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Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Closing Europe's Innovation Gap

Remarks to the press by Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn on the European Commission's Innovation Union Competitiveness Report

Brussels, 9 June 2011, 12.00 hrs

Our highest profile economic challenge right now is to close the yawning fiscal gap.

But we cannot achieve sustainable growth and jobs in the medium-term unless we also close another equally important economic gap – the innovation gap.

The innovation gap is the gap between where we are now and achieving the Innovation Union we need in Europe.

Today's Innovation Union Competitiveness Report provides an exhaustive factual and statistical analysis of what needs to be done to close that innovation gap.

The Report is neither sexy nor short. But it is authoritative and it is crucial. I thank the services involved for their excellent work.

It builds on the snapshot provided by the Innovation Union Scoreboard that I presented here in February.

You will find in our memo a summary of the report and an extensive set of statistics. But let me point out a few of the key conclusions.

There is some good news. In 2009, public and private investment in research and development broke the 2% of GDP barrier, partly due to the positive impact of the Lisbon Strategy.

However, more determined action is needed in these areas, among others:

  • "more and smarter" investment in both public and private research and development to make the leap from 2% to the 3% of GDP target;

  • more research cooperation within the EU and internationally;

  • better use of research results, including through a stronger intellectual property regime;

  • adapting education systems to business innovation needs;

  • more encouragement for innovative and fast-growing SMEs;

  • a stronger focus on innovation tackling global challenges such as climate change, energy, food security and health;

  • and last but not least, closing the gender gap in science careers, so as to make the most of all our talents.

Our competitors are moving fast, as I saw for myself during my recent visit to China. If we get left behind on innovation, we will be left behind economically, full stop.

There has been a strong effort leading to seventeen Member States maintaining or increasing R&D budgets in 2009 and sixteen doing so in 2010. It is not yet completely clear whether that will be matched in 2011 but several Member States are committed to increasing their budget allocation (including Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Finland and the Czech Republic).

On the Commission side, we have made a strong start.

President Barroso has put research and innovation at the centre of the Europe 2020 strategy, as you saw this week with our country specific recommendations and accompanying analyses of Member States' economic performance and policy. Today's report is a key tool for national policymakers to implement those recommendations

Michel Barnier has put a unitary European patent on the table. Antonio Tajani has set out a package to develop more and faster standards. Based on the model we set out in the Innovation Union plan, Neelie Kroes and John Dalli have launched the pilot European Innovation Partnership on active and healthy ageing.

Tomorrow morning I will present to 700 stakeholders across the road in the Charlemagne and many more online the results of our recent consultation on our February Green Paper on the future of EU research and innovation funding.

We aim to make participation easier and to get the best value for every euro, including by bringing much closer together all our current programmes. A legislative proposal for post-2013 will follow before the end of the year.

Finally, obviously, I welcome the support in the European Parliament for research and innovation, as expressed this week with the adoption in plenary of the Audy Report on the interim review of FP7.

It is only at an EU level that we can mobilise sufficient resources to tackle societal challenges.

Only through EU funding can we stimulate our researchers and innovators to join forces and work together across national borders.

And only the EU can organise continent-wide competition to stimulate our researchers towards greater excellence.

Thank you

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