Research and innovation are at the top of the EU's agenda for growth and jobs. Member countries have been encouraged to invest 3% of their GDP in R&D by 2020 (1% public funding, 2% private-sector investment) – which is estimated to create 3.7 million jobs and increase annual GDP by nearly €800 billion.
EU-wide competition for these funds will bring Europe's best researchers and innovators together to tackle the biggest issues of our time, such as energy, food security, climate change and our ageing population. Research and innovation help deliver jobs, prosperity and quality of life. Although the EU is the global leader in many technologies, it faces increasing challenges from traditional competitors and emerging economies alike.
Our future standard of living depends on our ability to drive innovation in products, services, business and social processes as well as models. This is why innovation has been placed at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy, with the Innovation Union as its flagship.
The Innovation Union will focus Europe's efforts – and co-operation with non EU countries – on the big challenges mentioned above. It will use public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector and remove bottlenecks which prevent ideas from reaching the market – including lack of finance, fragmented research systems and markets, under-use of public procurement for innovation and slow standard-setting.
The EU is working to create by 2014 a single European Research Area, where researchers will be able to work anywhere in the EU, and cross-border cooperation will be enhanced.
The most concrete manifestation of EU research and innovation policy is the Seventh Framework Programme 2007-13 (FP7), which has a budget of €50.5 billion.
EU funds are helping GPS systems to make search-and-rescue easier.
There are four strands to FP7:
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is a network of seven research institutes across the EU. In addition to researching nuclear energy and nuclear safety, the JRC has developed technologies including a remote sensing technology to detect emerging food crises in developing countries where EU food aid will be needed.
The European Research Council (ERC) supports 'frontier research’(a new understanding of basic research that on the one hand denotes that basic research in science and technology is of critical importance to economic and social welfare, and on the other that research at and beyond the frontiers of understanding is an intrinsically risky venture, progressing on new and more exciting research areas), encouraging the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers to go beyond established frontiers of knowledge and the boundaries of disciplines. The ERC's investigator-driven, bottom-up approach allows researchers to identify new opportunities and directions in any field of research, rather than being led by priorities set by politicians.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology aims to translate research results into commercial applications by creating ‘knowledge and innovation communities’.
This is a new model of partnership involving universities, research organisations, companies, foundations and other entities. Its current priorities include climate change, renewable energy sources and the next generation of information and communication technologies.
Horizon 2020 is the EU's new programme for funding research and innovation for 2014-2020. Funding (some €80.2 billion overall for the whole period) will be available to research institutions, universities, innovative private companies and small businesses.
All sectors of the European economy will benefit, including agriculture, fisheries and food, health, transport, energy – especially renewables – and information and communication technologies.