The European Commission has urged member states to more effectively convert knowledge acquired through research into socio-economic benefits.
To assist them in doing so the Commission has adopted a recommendation detailing how member states can adjust policies to enable public research organisations (PROs) to better exploit intellectual property.
The EU is hoping for greater interaction between universities and pharmaceutical companies to remedy concerns that ideas are not circulated as freely as they should be in the "dynamic knowledge society" the EU envisages.
Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, said: "European universities and other public research organisations need to engage more actively in the exploitation of publicly-funded research results.
"It's necessary in order to stimulate innovation and maximise the benefits of publicly funded research, so we can turn scientific research into new products and services, which will create new industries and jobs."
European universities and PROs lag behind their US counterparts in terms of the numbers of inventions (25 per cent less), patent applications (53 per cent less), licensing deals and spin-offs they produce, despite similar levels of scientific publications.
The US government, its institutions and citizens are generally perceived as being more entrepreneurial and this difference in attitude may be responsible for the discrepancy.
Janez Potonik, Science and Research Commissioner, said that for investment to generate as many opportunities as possible European organisations needed to be "better in turning research results in to commercially or socially successful innovations".
However, this comes at a time when the links between the pharmaceutical industry and universities, at least in the UK, appear to be degrading.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has spoken out recently about falling numbers of PhD studentships and postdoctoral grants in conjunction with pharmaceutical industry.
Studentships and grants linked to pharmaceutical companies are down by 14 per cent down 25 per cent respectively on 2003 figures. With fewer students taking postdoctoral research in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies the concern is that the UK's pharmaceutical manufacturing and research and development will be detrimentally affected.
ABPI director general Dr Richard Barker said: "With increasing competition for biomedical leadership from Asian economies, it is vital that Government and industry unite to restore confidence and maximise the UK's chances in the global race for pharmaceutical innovation."
With the established hierarchy in the pharmaceutical industry facing an increasing number of threats to their dominance not extracting maximum benefit from the individuals and knowledge at universities seems to be a mistake they can ill-afford to make.