Brussels, 12 June 2006
European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, and Regional Policy Commissioner, Danuta Hübner, opened today in Brussels the conference on "Innovating through EU Regional policy" organised by the Regional Policy directorate general. Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen and Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, Vladimir Špidla, will also deliver key-note speeches during the two-day conference which aims to examine best practices in fostering knowledge transfer, innovation and clusters, with particular attention to success stories in less prosperous regions. Three sessions of workshops are bringing together policy makers, expert advisers and practitioners while an exhibition of innovative projects from across the EU, stands with information on relevant Community programmes, and advisory booths will be available to the participants.
“The close relationship between cohesion policy and the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs should come as no surprise. After all, regions need growth and jobs – that is what cohesion policy has always been about. But the Lisbon strategy has given this a sharper focus. In fact, the European Commission and its Member States have recognized that growth and jobs can only be delivered through the successful involvement of regional actors”, said President Barroso.
"The Commission and the national and regional authorities are working hard to prepare and make Cohesion policy 2007-2013 deliver jobs and growth to our regions. Research and innovation have a key role to play in that collective effort and we want to see that they feature much more strongly in the investment strategies advanced by the Structural Funds", said Commissioner Hübner.
The Commissioner spoke of her commitment to making sure that the new EU regional policy enables regions to exploit fully their growth potential and to manage successfully economic and social change. She stressed that in an open global economy, competitive advantage and sustainable growth would come through the application of knowledge. Danuta Hübner urged participants to take full advantage of the opportunity which the conference offered for learning from international experts on innovation and for knowledge transfer in the widest sense.
The Commissioner highlighted the main aims of the conference: "This is a great opportunity to sit down with our partners and find modern, flexible and efficient ways to create the right environment for innovation, to strengthen collaboration between public and private stakeholders, and to establish partnerships and synergies", Danuta Hübner said.
A total of nine workshops are divided in three sessions addressing issues like the role of public authorities in managing innovation and nurturing clusters, the development of innovation infrastructure and support services, financial engineering, developing poles of excellence, commercializing research results, the role of networks in knowledge transfer, developing trans-regional projects, and experience of combining national and Community funding.
At the same time practitioners will be offering advice on how to take full advantage of venture capital and clusters to address specific regional situations and on how to tackle practical problems such as how to start and how to find a private partner.
This is the first of a series of three conferences under the headline “Regions for economic change” leading up to the fourth Cohesion Forum which will take place in June 2007. The next conference in the series will deal with the demographic challenge and will also be held in Brussels, on 11 and 12 December while the third is likely to take the form of an exchange forum, in February.
The Structural Funds are the financial instrument of EU regional policy. They provide support for research, technological development and innovation (RTDI) through direct investment and indirect support for the development of innovation strategies.
Direct investment in RTDI through EU regional policy’s Structural Funds now amounts to €10.5 billion in the form of grants. 97% of this support is made through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Investment in RTDI falls into four main types of activity: research projects based in universities and research institutes; research and innovation infrastructure (public facilities, but also technology transfer centres and incubators); innovation and technology transfer and setting up networks and partnerships between businesses and/or research centres; and training for researchers (co-financed by the European Social Fund).
Through the “innovative actions” programmes, EU regional policy has supported networks on three strategic themes, one of which is knowledge-based technological innovation: ERIK (the European Regions Knowledge-based Innovation Network). Here partner regions deal with fundamental issues related to knowledge-based technological innovation, such as clusters and business networks, regional innovation benchmarking and foresight, support to start-ups and spin-offs and the relationship between science and industry. The conclusions reached feed back into mainstream Structural Funds programmes and further improve their quality.
Support for the priorities of the Lisbon strategy, including research and
innovation, is central to the proposals for the next generation of EU regional
policy programmes. The target for regions falling under the “Regional
employment and competitiveness” objective is that 75% of their financial
allocation from the Structural Funds is devoted to the priorities of the Lisbon
strategy. The target for the less developed Convergence regions is 60%. The new
legislative framework highlights the knowledge economy and regional research,
technological development and innovation capacities as priorities for