...over the last 8 years, more than 5,000 SMEs benefited from research projects through which EU universities and research centres provide them with technological research solutions to their problems? These cooperative and collective research projects are more than 60% financed by the EU. On average, 1 euro invested by SMEs in such projects has yielded 5.7 euros in return after five years!
Part of the EU’s money goes on promoting innovation and making the European economy more competitive. Giorgio has worked in two areas crucial for success: research, which promotes competitiveness, and social policy, which helps European citizens take advantage of change.
Giorgio was born in Turin, Italy, in 1963. His job is to promote the cooperation between national research programmes in life sciences.
Giorgio is a second-generation Commission official: ‘Like Obelix, I fell into the potion as a child,’ he says, though he initially became a biomedical researcher, thinking that better suited to his desire to bring about change and innovation.
However, by age 29, he was in the Commission and running its €60 million biomaterial research budget. Having experienced at first hand the lack of resources available to European researchers compared with those in the United States and Japan, ‘I was now able to help 100 Giorgios’.
Next came a research programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ‘SMEs tended to see the Commission as putting obstacles in the way of their development, but our programmes showed we could offer them opportunities to find technologies to solve their problems.’
Just over 10 years after joining the Commission, Giorgio moved to the department for employment and social affairs, where he ran the communication unit. ‘This is the area that, for me, is the EU’s biggest challenge — creating an innovative, dynamic economy in an ageing society. The European model is about solidarity. Social policies are a productive factor, giving opportunities to all citizens and ensuring that change does not leave people behind. For example, the European Social Fund plays a vital role in steering change and helping even the less competitive take advantage of change.’
In the meantime, the challenge of keeping up with the United States and Japan in research and development had not gone away. In early 2005, Giorgio moved back into this field, this time promoting closer cooperation between the national ministries and agencies which fund public research, so as to exploit economies of scale.