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Commission sets out EU approach to innovation

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In a communication presented on 6 October 2010, the European Commission maps out the road towards the Innovation Union, marking a new milestone for this flagship initiative launched as part of the Europe 2020 strategy.

The communication details comprehensive and decisive action to achieve Innovation Union and underlines the need for political determination. Designed to boost green growth and social progress, the Innovation Union would concentrate Europe's combined efforts on key challenges such as climate change, energy and food security, health and the demographic change linked to an ageing population. The strategy to bring it about calls for public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector and eliminate the factors that complicate entrepreneurial efforts to bring innovative ideas to market.

Improved access to finance, encouragement for innovation through public procurement, rapid standard setting and measures to overcome the fragmentation of research systems and markets are examples of actions that can help transform bright ideas into cutting-edge products and services.

Actions such as these are designed to support the emergence of a knowledge-based economy, and would go a long way towards meeting the Europe 2020 target of boosting R&D (research and development) expenditure to 3% of GDP (gross domestic product). According to recent research into the cost of a non-innovative Europe, this level of investment could create up to 3.7 million jobs and increase annual GDP by as much as EUR 795 million by 2025. To unleash the full potential of the Innovation Union, 1 million more researchers will be needed.

Commenting on the initiative, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: 'As we emerge from crisis in the teeth of fierce global competition, we face an innovation emergency. If we do not transform Europe into an Innovation Union, our economies will wither on the vine while ideas and talent go to waste. Innovation is the key to building sustainable growth and fairer and greener societies. A sea change in Europe's innovation performance is the only way to create lasting and well-paid jobs that withstand the pressures of globalisation.'

Key elements of the strategy notably include launching European Innovation Partnerships with the relevant stakeholders, adopting measures to improve access to finance, intensifying existing research initiatives and completing the European Research Area (ERA), accelerating and upgrading the standard setting process, modernising Europe's intellectual property regime, and introducing a European Design Leadership Board and a European Design Excellence Label.

Further measures are aimed at reviewing structural funding and state aid frameworks to boost innovation, and encourage national governments to earmark a part of their public procurement budgets for innovative products and services. A major research programme, to be launched in 2011, will focus on public sector and social innovation. Complementing this particular strand of action, the European Commission has also announced the launch of a European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard and European Social Innovation Pilot. The intention, through the latter, is to provide expertise for social innovators and establish social innovation as a focus of European Social Fund programmes.

A newly assembled Innovation Union Scoreboard features prominently among the proposed measures. This scoreboard is based on a total of 25 indicators and will be completed by a new indicator reflecting the share of fast-growing innovative companies in the economy. It is flanked by a checklist of the features of successful innovation systems.

Next steps on the road towards the Innovation Union include discussion at the Competitiveness Council on 12 October 2010 and at the European Council in December 2010. Progress towards the Innovation Union is to be monitored in the wider context of the Europe 2020 strategy and will also be debriefed by annual innovation conventions.

Innovation Union - turning ideas into jobs, 
green growth and social progress - guide

Source: Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS)

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