Innovation has been placed at the heart of the EU's strategy to create growth and jobs for 2020.
EU countries are encouraged to invest 3% of their GDP in R&D by 2020 (1% public funding, 2% private-sector investment) - this is expected to create 3.7 million jobs and increase the EU's annual GDP by nearly €800 billion.
The EU initiative Innovation Union focuses Europe's efforts – and its cooperation with non EU countries – on the big challenges of our time: energy, food security, climate change and our ageing population. It uses 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 also working to create a single European Research Area, where researchers will be able to work anywhere in the EU and cooperation across borders will be supported and encouraged.
EU Funding for research and innovation
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.
FP7 funds research projects under 4 main headings:
Cooperation – collaborative research in health, food, agriculture, fisheries, biotechnology, information and communication technologies, energy, the environment (including climate change), transport (including aeronautics), socioeconomic sciences and the humanities, space and security. It also covers nano-sciences, nano-technologies, materials and new production technologies
Ideas – establishment of the European Research Council, which funds frontier science
People – human resources, including scholarships for young researchers, fellowships for lifelong training and career development, partnerships between industry and academia and awards for excellence
Capacities – funding for research infrastructure, small business R&D, knowledge and science clusters as well as scientific knowledge in general.
The EU's new programme for 2014-20, Horizon 2020, will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through:
Its objectives are:
- to strengthen the EU’s position in science (€24.5 billion) – this includes funding (+77%) for the European Research Council (ERC)
- strengthen industrial leadership in innovation (€17.9 billion) - including investment in key technologies, greater access to capital and support for small businesses
- address major concerns such as climate change, sustainable transport, renewable energy, food safety and security, ageing population (€31.7 billion).
Horizon 2020 will seek to:
Other EU bodies involved in research and innovation
- 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', encouraging the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers to go beyond established frontiers of knowledge and the boundaries of disciplines. The ERC takes an investigator-driven, bottom-up approach which 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 new model of partnership involves 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.