Innovation policy is one of the cornerstones of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy, the new plan to boost Europe’s competitiveness and restore economic growth. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s blueprint for Europe 2020, a major agenda item for the EU leaders summit on 25-26 March, lists smart growth as one of three mutually reinforcing priorities, alongside sustainable growth and inclusive growth.
Innovation is addressed directly and indirectly by two of the five targets around which Europe 2020 is structured. First, there is a target for member states to spend 3% of their gross domestic product on research and development (R&D). Second, at least 40% of young people should be educated to degree or diploma level.
Innovation is also targeted directly as one of the seven “flagship initiatives”. The aim of this “innovation union” is to “improve framework conditions and access to finance for research and innovation” to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs. R&D and innovation policy should be refocused on the main policy challenges for the EU: climate change, energy, and resource efficiency, health and demographic change. The strategy calls for a strengthening of every link in the innovation chain, from ‘blue sky’ research to commercialisation.
European Research Area
Specifically, the strategy calls for the European Research Area to be completed and for member states and regions to work more closely together on programming of their research activities. Framework conditions need improving to encourage business innovation, including a single EU patent and a specialised patent court. The regime for copyright and trademarks should be modernised and made more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses, according to the strategy. The roll-out of interoperable standards should be speeded up and the potential of demand-side policies such as public procurement and smart regulation should be maximised.
The strategy calls for the creation of European Innovation Partnerships to speed up the development and deployment of new technologies, by linking the EU and national levels. The first three partnerships will focus on building the bio-economy by 2020, stimulating ‘key enabling technologies’ to shape Europe’s industrial future, and developing technologies to allow older people to live independently.
EU structural funds and the research framework programmes should be developed to support innovation, including closer co-operation with the European Investment Bank. Administrative procedures should be streamlined to make access to funding easier. And innovative incentive mechanisms linked to the carbon market are to be created.
Other plans include strengthening links between education, business, research and innovation, including the European Institute for Innovation and Technology, and more energetic promotion of entrepreneurship.
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