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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Introductory remarks at the Award Ceremony of the European Social Innovation Competition, in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos
29 May 2013
Dear Jury Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am indeed very happy to be with you today, some eight months after we launched this competition in Lisbon.
I would like to start by turning to our finalists and quite simply saying: congratulations!
It is already an achievement to be a finalist in this important competition. You are sending the messages we need to hear in Europe today.
Times are tough but you have proposed creative solutions to try and overcome some of our present difficulties, in particular in fighting unemployment, and the resources to turn these solutions into realities.
It is very comforting to witness first-hand the enormous energy you invest in your different projects, the interest it raises from various funders, and the benefits your projects can offer to European citizens.
You embody, each in your specific way, what we need in Europe today to foster sustainable and inclusive growth: great skills, fresh ideas, real vision!
It is also very rewarding that this competition has been so successful upon its first year, clearly meeting a real demand, including from participants who may usually feel far from European Union policies or priorities.
The number of ideas we received – 605 projects coming from 35 countries – is the best tribute that we can pay to Diogo Vasconcelos and to his immense talent and passionate commitment to promoting social innovation, in Europe and beyond, across geographic and professional boundaries.
Diogo had faith in youth and he deeply believed that connecting people and building bridges was the way to a prosperous society. And I remember that when I was working with him and I was Prime Minister of Portugal he had already come up with visionary ideas and new ways to tackle broad societal challenges such as climate change, unemployment and ageing.
I am sure that his family and friends – who I am very happy to welcome here today – thank you for coming – are also grateful for your support to his legacy and that they are moved as I am by your engagement.
Diogo Vasconcelos would have been proud of you and would certainly have been your first business partner!
One of the most positive things about social innovation is that it brings together two sides of the same coin: it offers solutions to help overcome current difficulties in our societies, while at the same time creating new jobs and opportunities, therefore supporting the development of our economies, through the new activities that it generates.
We chose the topic of the competition - ‘help people move towards work or into new types of work’ - to show that we can tap into everyone’s creativity to find innovative solutions for jobs and employment.
Start-ups across the spectrum have come: from start-ups for young people, to start-ups for social enterprises; from public sector programmes, to others with a more business angle. The diversity of proposals we received is a demonstration of how social innovation involves many different parts of our societies.
I am happy that we have succeeded what we set out to do with this year's competition: to stimulate ideas. Whether or not an idea is among our winners, I believe that they are all thoughtful and worthwhile. I very much hope and trust that they will all make it to implementation and achieve their ultimate aim: social innovation for jobs!
Social innovation indeed is part and parcel of our Europe 2020 strategy because it is rapidly developing as a driver for growth and jobs.
To take only few examples, with the recently adopted Social Investment package, we have put forward proposals to enhance social cohesion and restore inclusive growth by investing in human capital.
The single market is also a multiplier of social innovation and we have proposed tools to help social enterprises find new business opportunities.
And through the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, we bring a significant support to social digital innovation, which Diogo Vasconcelos himself did a lot to promote.
Just before announcing the three winners from our ten finalists, I would like to congratulate you all again for your work. I would also like to wish you all the very best for your projects and ideas, now and in the future.
Whether or not you go home with a prize, the high quality of your proposals will make it easier – we hope – to generate interest from potential backers. This is what we are aiming at.
This competition should not be seen as a one-off. We would like to stay in touch with you, and see how your projects and ideas develop. You are our best Ambassadors to promote social innovation in Europe!
Before turning to the award ceremony itself, I am very glad to announce that we will launch our next competition on 11 October this year, 2013, in Milan, in partnership with the Unicredit Foundation. I hope that we receive even more applications!
So I think now is the moment to announce the three winners. Let’s recall together who the ten finalists are and once again I wish you all the best of luck.
Thank you for your attention.