Tuesday 29 June 2010

Europe 2020 strategy: Belgian EU Council presidency and Innovation Union

Yesterday we looked at the visible preparation and communication by the Commission services of the flagship initiative Innovation Union, in the framework of the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth.

The central Europe 2020 website was (and still is) like an abandoned child rather than the promising heir to Europe’s ambitions. DG Enterprise and Industry may have done a lot of preparatory work last year, but has not taken care to inform stakeholders or the general public about ongoing preparation, if any.

On the other hand, DG Research has shown the way for other Commission services, EU institutions, Council presidencies and member states, by reaching out to stakeholders through interactive means.

If DG Research continues in the same spirit, it can foster informed debate with the research community and the wider public, as Linda Margaret noted in a comment.

Belgian presidency of the EU Council

It is time to turn to how the Council of the European Union prepares for and communicates the coming flagship initiative Innovation Union. Our natural starting point is the work programme for the second half of 2010.

The Programme of the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council presents the wider context (strategic framework) for the work during the coming six months. Here the programme states (page 5):

The EU 2020 strategy for employment and growth aspires to establish an intelligent, sustainable and inclusive economy. This assumes growth in employment, a greater mobilisation in support of innovation and education, as well as making ambitious commitments on climate issues and, lastly, a strengthening of social cohesion. The fulfilment of the major objectives defined by the European Council will underpin the socio-economic priorities of the Belgian Presidency's programme.

December European Council

On page 6, the Belgian presidency adds a note on industrial policy, as well as research and development:

The Belgian Presidency will also seek to lend momentum to a sustainable industrial policy, with the main aim of developing a green European economy, competitive at the global level. It will maintain an integrated approach, covering all facets of innovation and targeting the needs of businesses, in the main, and those of SMEs in particular.

Research, development and innovation will be the subject of in-depth discussions at the European Council in December 2010. As a priority, it must define guidelines for better coordination of Member States' policy in this area. The Belgian Presidency will focus on defining indicators to measure both the extent to which the crucial objective of 3% is being met, as well as the progress achieved through the creation of a European Research Area. Particular attention will be devoted to the free flow of knowledge within this European Research Area and to the simplification of Community programmes.

October European Council

In the operational part of the presidency programme, Belgium turns to the upcoming European Council meeting in October 2010 (page 12):

In accordance with the European Council’s decision of March 2010, the October European Council will focus its attention on research and development and specifically examine the resources required to increase Europe’s innovation potential and competitive capacity in light of the challenges it faces. The Belgian Presidency will ensure that the debate is properly prepared and monitored by all sittings of the Council concerned.

Are both the October and December European Council meetings going to be dedicated to the same subjects?

Intellectual property

Under Competitiveness, the Belgian presidency programme deals with the related area of intellectual property, where the tenor seems to be more supportive of the interests of rights holders and the US administration than of user industries, ordinary users and “digital natives” (page 21 to 22):

Intellectual property

Adequate protection of intellectual property has been identified in the Europe 2020 Strategy as one of the most significant obstacles to successful operation of the internal market. Appropriate innovation and protection of innovative ideas form a whole at a European level. Under the Belgian Presidency, the Council will continue its work on the resolution of questions which remain open, both for the EU patent and for the unified patent litigation system.

Regarding copyright, under the Belgian Presidency, the Commission’s legislative initiative on orphan works will be the subject of an initial policy debate at the Council. Taking into account the digital development of libraries such as Europeana and other private initiatives, the Council will seek to make the most of an opportunity for European legislation on the matter.

Among the various initiatives in progress concerning the respect of intellectual property rights, at both a European and an international level, the Belgian Presidency will give special priority to negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) with a view to their conclusion before the end of 2010.

Industrial policy

Also related to innovation is the coming Europe 2020 flagship initiative for industrial policy (page 22):

The Belgian Presidency will promote the launch of “Industrial policy in the era of globalization” as a flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy, while ensuring the articulation of the horizontal approach and the dimensions associated with these sectors. In particular, this new industrial strategy seeks to ensure the development of a proactive consultation process concerning the transition of the European economy to a green economy which is competitive on the world stage, and to provide a response to the challenges and opportunities which this poses to European industry.

Innovation Union

The flagship initiative Innovation Union, including various aspects of research, development and innovation are dealt with at length in the Belgian presidency programme (from page 22 to 24):

Research, development and innovation will be highlighted as priorities during the second half of 2010 within the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy through the "Innovation Union" flagship initiative. In compliance with conclusions adopted by the European Council in March 2010, the Council must make a contribution on this subject in preparation for the European Council in December. The Belgian Presidency will focus on formulating guidelines, defining policy objectives and developing indicators which allow progress on the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) to be measured.

On the basis of the Commission communication concerning the plan for research and innovation, the Belgian Presidency will favour an integrated approach covering multiple facets of innovation – technological, non-technological, and social – which promote its distribution throughout the economic fabric and which respond to the current challenges and the needs of businesses, particularly SMEs. In the context of the knowledge triangle, the role of clusters and the relationship between research centres, training and business will be examined.

In light of the development of the 8th Framework Programme, under the Belgian Presidency, the Council will conduct work relating to the simplification of administrative procedures and financial controls from the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development.

Throughout the Belgian Presidency, particular attention will be given to the development of the following three initiatives relating to free circulation of knowledge within the European Research Area:

• definition of framework conditions for the “joint-programming” initiative with social challenges as the priority;

• continuation of the execution of the European partnership for researchers, in particular to increase their mobility and improve their status;

• promotion of improved integration in universities and research institutes within the knowledge triangle.

Under the Belgian Presidency, the Council will work to develop the role of the regions in the development, implementation and monitoring of research and European Scientific Policy.

Under the Belgian Presidency, the Council will examine the contribution of R&D to a sustainable society through strategic bio-economy initiatives, the plan for the development of low carbon technologies, (SET Plan) and marine and maritime research.

The Council will continue the discussion on the ITER project and examine the possibility of extending the 7th Euratom Framework Programme (scheduled to end in 2011) so that it comes to an end at the same time as the 7th Research Framework Programme due to end in 2013.

In the space sector, the Presidency will seek to ensure progress is made in the definition of a European vision for space exploration in order to allow the European Union's flagship programmes for the space sector to operate sustainably as soon as possible. Finally, the implementation of competence in the space sector, accorded to the EU by the Treaty of Lisbon, will receive the undivided attention of the Belgian Presidency which will seek to bring together existing European expertise and infrastructures in the space sector, in particular those of the European Space Agency.

Innovation is mentioned in other contexts as well, such as health, transport and education.

Verbally, at least, the EU Council takes research, development and innovation seriously, as it should with China just ten years from closing the innovation gap.

Ralf Grahn

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