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East Meets West on Innovation & Entrepreneurship

01.09.2012 Speech by Mr. Georgios Markopouliotis, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, on behalf of Mr. Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy, on Saturday, 1 September 2012, 19:00 at the University of Cyprus, Nicosia.

Your Excellency, Mr Demetris Christofias, President of the Republic of Cyprus,
Dear Rector of the University of Cyprus, dear Mr Christofides,
Dear President of the Council of the European Office of Cyprus, dear Mr Mavronicolas
Dear Chairman of the Organizing Committee, dear Mr Makrides,

On behalf of Mr Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy, I would like to thank you for the invitation to address the opening ceremony of the East Meets West Congress on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Cyprus is truly a perfect place to host an event of this kind; its location at a cross-road works ideally to support networking between East and West. Moreover, Cypriots have a long history of successful international entrepreneurship and innovation.

Speaking on behalf of the European Commissioner for Energy, I will talk about the relationship between energy, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Energy powers the functioning of today's modern world but, at the same time, some of the greatest global challenges we face are directly or indirectly related to energy. Global energy demand is rising drastically, exacerbated by emerging economies such as those of India and China. The paramount significance of bringing forth new sustainable ways to power the lives of 7 billion people is today clearly understood from East to West. And it is on innovation and entrepreneurship that we rely on, to come up with the ideas and take the initiatives that we will need. We need new ideas to address the ever growing energy demand as the world develops, brilliant initiatives towards cleaner technologies in energy consumption, ingenious ways for sustainable and safe exploitation of the Earth's raw energy reserves. This combination of talent and initiative is what has always driven forward the element of change for the better that we continually seek for our societies.

That is why from the United States to Europe, to China, investments and policies are directed at nurturing innovation and fostering entrepreneurship in energy technologies. These investments will be key in unlocking the potential of human talent and finding the solutions of the future. Innovation has been placed at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy as Europe's competitiveness and capacity to create new jobs depends on driving innovation in products and services. An innovation edge in the field of electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power is competitively pursued around the world. Innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainability have an unlimited energizing potential for economies.

The energy system is, as we said, the backbone of our modern world but real hope for overcoming the many challenges ahead lies in putting our heads together through active and successful international collaboration.

International cooperation both within the European Union and beyond helps finding the responses to the challenges ahead And these past few months have been rich in examples of collaborative partnerships being considered between the EU and its partners.

A month ago, also here in Nicosia, prospects were explored for better cooperation in research and innovation between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours during the informal Competitiveness Council on research. European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Ms Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, stated that the recent changes in the Southern Mediterranean region called for a renewed partnership which would develop a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space.

A little earlier, on May 3, the EU Commission announced a new China-EU Partnership on Urbanisation.

This latest initiative builds on an established cooperation in the last few decades between China and the EU in the fields of renewable energy and brings together decision makers and politicians from the EU and China, including from the local and municipal level.

The third example for better cooperation that I would like to cite is the  Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership, which brings together cities, industry and the financial sector and aims at fostering innovation and uptake of solutions for cleaner and smarter cities. The Partnership in particular aims to integrate the sectors of energy, transport and ICT in urban contexts and that offers a huge potential for business to achieve social and economic change. It will support existing and future EU initiatives for urban areas in the field of resource efficiency, water, waste, pollution, green infrastructures as well as climate policies.

Demand for clean energy, clean fuel and energy efficiency is clearly going to explode; it can well be the next great global industry.

The development of renewable energy is one of Europe's success stories worth emulating in other fields: starting with a rather marginal role in the early 2000s, renewable energy today is contributing almost 13% of the EU's final energy consumption. Our Europe 2020 policy targets have brought focus and action: barriers to renewable energy are being removed, infrastructure is being developed and the necessary support is being provided. Some of the 27 Member States are actually already producing more energy from renewables than originally planned!

Investment in renewables has already created at least 1 million jobs in Europe. A steady continuation of this trend could lead to up to 3 million jobs in the sector in 2020.

Innovation and entrepreneurship have been key components of this European success story. In the last thirty years, electricity demand has risen by 70%. And freight transport more than doubled in the 1980's and 1990's. These developments were only possible because of major advances in energy efficiency and clean energy technology. The role of our researchers and our entrepreneurs, who took great risks by pushing forward innovative solutions, was crucial to this end.

The European Union supports them by providing an arsenal of options that facilitates and encourages their work. The 7th Framework Programme for Research - which runs from 2007 to 2013 - has a special energy angle, with €2.35 billion earmarked for this cause. It supports researchers and projects that create and establish the technologies necessary to adapt the current energy system into a more sustainable, competitive and secure one. Its objective is to depend less on imported fuels and use a diverse mix of energy sources, in particular renewables, energy carriers and non-polluting sources.

The Intelligent Energy Europe programme, launched in 2003 by the European Commission, is less about research and innovation, but more about market barriers and technology uptake – which is eqully important sometimes. The programme offers a helping hand to organisations willing to improve energy sustainability and has To date, supported over 500 projects with more than 3.000 beneficiaries, most of which are small and medium enterprises all over Europe.  

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. And we do not stop here. In the next Multiannual Financial Framework, that is the EU's budget for the period 2014-2020 that totals over €1 trillion, we strengthen the interlinked pillars of innovation and energy. Under Horizon 2020, the successor of the 7th Framework Programme for Research, the European Commission has proposed to earmark almost €18 billion to strengthen our industrial leadership in innovation. This includes major investment in key technologies, greater access to capital and support for SMEs. Moreover, we plan to provide approximately €31.8 billion to help address major concerns shared by all Europeans such as climate change, developing sustainable transport and mobility and making renewable energy more affordable.

To that end, the role of the Cyprus Presidency will be invaluable since it will handle the negotiations on the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework. The EU - its Member States, citizens and regions - need smart investments and the budget at European level is the most important instrument for investment in Europe. It is not a budget for some Member States; it is a budget for our regions, for our researchers, for our innovators and for our entrepreneurs. It is a budget for growth.

Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In energy and climate, Europe leads the world. That should be the case for innovation and entrepreneurship too. After all, these concepts are mutually reinforcing. Manufacturing clean technologies and promoting clean energies is not primarily a matter of increasing wealth, but much more importantly, a matter of maintaining our collective health. Our fight for clean air, energy security and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change depends on our strive for innovation and entrepreneurship. I want to welcome our foreign guests in Cyprus and wish to all a fruitful - and innovative - congress.

Thank you.

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