EU launches ambitious new 10-point innovation plan

The European Commission has launched an ambitious 10-point innovation plan which calls for urgent action at regional, national and European levels and across a range of policy areas.

The plan was produced following a request from the European heads of governments' Spring Summit for a 'broad based innovation strategy for Europe that translates investments in knowledge into produces and services.' The content of the plan is based on the guiding work of Finland's former Prime Minster Esko Aho, and is a slimmed-down version of the expert group's report 'Creating an Innovative Europe' chaired by Mr Aho and published in January 2006 but with a few added extras.

The resulting document, entitled 'Putting knowledge into practice: A broad-based innovation strategy for the EU,' will be discussed by the heads of government at their informal meeting in Finland on 20 October.

In the plan, the Commission calls for 'political leadership and decisive action' from the EU Member States and acceding countries, and calls on them to tweak their economic policies and make the other structural reforms necessary to make the 10-point plan more easily implemented.

'Structural change must not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity to become more competitive,' said Günter Verheugen, European Commissioner for enterprise and industry policy. 'Europe needs to become a truly knowledge-based and innovation-friendly society, where innovation is not feared but welcomed, is not hindered but encouraged; where it is part of our society's core values and seen to work for the benefit of all citizens.'

A high priority for the Commission is the creation of innovation-friendly 'lead-markets'. This will involve using combinations of innovation and related policy instruments to remove obstacles to the creation and marketing of new innovative products, and stimulating market demand for them. Markets identified by the expert Aho-group as of particular attention include e-health, pharmaceuticals, energy, environment, transport and logistics, security, and digital content.

In line with this objective, the Commission, with the help of the European Technology Platforms, will carry out a detailed analysis of the barriers which are currently holding back the take-up of new technologies, especially in areas of public interest such as the environment, health and security.

This analysis will form the basis for a comprehensive strategy on lead markets, and the concept will be tested in a few pilot areas in 2007. However, the Commission cannot do this on its own; 'The decisive step that will make a real difference is the full political commitment from all relevant actors to help identify and remove potential barriers to the emergence of innovation-friendly markets,' the plan notes. 'The Commission will steer this process and foster cooperation towards a common agenda.' The Commission also hopes to stimulate demand for innovative products through procurement policies.

Another sector targeted by the plan is education. 'First and foremost, without education as a core policy, innovation will remain unsupported,' the Commission writes. 'It must promote talent and creativity from an early stage.' According to the plan, 'key competencies necessary for living and working in a modern innovation-oriented society' include entrepreneurial skills, literacy, scientific and mathematical competence, languages, learning-to-learn skills, social and cultural competences and digital literacy.

In the research world, the plan calls for greater mobility of researchers, both between countries and between sectors and the establishment of better research-industry links. It makes the proposed European Institute of Technology (EIT) one of the 10 recommendations. The European Commission believes that the EIT forms an essential part of the overall EU drive for innovation by linking centres of excellence around Europe, and so push for ever more innovation. The Commission will put forward a proposal on this in October.

The Commission also promises to reform R&D and innovation state aid rules and provide better guidance for R&D tax incentives. It is hoped that this will significantly boost European companies' R&D investments, which currently lag far behind those of their American and Japanese counterparts.

On Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), in 2006 the Commission promises to launch a new patent strategy establishing affordable patent procedures. This will be followed in 2007 by a comprehensive IPR strategy.

Other issues highlighted for action in the plan include copyright levies on digital products and services and the role of EU cohesion funds in promoting regional innovation.

'We can do much more to foster innovation as a driver for growth of the European economy. The latest figures show once again the value added that a coherent Community wide approach to innovation would bring,' commented European Commission President José Manual Barroso. 'Together with the Finnish Presidency, we hope to reach consensus on this concrete programme of actions at the informal Summit next month.'

The 10 points in full:

  • establish innovation-friendly education systems;
  • establish a European institute of Technology;
  • develop a single labour market for researchers;
  • strengthen links between researchers and industry;
  • nurture regional innovation through the new cohesion policy programmes;
  • reform State aid rules for R&D and innovation and provide better guidance for R&D tax incentives;
  • improve protection for intellectual property rights;
  • copyright levies for digital products and services;
  • develop a strategy for innovation-friendly 'lead-markets';
  • stimulate innovation through public and private procurement.

This new 10-point plan builds on the many proposals, plans and schemes already tabled for re-vamping the EU economy. Lisbon goals aside, the Seventh Framework Programme, part of the EU's upcoming and agreed financial perspectives, and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme are all designed to grow the EU economy.

For more information on the strategy, please visit:
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/index_en.htm
For more information on European Technology Platforms, please visit:
http://cordis.europa.eu/technology-platforms/home_en.html

Copyright ©European Communities, 2006
Neither the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, nor any person acting on its behalf, is responsible for the use, which might be made of the attached information. The attached information is drawn from the Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS). The CORDIS services are carried on the CORDIS Host in Luxembourg – http://cordis.europa.eu.int. Access to CORDIS is currently available free-of-charge.

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