Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.
An outline of the new Research and Innovation Strategy for Europe
European Technology Platforms Conference
Brussels, 11 May 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I'm delighted to be here with you at what is my very first ETP conference. I look forward to attending many more.
Let me begin by thanking the Spanish Presidency, represented today by Secretary-General Hernani, for their support. This conference covers all three of the Presidency's priorities. Integration — forging stronger links between research and innovation — is a common thread throughout its sessions and workshops; Involvement — referring to tackling the major societal challenges — is its leitmotif; and Inclusion — enhancing the role of science and innovation to promote social cohesion and combat poverty — has guided the choice of many workshop topics. Mr Secretary-General, I assure you that these priorities will inspire us over the next two days.
I would also like to thank colleagues from national administrations for joining us. "Working Together on Societal Challenges" is the theme of this conference: challenges such as clean energy, low-impact transportation, sustainable consumption and production, and health and ageing. As national authorities, you play a paramount role in addressing these issues. I count on you to seize this unique opportunity to exchange views and experiences with ETPs on where Europe should focus its research and innovation efforts in order to tackle such challenges effectively.
I also very much appreciate the presence here of Herbert Reul MEP, the chair of the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee, who will speak after me, and I warmly welcome the participation of other members of ITRE in the conference . Herr Reul, as I said at my first meeting with the Committee two weeks ago , I very much hope we can count on the support of your institution in driving forward the research and innovation parts of the Europe 2020 agenda. I'll return to Europe 2020 in a moment.
My particular thanks are due to the many representatives of ETPs in the audience. You have been and continue to be invaluable in helping guide our thinking. In recent years, you helped in shaping and implementing the Lead Market Initiative. You helped in designing and launching the original three public-private partnerships as part of the European Economic Recovery Package and recently the new partnership on the Future Internet. Many of you served as springboards for the five current Joint Technology Initiatives, the JTIs. I believe that ETPs fulfil a crucial role in research and innovation policy-making, and I'm very glad you're here today.
I'm well aware that you're continuing to incubate fresh ideas and approaches as the research and innovation landscape changes. I know that a growing number of you are going beyond research agendas to develop what are often referred to as "innovation agendas". We'll be hearing some examples of these in the next session of the conference, and I'm sure more will surface in the workshops later.
Concretely, I hear that more and more of you want to accelerate the commercialisation of products and services in your sector by tackling regulatory barriers and skills gaps, speeding up the development and consolidation of standards, and encouraging the public procurement of innovative solutions. I hear a lot about cross-cutting approaches to connecting R&D — the supply-side — to such demand-side topics; or, in short, making better linkages in your activities between research and innovation.
This is music to my ears. Let me be very straightforward: I strongly believe this is the right direction to take. This is where you should be heading!
Let me explain.
As the Research and Innovation Commissioner, my job is to help create the conditions for a more dynamic Europe. A Europe where innovative firms want to do business, and where talented people want to live and work. A Europe based on a vibrant innovation economy, what I call an "i-conomy".
One of my first tasks is to draw up a new Research & Innovation Strategy that sets out how we intend to drive forward the research and innovation parts of Europe 2020. Europe 2020, you'll recall, is the proposal that the Commission made in March for a strategy to enable the EU to exit from the crisis in a way that fosters the growth of a smarter, greener and more inclusive economy delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. Research and innovation are at its very core.
This Research & Innovation Strategy will be ready by September, as the Heads of State and Government have decided to hold a special discussion on research and innovation at the Autumn European Council. As you can see, research and innovation are riding high in the political agenda, a sign of their growing importance for our economy and society.
Given the short timeframe, we're moving rapidly to develop a robust, mutually supportive set of initiatives. Many of the details are still in the pipeline. Here, though, are the Strategy's main features.
It will make clear our intention to refocus research and innovation policies very clearly on the major societal challenges facing Europe and the world, such as climate change, energy and resource efficiency, health and ageing. It's not a coincidence that these are very much in line with the overarching themes of this conference: they're top priorities for policy-makers, and they also represent, as I'm sure those with an entrepreneurial outlook will agree, huge commercial opportunities.
It's important to understand that the Strategy will be based on a broad understanding of "innovation". Research-based, certainly: but also innovation in business models, management structures and processes, the delivery of services by the public sector, as well as innovation in design and marketing, and also social innovation — meaning innovation in, for example, working practices and community-building. So it's clearly not only about research spending.
The Strategy will aim to remove all major bottlenecks to the flow of knowledge and to the emergence of what we're calling a "Single Market for Research and Innovation".
To be specific, the Strategy will give a vigorous push to reaching an agreement on an EU Patent. Enough is enough: let's finally finish the job!
It will also propose measures to improve the mobility and careers of researchers: I want to remove, once and for all, the pension and social security obstacles which hinder and at times prevent researchers from moving freely between countries.
And it will include measures to catalyse an increase in the public procurement of innovation. This will create new opportunities for businesses and lead to better services for citizens.
The Strategy will also propose the expansion of mobility schemes for top talents and nascent entrepreneurs. The circulation of brain-power is good for us all.
Developing and optimising Europe's R&D performance will be a further core feature of the Strategy.
It will include measures for developing world-class research infrastructures: everything from polar research vessels and bio-banks to particle accelerators and very large telescopes.
And I want the Strategy to help put an end to the fragmentation of national research efforts and the wasteful duplication that this leads to. At a time when public finances are under such pressure, we must get the most out of every cent we spend.
Talking of money, the Strategy will put a great deal of emphasis on financing the i-conomy. We need to ensure that innovative companies, especially high-growth SMEs, get easier access to funding. We will work harder on improving the cross-border provision of venture capital. We're already working with the EIB to increase, very substantially, the leverage finance available to support research and innovation.
Of course, to implement the Strategy we must make the best possible use of the current crop of EU-level funding instruments. Our Framework Programme — the biggest public research programme in the world — is up for review soon. I intend to tie it much more closely to the major societal challenges and ensure it has more leeway to fund innovation. And I will simplify its financial and administrative procedures so that it can be even more effective: you should read the Communication on Simplification adopted by the Commission two weeks ago as my declaration of intent.
I said at the outset of my description of the highlights of the Research & Innovation Strategy that we intend to refocus research and innovation policies on the major societal challenges that confront us.
To help solve particular and urgent problems connected with specific challenges — the very type of problems that you're going to be discussing in many of the workshops later today and again tomorrow — I'm convinced that we need to launch strategic partnerships, ambitious in scope and scale, that combine demand- and supply-side measures and weave together the many existing instruments already in play.
Here I'm referring to the JTIs, the Joint Programming Initiatives, the Lead Market Initiative, the Knowledge & Innovation Communities (KICs) launched by the EIT, the public-private partnerships of the Recovery Plan, the thematic priorities of the current and future Framework Programmes … I'm sure you get the idea. This is far from an exhaustive list. We've been very creative!
For particular issues linked to particular challenges, these need to be gathered together, framed, and focused to maximum effect.
This idea was taken up in the Europe 2020 strategy. We're calling these strategic initiatives "European Research & Innovation Partnerships". Partnerships between the EU, the Member States, industry and all relevant stakeholders.
Let me be very clear: these Partnerships will not be another initiative, mechanism or instrument to run alongside existing ones. On the contrary, they will be a framework for integrating whatever is relevant. I see this as a great opportunity to simplify our actions and focus efforts on what is really important. The Research & Innovation Strategy will identify a first set of these Partnerships.
I mentioned that Partnerships will combine demand- and supply-side measures and weave together existing initiatives.
In addition, they will have clear targets; aim for results that have significant market potential on at least a European and ideally a global scale; be based on a roadmap showing who does what; engage the support of a significant number of EU countries; and have a simple governance structure. We're exploring funding options, starting with FP7 and the CIP, and will be seeking the strong political commitment of the Member States.
We're developing ideas on what the first set of Partnership topics could be and taking soundings with many interested parties. This conference has become part of that process, and I encourage ETPs, national representatives and other stakeholders to take this into account during the workshop discussions. The Commission colleagues involved will be very pleased to hear your views and share their own ideas with you.
I said earlier that I strongly encourage ETPs to move in the direction of combining R&D with the smart use of demand-side tools such as public procurement and standardisation. I expect you can see why: this will put you in an excellent position to contribute to the Research & Innovation Partnerships. Your contributions will be invaluable in speeding up the development and, I can't stress too strongly, the deployment of innovations in the marketplace.
This is a clear win-win situation: new technologies, services and products and approaches are needed to meet Europe's major societal challenges, and their development will open up new markets for business.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This conference is providentially timed. The Commission is preparing its Research & Innovation Strategy, and I can assure you that this won't be a set of promises: it will contain an action plan. What you discuss over the next two days could make a significant contribution to formulating the Research & Innovation Partnerships that will help take this forward. There is serious work to do!
But let's remember that events like this are also an opportunity to meet people. I wish you many serendipitous encounters! Let me leave you with a quote from a compatriot of mine, the poet and dramatist William Butler Yeats. He said: "There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't yet met."