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Monday 19 March 2018

Geoghegan-Quinn has long to-do list in new EU role

Sarah Collins in Brussels

The EU's new research and innovation commissioner, Galway-born Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, is not afraid to step on her colleagues' toes in a bid to beef up her role.

Ireland's first female commissioner says she has no intention of confining herself to her own brief and has already pledged to meet her enterprise, employment and regional counterparts to begin work on her main priorities.

"I wouldn't like anyone to think I'm just confined to research and innovation," she told journalists on her first day on the job.

It is 12 years since she last held a political role, but Ms Geoghegan-Quinn has set herself ambitious goals, pledging to revolutionise research policy in the same way Luxembourg's Viviane Reding battled with mobile phone companies to bring down roaming charges.

The former justice minister says she wants to get money filtering through to small- and medium-sized businesses and make sure Europe never again loses key inventions -- like the technology underpinning Apple's iPod -- to the US.

Europe-wide patents and intellectual property rights are also high up on her to-do list, but she will have limited input in the area as they fall under the remit of internal market commissioner Michel Barnier, the Frenchman succeeding Charlie McCreevy.

She defended her lack of experience for the post, saying: "You don't have to be a scientist to be an ambassador for science. A doctor should never be minister for health; a lawyer should never be minister for justice."


The research portfolio has had a traditionally low profile despite its €50bn budget. Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said she wanted to take advantage of what should be a central role for innovation in the EU's next 10-year economic plan.

Leaders alighting on Brussels for crunch talks on Greece, Copenhagen and Haiti today will be planning how the bloc's member states should spend their money over the next decade.

They will have to set a new target for research spending to replace the 3pc of gross domestic product that member states promised to shell out 10 years ago.

In 2008, Ireland spent just under 1.5pc of its national output on R&D.

"Europe has had a wake-up call in the financial crisis," Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said.

"There is now a realisation right across the EU 27 that innovation is the key to helping to resolve the difficulties that we have."

Irish Independent

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