European Commission awards Bird & Bird's EU & Competition team in Brussels a major contract

10 December 2013

The European Commission has awarded Bird & Bird Brussels EU & Competition team a contract worth €2.75 million to study the impact of EU state aid legislation on Research & Development.

The aim of the study, which will run over a period of two years, is to determine whether the EU state aid rules on R&D are overly restrictive and should be amended in order to improve the competitiveness of European companies and avoid the delocalisation of R&D to non-EU countries. Bird & Bird will act as the project leader and will work closely with economic consultants and academics who will handle the data gathering.

Bird & Bird's score in the EU tender was exceptionally high. A key factor in winning the bid was the unique qualifications of the firm's Brussels based Of Counsel, Serge Durande, who will act as project manager. His career of over 25 years in the Commission's Competition Directorate - where for six years he headed the Unit dealing with state aid for R&D - provides him with a deep understanding of the Commission's policy in this area. This award also recognizes Bird & Bird's strong state aid and R&D expertise as well as the firm's ability to manage large and complex multi-jurisdictional projects.

Serge Durande explains: "The EU state aid policy seeks to ensure a level playing field between the EU member states. This objective was laid down in 1957 when globalisation simply did not exist. However, half a century later, competition for R&D has become global and many countries offer a broad range of benefits to attract R&D activities.  The EU state aid rules have an impact both on the spending of the EU R&D Framework Programme (€ 70 bn over a 5 year period) and also on state aid granted by Member States.  It may be the case that the restrictions which the EU imposes upon itself limit the ability of governments to compete against the advantages offered outside the EU. It is therefore very important to examine in a broad study whether the strict EU state aid rules on R&D are in fact hampering the European industry in the global competition. Our task will involve developing proposals as to how these rules could be reformed, in order to cover the aims of the Treaty" – Durande concluded.