EC Establishes Innovation Union to Step Up R&D Efforts

The European Commission (EC) has established an Innovation Union, which according to an EC press announcement, will drive innovation and step up R&D efforts by using public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector and to remove bottlenecks [that] stop ideas [from] reaching the market.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EC commissioner for research, innovation and science along with Antonio Tajani, vice president responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, said in a press statement,"As we emerge from crisis in the teeth of fierce global competition, we face an innovation emergency. If we do not transform Europe into an Innovation Union, our economies will wither on the vine while ideas and talent go to waste. Innovation is the key to building sustainable growth and fairer and greener societies."

According to the EC, a recent study has shown that meeting the Europe 2020 target to increase R&D investments to 3% GDP could create 3.7 million jobs and increase the annual GDP by up to €795 billion by 2025; to do so also would require one million additional researchers.

Key elements of the Innovation Union concept will include enacting a pilot partnership on active and healthy aging by early 2011 with more partnerships to follow on areas such as energy, "smart" cities and mobility, water efficiency, non-energy raw materials and sustainable and productive agriculture. Further, the EC will: bring forward measures to improve access to finance; propose measures to improve coherence between European and national research policies; and launch a European Social Innovation pilot to provide expertise for social innovators and consult social partners on spreading the innovation economy to all occupational levels, among other measures. 

The EC 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 a year for innovations that improve public services. In early 2011, the group will make a legislative proposal to speed up and modernize standard-setting to enable interoperability and foster innovation. In addition, Europe's intellectual property regime will require modernization, which could save businesses €250 million a year.

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.

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