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European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Opening of the exhibition and signature of the RSFF agreement

Innovation Convention

Brussels, 5 December 2011

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to officially open this exhibition that celebrates the first anniversary of Innovation Union by showcasing the best of innovation in Europe.

I was determined from the start that the first Innovation Convention should not just talk about innovation, but should show innovation in action, and show its real benefits.

So, it gives me tremendous pleasure to share with you 48 fascinating research and innovation stories, taking place in the 27 Member States of the European Union. All were funded by grants from the EU's Research Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

They are inspiring examples of research and innovation that help improve our society, improve our economy and improve the lives of people everywhere.

You will see many fascinating breakthroughs and state of the art applications. For instance, a brain-computer interface that allows physically disabled people to communicate better; and a new system that saves lives in earthquakes or explosions.

You can test a tool that could help drastically reduce our energy consumption by harvesting energy at the micro and nano scales. Or you could even try to keep up with one of the world’s most dextrous robots!

These are just a few examples from the exhibition, which itself shows only a selection from more than 450 applications to take part. These excellent exhibits are just the tip of Europe’s innovation iceberg!

I would like to thank all those who gave their time and resources to help us to showcase here some of the best results of EU funded research.

I also encourage you to visit the “Knowledge and Technology Transfer Avenue", where the research world meets the world of finance.

Here, you can find out what the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund, business angels and venture capital associations, are doing to turn fresh ideas into excellent products and services.

Don’t miss the EU support services on Intellectual Property Rights and on Technology Transfer, and find out how the European standards organisations are enhancing the use of research results.

And be sure to visit the Innovation Union stand to get a flavour of some of the key initiatives that we have launched in the framework of the Innovation Union strategy.

For instance - the European Institute of Technology, that is creating new environments for innovation with the simple and powerful idea of bringing together education, research and business; the pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing that pools knowledge and resources to add two healthy years to our lives; or, the Platform on Social Innovation that is promoting new ways to collaborate to meet social needs.

There are three priorities for Europe in this difficult time - growth; growth; and more growth.

And I see three clear messages coming out from this exhibition - to get smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, invest in research and innovation; invest in research and innovation; invest in research and innovation!

Why is this so important? Prioritising investment in these areas now is the recipe for ensuring growth and jobs in the future. One study shows that achieving the EU's target of investing 3% of GDP in R&D by 2020 could create 3.7 million jobs by 2025.

We are leading the way at the European Union level. This year alone, the 7th Framework Programme for Research is investing over 7 billion Euro.

And more is to come with the ambitious scope of the European Union’s next research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, that I launched just last week.

Horizon 2020 will make Europe’s investment in research and innovation simpler, more efficient and more effective at delivering the big impacts needed to sustain growth and to tackle our biggest challenges, such as climate change, health, energy and food security.

Taking simplification as the rule, Horizon 2020 means that for the first time all European funding for research and innovation will be under one umbrella. The structure will be simple, and we will slash red tape to make it much easier for our researchers and innovators to access funding.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Europe has to capitalise on its brightest and most innovative ideas. That is what Innovation Union is all about; that is what Horizon 2020 is designed to ensure; and that is what this exhibition inspires us all to do.

Now, I would like to ask Philippe Maystadt, the President of the European Investment Bank, to join me here to share another success story.

In 2007, the European Investment Bank and the European Commission jointly created a new lending instrument called the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility, or RSFF for short.

It aims to turn good ideas into reality by improving access to finance for research, for development, and for innovation.

The RSFF has already funded many important projects in key areas such as renewable energy, healthcare, and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The demand for loans has far exceeded expectations, and the cooperation between the EIB and the Commission has been immensely effective.

To take the RSFF forward to the end of 2013 and prepare for the wider use of financial instruments in Horizon 2020, President Maystadt and I will today sign an amendment to our Cooperation Agreement that will do three things:

  • It will give the RSFF more leverage in terms of allocating the funding available;

  • It will enable it to address research infrastructures more effectively;

  • And, through the European Investment Fund, it will pilot a scheme for making loans to innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

Before we sign the document, I would like to warmly thank President Maystadt for his support.

Thank you, President Maystadt, and many thanks also to all your colleagues in the Bank who have made this achievement possible.

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