedom. Research isn’t an end in itself. Innovation isn’t an end in itself. Research and innovation are values. They are values that we can use to harness our principles… the principles that gave rise to the European Union and that we defend all over the world…Science, research and innovation are a means to a end. And the end is freedom – the freedom of so many men and women.”