The visit had two aims. One was to gain better insight into the EU’s research policies and the EU’s work generally and the second was to demonstrate the commitment of Swedish research universities to the upcoming framework programme, FP9.

They were two very full days. We had a crash course on the EU’s work with research and education issues from Per-Erik Yngwe and Åsa Petri, Sweden’s permanent representatives respectively for those areas in Brussels. Dan Andrée introduced the newly founded Swedish FOI Office (formerly Vinnova’s Brussels Office, but now the Research Council has permanent representation) and discussed how Horizon 2020 has gone for Sweden. He also stressed the importance of universities and colleges developing strategies to assert themselves within the new framework.

Meetings with LERU and the EU Commission

The General Secretary of LERU (League of European Research Universities), Kurt Deketelaere eloquently introduced the brand-new Beyond the Horizon, an impressive 30-page advice paper that summarised LERU’s view of FP9, emphasising the demand for excellence on the ERC, among others –  a substantial argument in favour of the position​ held by research universities. We also met with Kurt Vanderberghe from the EU Commission. He presented another vision of the future, rejecting the term “fundamental research” in favour of “frontier research” and emphasising the need to “create a new narrative,” one of research with immediate relevance and use to society and, not least, innovation.

We met with two European parliamentarians: the senior member Gunnar Hökmark and the newest junior member Jakop Dalunde who both gave interesting summations of their views on research policies from a range of perspectives. One highlight of the visit was the dinner at the residence of Ambassador Lars Danielsson, who offered up a lovely repast as well as a wide-ranging, astute and eye-opening analysis of European politics – including Brexit – in a current and comprehensive plan which put issues of research and education into perspective.

Overall and to a profound extent, the trip deepened our knowledge and gave us insights in the need for universities to be visible and – hopefully working together – to make ourselves heard in European research politics, especially at the crossroads where we find ourselves today.