October 6th 2011 marks the first anniversary of the Innovation Union (IU) flagship initiative, one of the cornerstones of the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs (IP/10/1288). Over the course of the past year a number of key milestones and been reached which are summarised below. <br/>
Recognition of the importance of innovation and of the IU flagship initiative
On 4 February 2011, at the first European Council to place innovation at the top of the political agenda, EU leaders recognised that the Innovation Union initiative is an economic strategy that is crucial for our future economies. They gave strong backing to a series of proposals to turn the EU into a true Innovation Union.
Horizon 2020 – increasing investment in research, innovation and education under a single and simple framework
In February 2011, the Commission launched a wide consultation on major improvements to EU research and innovation funding to make participation easier, increase scientific and economic impact and improve value for money. On 30 November the Commission will present its proposal for the new Horizon 2020 programme which will bring existing financial instruments for supporting research and innovation within a common structure. The Commission is proposing a budget of €80 billion for the period 2014- 2020.
In February 2011, the Commission adopted measures to make participation in the current EU research framework programme (FP7) more attractive and more accessible to the best researchers and most innovative companies, especially Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Further measures to make participation in EU support programmes are being discussed with the Council and the European Parlament.
Focusing EU research funding on innovation and grand challenges
In July 2011, the European Commission announced nearly €7 billion to kick-start innovation through research with new calls for proposals under the current EU research framework programme (FP7). This will be achieved by providing more support than ever before for activities that help bridge the gap between research and the market, for example by demonstrating that new technologies have commercial potential or can work on a sufficiently large scale to be industrially viable.
The first European Innovation Partnership (EIP)
As set out in the Innovation Union initiative, the Commission has launched the first European Innovation Partnership, a novel concept to speed up breakthrough innovations by pooling resources around a compelling and inspiring challenge, bringing quick benefits to citizens. The pilot EIP on active and healthy ageing aims to add two healthy years to our average lifespan. The experience gained in setting up this pilot will pave the way for other partnerships.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) driving competitiveness
The EIT has successfully completed its initial phase, which was dedicated to setting up the EIT decision making and executive functions, as well as the operational arm, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). It has been successful in reaching its core objective: the integration of the entire innovation chain, bringing together higher education institutions, research organisations and businesses in new types of partnerships, operating in the areas of sustainable energy (InnoEnergy KIC), climate change (Climate KIC) and future information and communication society (EIT ICT Labs). After less than a year of activity, the first concrete results are already visible both in terms of business creation (five start-ups since January 2011) and a first EIT-backed Masters' course organised by InnoEnergy, with 155 students.
Facilitating access to finance
Access to finance remains one of the biggest barriers for innovative companies. By the end of this year, the European Commission will put forward a proposal for an EU-wide venture capital scheme, building on the capacity of the European Investment Fund (EIF), other financial institutions and national operators.
Delivering the European Research Area
For the first time, EU leaders have set a deadline for the completion of the European Research Area, to increase transnational collaboration, avoid duplication of efforts and have the best brains work together in Europe. At the February European Council, they called for the resolution outstanding big-ticket items and the completion of ERA by 2014. In September, the European Commission launched a wide-ranging public consultation on ERA, which will close in November, to identify the main outstanding issues that need tackling.
Towards unitary European patent protection
The Innovation Union emphasised the urgency of reaching agreement on the EU patent, which is so important for companies working in Europe. On 13 April 2011, the Commission adopted proposals to create a unitary European patent under enhanced cooperation.
Speeding up and modernising standard-setting
The Innovation Union aims to speed up the development of open and affordable standards: Europe is too slow at agreeing new standards to keep pace with rapid developments in technology. In June this year, the Commission presented a standardisation package with the aim to modernise our policies and legislation so that they better support innovation.
Making more strategic use of public procurement
The public sector in the EU has the potential to stimulate innovation through smarter public procurement. The European Commission has already launched a pilot call for proposals under the current EU Research Framework Programme and a feasibility study to consider the design of a support scheme for public procurement for research and innovation. Horizon 2020 will also contain significant incentives to encourage Member States to do more in the field of innovative procurement. By the end of this year, the Commission will present a communication on modernising the EU public procurement framework. In response to a recent consultation to prepare this communication, stakeholders advocated further promotion and stimulation of innovation through public procurement.
A new scoreboard to monitoring innovation performance
Since 2001 the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) has been providing annual assessments of innovation performance across the EU. The 2010 edition published in February 2011 marks the debut of the new Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS) to support the Innovation Union initiative. This Innovation Union Scoreboard provides a better picture of the EU's overall situation. International comparability, in particular, has been improved and the scoreboard also closely integrates research and innovation to help monitor the implementation of the Innovation Union.
A smart specialisation platform to help all regions make the best of their strengths
In June 2011, the Commission launched the "smart specialisation platform" to support regions and Member States in better defining their research and innovation strategies. As there is no "one-size-fits-all" policy solution, the new facility will help the regions to assess their specific Research and Innovation (R&I) strengths and weaknesses and build on their competitive advantage.
A strategy for Intellectual Property Rights
In May 2011, the Commission set out a "blueprint" for Intellectual Property Rights to boost creativity and innovation. The objective of this strategy is to enable inventors, creators, users and consumers to adapt to the new circumstances and to enhance new business opportunities. The new rules will strike the right balance between promoting creation and innovation, in part by ensuring reward and investment for creators and, on the other hand, promoting the widest possible access to goods and services protected by IPR.
Launch of the Social Innovation Europe initiative
In March 2011, the Commission launched the Social Innovation Europe initiative. Non-technological innovation – innovation in business models, processes, and design and workplace practices – is becoming a key driver of growth and employment.
A comprehensive progress report will be published by the end of November.