The European Union (EU) needs to step up its innovation, according to Janez Potočnik, EU science and research commissioner. In an interview with EurActiv, Potočnik stressed the need for the EU to improve the speed with which it transforms research into commercial products.
Potočnik finds the transition from innovation to product to be a problem for the EU, noting in the report that while the EU is relatively strong in creating knowledge and in research itself, the transferral of this knowlege to products—while not weak or bad—could be better.
He could not pinpoint the reason for the gap from innovation to product creation. However, he suggested looking at the overall "innovation climate," to resolve the issue, which would entail examining the attractiveness of the EU market, how much uptake it gets, and what instruments it has from risk and venture capital.
According to Potočnik, some European countries are innovating more than others. For example, Nordic states are at the top of innovation while others are struggling to innovate. Potočnik also noted that Europe is receiving stronger competition from Asia, specifically from China, South Korea and India.
One way the EU is working to improve its innovation is through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The institute was created in April 2008 and aimed to be a flagship research university for excellence in higher education, research and innovation. "First calls for proposals were launched. It still remains to be seen how the knowledge and innovation communities will work, but I have a lot of hope for these projects on the EU level," commented Potočnik in the report.
Potočnik also mentioned the European Research Council as a possible source of innovation, noting that this new instrument is breaking some of the barriers that existed in Europe and that these activities will change the EU's reality.
A recession is a good opportunity for change, according to Potočnik, who commented in the report that a crisis is the best time to do the things that are needed but could not be done before due to a lack in political will or courage, or interests in other areas.
Potočnik closed by maintaining that the EU should emerge from the recession prepared for future competition in innovation. He suggested considering what type of consumption and what type of innovation could relate to the climate change, energy, future pandemics and so on. Potočnik also believes the environmentally responsible market is a major market of opportunity.