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Research and innovation serving growth and employment
To make the European Union (EU) a vibrant knowledge economy. Such is the common approach proposed by the European Commission. Its Communication describes the action to be taken at European and national levels in the fields of research and innovation from the point of view of policies, funding and company management. It also sets out the commitments and measures included in the Community Lisbon Programme (CLP).
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 12 October, More Research and Innovation - Investing for Growth and Employment [COM(2005) 488 final - Official Journal C 49 of 28.02.2006].
The goal set by the 2002 Barcelona European Council was clear: to raise overall research investment from 1.9% of GDP to approach 3% by 2010. The 3% objective and the follow-up action plan have had a mobilising effect on Member States. Nearly all of them have fixed targets, which - if met - will bring research investment in the EU to 2.6% of GDP by 2010.
However, instead of increasing, research is stagnating. In most Member States, increases in public and private research investment are inadequate. Similarly, the range and ambition of policy initiatives fall far short of what the national targets require. As for the overall objective, the situation is relatively disappointing.
At world level, the EU is faced with competition from countries such as the USA, Japan, China, India and Brazil, making it difficult to attract investment in research and innovation.
If knowledge and innovation are to serve growth to the full, the Commission and Member States must make an effort on four fronts:
- EU policies;
- European funding;
- research and innovation policies.
EU policies in support of research and innovation
In its Communication, the Commission emphasises the need for the EU to "ensure a favourable regulatory environment" for research and innovation. Harmonisation of all policies at national and Community levels needs to be encouraged in order to support research and innovation.
State aid is an essential policy tool for the development of research and innovation. In order to ensure its long-term and optimum effects, the Commission has recently launched a consultation document on state aid for innovation. The document puts forward concrete proposals to improve the Community's state aid rules and hence to increase funding possibilities as well as legal certainty. The promotion of eco-innovation is also one of the Commission's targets.
Another research and innovation issue is the protection of intellectual property (IP). This is an essential matter for most high-technology companies, and in order to attract them, the EU therefore needs a suitable protection system. To this end, the introduction of the Community trade mark and the Community Design Right constitute major progress.
The Commission has also decided to strengthen existing information and support services such as the IPR Helpdesk and to encourage better cooperation among national agencies concerned with IP. It plans to launch a dialogue with industry and other stakeholders in 2006 to determine what else might be done to provide European industry with a sound IPR framework.
A further challenge to the EU is to attract more researchers. In this connection, the aim is to create an open and competitive European labour market for researchers, enhancing diversification of competences and career paths at transnational level. Despite the progress made at national and European levels, mobility remains a source of uncertainty among researchers, especially from the legal, administrative and information points of view. In order to overcome these difficulties, the Commission will:
- support the application and development of measures to overcome persistent obstacles faced by mobile researchers (in cooperation with the Member States);
- foster public recognition of researchers and encourage Member States to do the same.
In order to raise awareness of the benefits of reorienting public procurement towards stimulating research and innovation, the Commission also intends to publish a handbook on the subject. The main aim here is to publicise the possibilities offered by Community public procurement law.
Finally, the Commission is planning to put forward guidelines intended to encourage the optimum use of tax incentives for research and development.
Summing up, the Member States, in order to encourage research and innovation, are called upon to:
- transpose Community legislation accordingly;
- fully exploit the possibilities of the new regulatory framework;
- adopt the Community patent and, in the meantime, improve the current system;
- support Community measures relating to human resources in the research field;
- perhaps review public procurement practices through mutual learning and use the possibilities offered by the new legislation;
- implement the forthcoming guidelines on a voluntary basis, taking account of national contexts.
Research, innovation and European funding
Support programmes are essential to research and innovation. This area must thus become a priority from the point of view of the allocation of public funding, at all levels. Similarly, better use should be made of public support mechanisms as an incentive for private investment, e.g. grants, equity instruments, guarantee schemes and other risk-sharing mechanisms.
To this end, several instruments have already been put in place or proposed by the Commission:
- the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7);
- the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP);
- the Structural Funds;
- the Rural Development Fund;
- other complementary instruments, each with its specific form of governance.
As regards funding, a major effort has already been made during the 2000-2006 programming period. However, there is still more to be done at both European and national levels.
At European level, the Commission will:
- encourage, particularly through Strategic Guidelines for Cohesion Policy, the use of the Structural Funds to encourage research and innovation. Similar efforts are being made in connection with the European Social Fund;
- promote better access to finance for innovative SMEs;
- support the development of new technologies and foster their market uptake;
- mobilise national and regional research and innovation programmes and other sources of funding.
At national level, it will be a question of:
- adopting the Commission's proposals on the Structural and Cohesion Funds;
- taking full advantage of the wide range of research and innovation opportunities offered by these Funds and the Rural Development Fund;
- making full use of equity and guarantee schemes;
- getting Member States' financial communities to facilitate access to finance;
- taking advantage of Community support schemes to foster transnational cooperation.
Research and innovation at the heart of business
Research and innovation contribute to the growth and wealth of businesses. Even more so when they form clusters * or networks. In order to bring research and industry permanently closer in this way, various initiatives should be encouraged at both European and Member State levels.
In order to tackle the current fragmentation of the European research and innovation system, the idea is to:
- define and implement EU guidelines on strengthening collaboration and knowledge transfer between the research world and industry;
- encourage innovation poles and knowledge-driven and industrial clusters;
- make full use of the Structural Funds for the development of innovation poles and participate in EU initiatives to promote clusters * and their networking (Europe-INNOVA, "Regions of Knowledge");
- provide specific business support services, in particular for SMEs;
- make full use of the Structural Funds and the network of Innovation Relay Centres;
- encourage synergies with other business support networks (Euro Info Centres);
- encourage best practices in innovation management by developing new self-assessment tools and creating a new European Innovation Prize;
- design and implement a strategy to promote innovative services in the EU;
- establish a European Industrial Research and Innovation Monitoring System to improve observation and analysis of private investment in research and innovation at sectoral level;
- take account of the results of observation and analysis at EU level.
Towards an improvement in research and innovation policies
In view of the patchwork nature of national and regional research and innovation systems, which reduces their effectiveness, the regions, Member States and Community institutions must develop coherent and complementary policies. This is part of the revised Lisbon strategy.
The specific measures needed are:
- monitoring and support by the Commission for the development of national research and innovation policies;
- appropriate implementation of National Reform Programmes (NRPs) by the Member States;
- further development and use of policy analysis instruments such as the European Trend Chart on Innovation and the Integrated Information System on National Research Policies (ERAWATCH) by the Commission in partnership with the Member States;
- provision and use of European platforms for learning and policy coordination, especially research policy coordination under the Scientific and Technical Research Committee (CREST);
- finally, the strengthening of transnational policy cooperation.
This Communication follows the launching of the new Lisbon partnership for growth and jobs, which designates knowledge and innovation as one of the three main areas of action. It describes the measures to be taken in this field, in accordance with the new overarching partnership between the Community and the Member States based on the integrated guidelines (IG) for the preparation of the National Reform Programmes (NRP) and on the Community Lisbon programme (CLP).
|Key terms used in the act|
|Cluster: a (geographical) location with an above-average concentration of industrial enterprises and research/higher education establishments operating in a particular field at world-class level or intending to do so soon. Each cluster is strengthened by the presence of risk capital and the support of the State and local authorities.|