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Brussels, 14 July 2010

Informal Competitiveness Council: Industry and Research

An informal meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council will take place in Louvain-La Neuve and Brussels on Wednesday 14,Thursday 15 and Friday 16 July 2010 under the chairmanship of the Belgian Presidency: Mr Jean-Claude Marcourt, Deputy Prime Minister of the Walloon Government and Minister for the Economy, SMEs, Foreign Trade and New Technologies, and Mr Benoît Cerexhe, Minister for the Brussels-Capital Region Government, in charge of Employment, the Economy, Agricultural Policy, Foreign Trade and Scientific Research. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn responsible for Research and Innovation. The discussion will focus on how industrial policy, innovation policy and SME policy can help determine the competitiveness of industry: The joint session on 15 July will look specifically at the necessary coherence between research and innovation policies. On 16 July, the Research Ministers will discuss simplification of EU funding procedures.

The mounting pressures of global competition, social and environmental challenges, climate and demographic change and the scarcity of resources call for urgent and swift action from Europe with innovation in the broadest sense of the word as the key answer. This means ensuring the transition of the European economy to a knowledge-and innovation-based economy capable of rising to these challenges and seizing new opportunities, with a key role for SMEs.

The joint session between Research and Industry Ministers on 15 July is part of the Belgian Presidency programme to deal with Research and Innovation. Europe is still recognised at being very good at producing research results, but not always able to capitalise on them to create economic benefits and employment. The joint session has been planned in view of further work foreseen in the formal Councils in autumn and in the European Council in December.

The Belgian Presidency has also included simplification of research funding procedures in its Presidency Programme, continuing the debate launched by the Commission's Communication of 29 April 2010 (IP/10/472, MEMO/10/156).

Central themes of the session on industry will be:

Industrial policy, innovation and SMEs are at the core of the new Europe 2020 Strategy and in particular in the Communication on the flagship initiative «Innovation Union» which is due for publication very soon. The Communication on the flagship initiative « An industrial policy for the globalisation era » will also be published soon and constitutes the other important pillar of the Europe 2020 Strategy to make the transition to a smart, durable and inclusive economy.

The discussion will therefore focus on the main objectives, actions and interlinkages that need to be developed in and between the fields of:

  • Sustainable industrial policy

  • Innovation policy

  • SMEs

Central themes of the joint session on research and industry will be:

Putting research and innovation at the top of the European agenda constitutes an opportunity for the Belgian Presidency to ensure a clear message for a more ambitious Europe in the fields of research and innovation which is better organised to stimulate interactions between research, the market and the demands of society. The development of an innovative and competitive European Union requires the development of a broad approach to innovation that enables strong partnerships between policy domains, actors and a refashioned multi-level governance. Financing innovation will require specific attention as it appears to be a major bottleneck, which has grown in intensity as a result of the crisis. The discussions in the joint session between the Research and Industry Ministers will therefore be centred around these three themes:

  • Financing R&D and innovation;

  • Synergies between innovation policies and between stakeholders;

  • Multi-level governance.


European industry has been hit hard by the financial and economic crisis, but has not lost its competitive edge. Since the last major Commission Communication on industrial policy in 2005, the global business environment has changed radically. For some industries, the role of the European market has been dwarfed by the growth rates and scale of emerging markets in Asia, particularly India and China.

The intensive interaction and division of labour within and across sectors and regions across the whole globe is a new feature characterising the 21st century. The concepts of national sectors and national industries with little interaction with other sectors or the rest of the world are becoming less relevant. Consequently efforts to identify strategic European industrial interests are becoming increasingly important, and policies at national level do not have the critical mass that is needed to enable industry to compete successfully on the world stage.

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