Read the Europe 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union policy and the message from EU policymakers is clear. Europe says it needs to be in the Premier League of scientific R&D, not just because research delivers solutions that help improve our lives, but because we want to develop and produce things that have value; things people in the US, Japan, China and elsewhere will buy from us.
Rhetoric vs reality
But what is the reality behind the rhetoric? And is Europe sending mixed signals about its support for research?
Last month the European Commission adopted a new regulation on clinical trials explicitly designed to make it easier to do research in the EU.
The move followed claims by animal rights groups that the Green Hill facility, a major supplier of animals for research use, was mistreating animals. The company flatly denies this. The judge granted the campaigners ‘custody’ of the animals and effectively cast a serious doubt over the future of the company.
Seeds of doubt
This raises questions about the future of dog breeding in Europe given the prominent role that the Green Hill facility played in the research landscape here, and the likelihood that other breeders will be unnerved by the incident.
And, crucially, it sows seeds of doubt too about how European policy is evolving in this area. A number of Italian politicians joined the campaign against Green Hill, tapping into an anti-research sentiment among some sections of their electorate.
Would the human clinical trials that Europe has vowed to attract and keep be possible without animal research?
Would fewer of us consider enrolling in a trial to test the power of a new medicine if the drug had not been through safety checks on animals first?