Monday 21 June 2010

Europe 2020 strategy: Flagship initiative Innovation Union

This blog post presents the European Commission’s proposed flagship initiative Innovation Union.


In the blog entry Europe 2020 strategy: Barroso’s reform flotilla (flagship initiatives), we saw the seven thematic reform programmes proposed by the Commission to promote the strategic aims of the Europe 2020 strategy: jobs and growth.

The European Council 17 June 2010 welcomed the Digital Agenda for Europe and called for the rest of the planned flagship initiatives before the end of 2010:

Conclusions of the European Council 17 June 2010 (document 4 EUCO 13/10; points 7 and 8, page 4).

The main description of the future flagship initiatives is the proposal from the Commission:

Commission: EUROPE 2020 - A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; Brussels, 3.3.2010 COM(2010) 2020 final (35 pages)

Innovation Union

The first flagship initiative mentioned in the Commission’s Europe 2020 communication is:

"Innovation Union" to improve framework conditions and access to finance for research and innovation so as to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.

Innovation Union is sorted under the priority Smart growth. The relevant headline target is reiterated in short form in Annex 1 (page 32):

Achieve the target of investing 3% of GDP in R&D in particular by improving the conditions for R&D investment by the private sector, and develop a new indicator to track innovation.

The Commission described the aim of the flagship initiative Innovation Union like this (page 12):

The aim of this is to re-focus R&D and innovation policy on the challenges facing our society, such as climate change, energy and resource efficiency, health and demographic change. Every link should be strengthened in the innovation chain, from 'blue sky' research to commercialisation.

EU level action

At EU level, the Commission promised to work on multiple fronts (page 12 to 13):

– To complete the European Research Area, to develop a strategic research agenda focused on challenges such as energy security, transport, climate change and resource efficiency, health and ageing, environmentally-friendly production methods and land management, and to enhance joint programming with Member States and regions;

– To improve framework conditions for business to innovate (i.e. create the single EU Patent and a specialised Patent Court, modernise the framework of copyright and trademarks, improve access of SMEs to Intellectual Property Protection, speed up setting of interoperable standards; improve access to capital and make full use of demand side policies, e.g. through public procurement and smart regulation);

– To launch 'European Innovation Partnerships' between the EU and national levels to speed up the development and deployment of the technologies needed to meet the challenges identified. The first will include: 'building the bio-economy by 2020', 'the key enabling technologies to shape Europe's industrial future' and 'technologies to allow older people to live independently and be active in society';

– To strengthen and further develop the role of EU instruments to support innovation (e.g. structural funds, rural development funds, R&D framework programme, CIP, SET plan), including through closer work with the EIB and streamline administrative procedures to facilitate access to funding, particularly for SMEs and to bring in innovative incentive mechanisms linked to the carbon market, namely for fast-movers;

– To promote knowledge partnerships and strengthen links between education, business, research and innovation, including through the EIT, and to promote entrepreneurship by supporting Young Innovative Companies.

National level action

At national level, the Commission saw the need for action by the member states (page 13):

– To reform national (and regional) R&D and innovation systems to foster excellence and smart specialisation, reinforce cooperation between universities, research and business, implement joint programming and enhance cross-border co-operation in areas with EU value added and adjust national funding procedures accordingly, to ensure the diffusion of technology across the EU territory;

– To ensure a sufficient supply of science, maths and engineering graduates and to focus school curricula on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship;

– To prioritise knowledge expenditure, including by using tax incentives and other financial instruments to promote greater private R&D investments.

As we see, a plethora of actions is proposed under the flagship initiative Innovation Union. They concern different Commission services and Council configurations.

Ralf Grahn

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