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EU plans technology institute to boost innovation

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BRUSSELS, Feb 23 (Reuters) The European Union should create its own institute of technology by 2010 to rival the United States, Japan, and emerging economies in research and innovation, the bloc's executive said on Wednesday.

''We have a really urgent problem with our deficit, especially compared with the United States, in science, research and innovation,'' EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday.

The EU lags far behind the United States and Japan in research, and also fears being overtaken by China and India.

The executive European Commission called on EU member states to create a ''European Institute of Technology'' (EIT), not a single campus but a network of groups drawn from universities, researchers and businesses, coordinated by a small headquarters.

The groups would jointly undertake postgraduate education, research and innovation, the Commission said in a report.

The Commission wants EIT to specialise in areas with the greatest potential for innovation such as nanotechnologies, green energy, climate change, and eco-innovation.

The EU executive has not yet decided whether EIT should award degrees, an official said. This will be considered when the Commission makes a formal proposal to set it up by the end of the year, an official added.

Austria, France and Poland are already candidates to host EIT, EU sources said, hoping to avoid a tendency by EU countries to fight bitterly over the location of any new EU structure.

''If we start discussing the location now we'll never have (EIT),'' Barroso said.

EU Education Commissioner Jan Figel said EIT should be located in a leading university with a tradition for research and innovation.

''We are not going to build a new campus,'' he told journalists.

The Commission did not say how much the project would cost.

''If the concept is right then we will find the funding,'' Barroso said, adding that the EU budget would finance some of the cost and business leaders had shown interest. Officials said Microsoft and Nokia were among companies interested in EIT.

Research and development in the bloc accounted for only 1.9 per cent of GDP in the EU in 2004, compared with 2003 figures of 2.59 per cent in the United States and 3.15 per cent in Japan.

Emerging economies such as China and India get most of the U.S R&D spending abroad, the Commission said.

REUTERS SD SSC1442

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