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Regional Policy serving innovation

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Regional Policy serving innovation

The participation of the regions is essential in order to meet the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. The Commission therefore examines how Regional Policy can contribute to increasing the innovation potential of the European Union (EU). It presents practices that can be employed by the regions to promote innovation whilst awaiting the objectives to be set by the next programming period for structural funds.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, of 6 October 2010, Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020 [COM(2010) 553 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


European Regional Policy can make a substantial contribution to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, particularly regarding the flagship initiative Innovation Union. Regional Policy and its funding can be used to promote research and development, education, entrepreneurship or information and communication technologies.

Encouraging regional innovation potential

The regions of Europe have different levels of development and innovation potential. Public intervention must therefore be adapted to these diverse situations. Regional Policy thus supports both the performance of the most advanced regions and redirects the regions that are lagging behind towards the most competitive activities.

Regional Policy funding is coordinated with the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the 7thFramework Programme for Research and Development.

Contributing to the Europe 2020 strategy

In order to support the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, Regional Policy must in particular enable:

  • a region’s competitiveness to be strengthened by targeting resources to high value-added activities, by supporting skills, education and infrastructures;
  • smart specialisation strategies to be developed, in conjunction with other EU policies;
  • certain business sectors to be fostered;
  • multi-level governance to be developed;
  • links to be created between policy domains and between regions.

In addition, Regional Policy encourages cooperation between enterprises, research centres and universities, to define specialisation strategies that are adapted to their regional situation and investment capacity.

Such specialisation strategies should encourage:

  • the forming of innovation clusters of companies, so as to share services and infrastructures;
  • favourable conditions for the innovation of SMEs, that have a key role to play in growth, employment, innovation and cohesion in the EU;
  • education and lifelong learning in research and innovation, in partnership with universities and local enterprises;
  • regional research infrastructures, including the creation of infrastructure networks in the regions requiring more support, by making more extensive of use of information and communication technologies;
  • creativity and cultural industries;
  • the Digital Agenda, based on fast internet applications;
  • the use of public procurement co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to accelerate the marketing of innovations;
  • Innovation Partnerships as part of the Europe 2020 strategy, particularly in areas of common interest (such as climate change, energy and resource efficiency, demographic ageing, etc.).

Creating synergies

Synergies must be established between European policies which support research and innovation. In order to do this, the Commission needs to simplify and harmonise the rules relating to the use of programmes so as to foster cooperation between innovation stakeholders.

It is also necessary to create synergies between and group together regional stakeholders in order to foster innovation. In the context, Regional Policy supports the development of trans-national and inter-regional cooperation programmes. It also supports, in particular, the forming of science and technology parks or business incubators.


After 2013, innovation, research and development must be key priorities for EU cohesion and budget policy. Nevertheless, during the current programming period for structural funds, the EU Member States and their regions must start re-orienting their practices so as to broaden their innovation potential.

Last updated: 09.03.2011