EU opts not to build new European research centre

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BRUSSELS, Mar 23 (Reuters) EU leaders today resisted calls to set up a new European Institute of Technology at a single campus, agreeing instead to use existing institutions to narrow the research gap with the United States.

''It was agreed it should be a network and not a physical place. That's the consensus,'' said a spokesman for Austria, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

The decision quashes jockeying among EU countries to host what the EU hopes will be a rival to the world-renowned Massachussetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Research and development (R&D) in the EU accounted for only 1.9 percent of the bloc's GDP in 2004, compared with 2.6 percent in the United States and 3.2 percent in Japan in 2003.

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

Some EU countries still want a campus-based institute.

''We don't really believe in the idea of a virtual college, but prefer a campus-based approach,'' Irish Finance Minister Brian Cowen told Reuters at an EU summit.

''We believe the other member states could take a leaf out of Ireland's strategic approach on this. We want to see a reforming of the university system in Europe first,'' Cowen said.

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

There had been talk that an institute campus could be housed in the European Parliament's building in Strasbourg, France.

Reuters DH VP0330

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