Europe needs more research talent

Chair of the Strategic Forum for International Cooperation, Dan Andrée

Europe needs more research talent

During a coffee break at the Destination Europe conference, one researcher put it very succinctly: “For us researchers, national borders are of no import. We’ll move to wherever an interesting position crops up.” The European Commission has organised the Destination Europe conference for the express purpose of attracting international research talent to Europe.

The European Commission’s choice of San Jose, California, for its Destination Europe conference was no coincidence. Nor was the timing; on 12 February 2015, both the American and the international research communities were already gathered in the “capital of the Silicon Valley” for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Representatives from eight European countries, including Sweden and Denmark, and from various European research programmes were on hand to share specifics about European funding opportunities with the roughly 200 interested researchers and administrators attending the Destination Europe conference, and to give them an idea of life for researchers on the Continent. 

One of the premises for all NordForsk programmes is that projects must involve collaboration between researchers from at least three Nordic countries. The primary objective is to create a framework for the best possible research, and NordForsk takes active steps to spread information about its programmes in international fora as a means of encouraging skilled, non-Nordic researchers to join Nordic research groups in applying for grants, and further increasing the overall quality of the research projects.

Call Europe

Dan Andrée is a busy man. He holds the positions of Chair of the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation (SFIC), Head of the International Division of the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA) in Brussels, and Special Advisor at the Swedish Ministry of Education and Research. Mr Andrée is also very active in the Destination Europe conference. He opened the conference with a quote from Henry Kissinger: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” The purpose of the conference was to provide a one-stop shop for attendees seeking easy access to consolidated information about European research opportunities.

NordForsk asked Dan Andrée to explain why Destination Europe is such an important forum.

Dan Andrée

“The main purpose of Destination Europe is to attract researchers to Europe, whether they are Europeans or not. It is important to attract US and Asian citizens, but also to get European researchers back. We need more skills in Europe, we need more researchers, and we cannot produce them ourselves. This is the only initiative of its kind, and it’s a good example of cooperation between EU member states and the EU. Destination Europe is important. We have to be much better at letting people know about the possibilities we offer. Everything is on the web, yes, but how do they find it? A venue like this is needed.”


High quality, less stress

Mikkel Bülow Skovborg, Innovation Attaché at Innovation Centre Denmark in the Silicon Valley, presented opportunities for researchers in Denmark. Roughly half of all post-doctoral fellowships in Denmark are currently filled by researchers of non-Danish origin. Mr Skovborg encouraged participants to apply directly to Denmark through one of its eight universities or the Sapere Aude programme under the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF), which recruits top talents to the research community in Denmark. Anne-Marie Engel, Director of Research at the Lundbeck Foundation, presented the foundation’s programmes, which also recruit foreign scientists for Denmark.

“All the EU countries are strong when it comes to research and education,” continues Mr Skovborg. “But Denmark stands out as having the happiest people in the world. This doesn’t mean that everyone walks around smiling all the time. Essentially it means we have very good access to health care services and education, and in general we have a lot fewer stress factors than in the USA.” 


Text: Linn Hoff Jensen