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European Commission


European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013

Press conference / Brussels

26 March 2013

Thank you, Antonio. I want to complement Antonio's presentation by putting these results into the wider context in the EU and internationally.

The EU still lags behind the innovation leaders – the US, Japan and South Korea. The good news is that the EU has closed almost half of the innovation performance gap with the US and Japan since 2008. However, South Korea has increased its performance lead over us.

Worryingly, the US, Japan and South Korea dominate the EU in terms of business activity, and also in educational attainment, as measured by the share of population having completed third-level education.

The EU continues to lead Australia, Canada and all BRICS countries [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa].

This lead has been increasing compared to Australia and Canada, has remained stable with the BRICS countries, except with China, where it has declined slightly.

It's a mixed picture – there is some progress, but certainly no room for complacency.

So, what do we need to do to win the global innovation race?

At EU level, as our recently adopted State of the Innovation Union Report sets out, we are broadly on track with our Innovation Union commitments. For example:

  1. The business environment in Europe will become more innovation-friendly thanks to Single Market measures, such as the unitary patent, faster standard setting, modernised EU procurement rules and a European passport for venture capital funds.

  2. The broad thrust of the Commission's Horizon 2020 proposal is supported by the Member States and the European Parliament. Horizon 2020 will hopefully become a benchmark for funding the entire value creation chain from fundamental research through to market innovation. It will also drastically cut red tape.

  3. European Innovation Partnerships are pooling resources and concentrating demand and supply-side measures on key societal challenges: ageing, water, raw materials, sustainable agriculture and smart cities.

These measures are strong seeds for growth and jobs in Europe. However, the situation is fragile and we still have some way to go.

A lot of work has to be done at national level, particularly in Member States with a lower Scoreboard ranking.

As Antonio has already pointed out, regional differences in innovation performance are widening. This trend must be reversed. It is a key challenge for the EU.

So, what do Member States need to do? We set it out in the State of the Innovation Union Report. I would summarise it in three words: invest, reform, transform.

This year's Scoreboard is the first that gives us a real idea of the impact of the current crisis on investment.

Taken on average over the last five years, it has actually proven very resilient:

  1. Total public R&D spending for the 27 EU Member States as a group increased by 10% in nominal terms between 2007 and 2011.

  2. Business R&D expenditure in the EU was also 10% higher in 2011 than in 2007 in nominal terms. Business clearly considers R&D as vital for future competitiveness and its confidence to invest is at least partially due to continued public investment in research.

  3. As a result, the total amount spent on R&D in the EU grew from 1.85% of GDP before the crisis (2007) to 2.03% of GDP in 2011.

However, there are flashing lights on the dashboard. Total EU public R&D investments slowed down in 2010, and even decreased in 2011. This decline is partly offset by the further development of R&D tax incentives.

Still, we see it as vital for Europe to protect public R&D budgets in 2013 and 2014.

This brings me to the second step: reform. It is no good putting extra investment into national research systems which are not functioning efficiently.

We cannot continue with a situation where research funding is not always allocated competitively, where positions are not always filled on merit, where researchers cannot take their grants across borders, and where there is a scandalous waste of female talent.

That is why Member States need to implement the measures set out in the ERA Framework Communication, which was adopted in July last year.

The Commission is monitoring their progress. We will not be afraid to name and shame. At the request of the Heads of State and Government, we will present our first progress report to the European Council meeting in October.

Finally, why do we need to transform our economies? The reason is simple. As well as maintaining our strong position in sectors such as automobiles, we must develop a stronger presence in hi-tech sectors where the US currently outstrips us.

We need structural change both within and between sectors.

We need to look for new sources of growth through innovation in the private and public sectors, for instance public procurement or better developing and commercialising unexploited patents.

We must support the growth of fast growing, innovative firms and the development of clusters in new fields of activity, such as healthcare and the bio-economy.

This is how we will innovate our way out of the crisis and towards a better future.

Thank you.

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