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An innovation-friendly, modern Europe

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An innovation-friendly, modern Europe

The Commission is committed to promoting innovation and research in Europe based on future strategic technologies, closer collaboration between universities, researchers and business, and the creation of European Technology Platforms and a European Institute for Technology. The European Union (EU) also intends to take steps to encourage private investment and ensure better protection of intellectual property.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Council of 12 October 2006 - An innovation-friendly, modern Europe [COM(2006) 589 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

As the Indian and Chinese economies move into high-added-value technologies, the European Union (EU) will need to increase its potential for innovation *, research and technology. Innovation is the key to the success of the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Where does Europe stand?

The EU seems to be confronted with a number of paradoxes which prevent it from realising its full potential, namely an inability to convert inventions into new products, patents and jobs, and a large number of innovative small businesses which find it difficult to grow into globally successful companies.

In order to come to terms with these paradoxes, the Commission has arrived at the following conclusions:

  • The EU must provide high-quality education in the form of initial and continuing training. The problem is that the average European adult is less well educated than adults in other industrialised countries. Consequently, a considerable investment is needed in higher education and lifelong learning to enable people to update their qualifications frequently. This investment will be all the more useful because the working-age population will fall by 6.8% between now and 2030 as a result of demographic change, leading to a shortage of skilled staff in engineering.
  • Europe must review and reorganise its education system in order to improve synergies between its universities.
  • To increase economic dynamism, obstacles such as "red tape" and the scarcity of venture capital must be eliminated.

The Commission stresses the importance for research and development (R&D) of radically reorganising the education system. The EU would like to see closer collaboration between the universities and the business world. The investment target for research is 2.6% of GDP by 2010 for Europe as a whole, which would put Europe on a par with its Asian and American competitors.

Unlocking Europe's innovation potential

The keys to unlocking Europe's innovation potential are:

  • The establishment of European leadership in future strategic technologies by creating networks of excellence, such as the European Technology Platforms * (ETPs). The success of these platforms will also lead to better public-private partnerships through Joint Technology Initiatives * (JTIs), which will make it possible to invest in promising areas, such as nanoelectronics, fuel cells, innovative medicines, aeronautics, embedded computing systems and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES). European industry is ready to invest in these projects provided that their investments are complemented by EU funding through the 7th Framework Programme and individual Member States' contributions.
  • The forging of stronger links between universities, research and business. For far too long, universities have been too remote from the business world. The development of regional clusters fostering cooperation between universities, large and small companies, research institutes, investors and associations would make a major contribution to innovation policy. Furthermore, making better use of knowledge by setting up a European Institute of Technology (EIT) to create synergies between innovators would optimise Member States' competitiveness.

The Commission would also like to improve the framework conditions for investment in R&D and reap commercial benefits from innovation by:

  • Creating a genuinely integrated single market. Real competition and a fully functioning internal market (with free movement of researchers, technologies and knowledge) are prerequisites for developing innovation and enabling SMEs to compete.
  • Encouraging innovation funding. Innovative SMEs are sometimes unable to find the necessary financial impetus to fund their projects, and there is a risk that they will go elsewhere (to America). Tax incentives offered by Member States may provide a solution.
  • Drawing up an intellectual property policy for the 21st century. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) must provide legal protection of user rights. They must also guarantee high-quality assessment of novelty, affordable patent procedures for SMEs, convergence and unification of laws and proceedings, and a balance between allowing new ideas to circulate within the EU and rewarding creativity. The Commission is keen to adopt a cost-effective Community patent to make the patent system more efficient, and will propose concrete steps towards a modern and affordable framework before the 2007 Spring European Council.
  • Setting open and interoperable standards more quickly to enable new products to be put onto the market immediately within a single framework, as was the case with the GSM standard.

Creating sector-specific conditions to help companies to innovate is also a priority. With this in mind, the EU is calling on Member States to encourage innovative solutions when awarding public service contracts and to modernise their public administrations (e-government).

Background

Since 1984, the EU's research and technological development policy has been based on multiannual framework programmes. Research, innovation and education policies remain at the heart of the knowledge triangle promoted by the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. The communication is therefore part of the Lisbon Strategy. The Spring European Council will undertake regular monitoring of progress made in implementing these measures.

Key terms used in the act

  • Innovation: renewing and extending the range of products and services; establishing new methods of design, production, supply and distribution; and changing management and work organisation, as well as the working conditions and skills of the workforce.
  • European Technology Platforms (ETPs): the European Technology Platforms are designed to develop strategies where Europe's growth, competitiveness and sustainable development depends on major technological advances. They bring stakeholders together to define medium-term and long-term objectives and the stages of scientific and technological development, with the aim of significantly improving the daily lives of Europeans in many different fields. The Technology Platforms will also endeavour to bring European research priorities into line with the needs of industry. They cover the entire economic chain, ensuring that the knowledge generated by research is converted into technologies and processes and then into saleable products and services.
  • Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs): the creation, in some key economic sectors, of large-scale European research programmes lasting between 5 and 10 years and focusing the resources of industry, national governments and the EU on those aspects of a particular field of research that can generate economic growth and improve coherence across Europe. JTIs will be run by industry and will develop new forms of public-private partnerships. They will be set up on the basis of the research agendas prepared by the Technology Platforms.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission of 15 November 2006 - Annual Report on research and technological development activities of the European Union in 2005 [COM(2006) 685 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 16 October 2002 - The European Research Area: Providing new momentum - Strengthening - Reorienting - Opening up new perspectives [COM(2002) 565 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 11 September 2002 - More research for Europe - Towards 3% of GDP [COM(2002) 499 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 25 June 2001 - The international dimension of the European Research Area [COM(2001) 346 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 20 April 2001 - Fulfilling the JRC's mission in the European Research Area [COM(2001) 215 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 09.05.2007

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