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Research & innovation

Innovation has been placed at the heart of the EU's strategy to create growth and jobs.

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 English, where researchers will be able to work anywhere in the EU and cooperation across borders will be supported and encouraged.

EU funding

Lotus plant

Self-cleaning plastics developed by EU-funded scientists could save you time and money washing your car, and reduce your impact on the environment.

In January 2014, the EU launched its latest 7-year research programme - Horizon 2020 - Almost €80-bn of EU funding is available up to 2020 – in addition to the private and national public investment this money will attract. It  combines all research and innovation funding in one integrated programme.

Its goals are:

  • to strengthen the EU’s position in science (€24.4-bn of funding – including €13-bn for the European Research Council)
  • strengthen industrial innovation (€17-bn) - including investment in key technologies, greater access to capital and support for small businesses
  • address major social concerns, such as climate change, sustainable transport, renewable energy, food safety and security, ageing populations (€24.4-bn).

Horizon 2020 will seek to:

  • ensure technological breakthroughs are developed into viable products with real commercial potential – by building partnerships with industry and government
  • step up international cooperation on research & innovation - by inviting countries and organisations outside the EU to participate 
  • further develop the European Research Area English.

Other EU research & innovation bodies


Research and Innovation

Manuscript updated in November 2014

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series


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