From ideas to growth, Europe presents flagship initiative "Innovation Union"

European Union initiative "Innovation Union" has been put forward with the aim to turn ideas into jobs, green growth and social progress. The strategy will tackle burdens faced by innovation in Europe in sectors such as lack of finance, fragmented research systems and markets, under-use of public procurement for innovation and slow standard setting.

The European Commission presented on 6 October the flagship initiative "Innovation Union" establishing a strategic approach to innovation, driven by the highest political level. In the presentation of the strategy commissioners in charge for Research, Innovation and Science, and Industry and Entrepreneurship, highlighted the need for the Union to concentrate efforts on innovation in order to emerge from crisis faster and increase competitiveness in a global environment.

Data released by a recent study analysing the costs of a non-innovative Europe, show that meeting the Europe 2020 target of increasing R&D investment to 3% of GDP could create 3.7 million jobs and increase annual GDP by up to 795 billion Euro by 2025. For that purpose it is estimated that 1 million extra researchers will be needed.

Research and innovation in Europe face some challenges which burden the access of ideas to market. Some of these obstacles include lack of finance, fragmented research systems and markets, under-use of public procurement for innovation and slow standard setting. The Innovation Union is a "flagship" in the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Ten key elements in the Innovation Union

  1. European Innovation Partnerships will mobilise stakeholders, European, national and regional, public and private, behind well-defined goals in areas which combine tackling societal challenges with potential for Europe to become a world leader.
  2. The Commission has assembled 25 indicators in an "Innovation Union Scoreboard", and a checklist of the features of successful innovation systems. A new indicator will be developed on the share of fast-growing innovative companies in the economy. The Commission will support an independent ranking system for universities.
  3. The Commission will bring forward measures to improve access to finance. It will propose a cross-border venture capital regime, work with the European Investment Bank to scale up EU schemes like the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility and appoint a leading figure to strengthen cross-border matching of innovative firms with investors.
  4. Existing research initiatives will be stepped up. The Commission will propose measures to complete the European Research Area by 2014. This means more coherence between European and national research policies, cutting red tape and removing obstacles to researchers' mobility, as well as maximising open access to results of publicly-funded research. FP8 will be designed to support Europe 2020.
  5. The Commission will set up in 2011 a European Design Leadership Board and a European Design Excellence Label.
  6. The Commission will launch in 2011 a major research programme on public sector and social innovation and pilot a European Public Sector Innovation Scoreboard.
  7. The Commission proposes that governments set aside dedicated budgets for public procurement of innovative products and services. This should create a procurement market worth at least 10 billion Euro a year for innovations that improve public services. The Commission will offer guidance on joint procurements between contracting entities from different Member States.
  8. In early 2011, the Commission will make a legislative proposal to speed up and modernise standard-setting to enable interoperability and foster innovation.
  9. Europe's intellectual property regime needs to be modernised. Agreement on the EU Patent would save business 250 million Euro a year. The Commission will in 2011 make proposals for a European knowledge market for patents and licensing.
  10. Structural funding and state aid frameworks will be reviewed to boost innovation. The Commission will assist Member States to use better the € 86 billion of structural funds programmed for research and innovation for 2007-13. It will propose a framework for post 2013 Structural Funds with more focus on innovation. In 2011 it will review the state aid framework.

The Innovation Union will be discussed at the Competitiveness Council on 12 October and at the European Council in December. Progress will be monitored as part of the governance of the Europe 2020 Strategy. An annual Innovation Convention will discuss the state of the Innovation Union.