Research and Innovation

Sustainable economic growth is increasingly related to the capacity of regional economies to change and to innovate. This means that a much greater effort needs to be put into creating an environment that encourages innovation and research and development (R&D). The promotion of innovation is therefore a central feature in the Lisbon National Reform Programmes and a main priority for the new Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013.

Statistics confirm large disparities between EU Member States and regions in the fields of innovation and R&D and a persistent gap compared to its main competitors at global level. Europe needs to become more inventive, to react more quickly to changing market conditions and to consumer preferences and to become an innovation-friendly society and economy. However, this can only be achieved with a strategic approach involving partnership between the relevant business, research, education and public actors. The many key drivers of research and innovation are most effectively addressed at the regional level. Reducing the innovation deficit between European regions is therefore a key task for Cohesion Policy. In that context, it invests in four key elements: R&D and innovation; entrepreneurship; ICT take-up; and, human capital development. In addition, it fosters through the Regions for Economic Change initiative networking and mutual learning from the experiences of other regions in improving their innovation capacity, ICT connections and human capital or in giving their industrial clusters an innovative impulse.

Between 2007 and 2013, EU Cohesion Policy instruments will provide some €86.4 billion (almost 25% of the total) to R&D and innovation, including the mainstreaming of innovative actions and experimentation. Out of this total,

  • €50.5 billion will go to R&D and innovation in the narrow sense, including €10.2 billion to RTD infrastructure and centres of competence, €9 billion for investment in firms directly linked to research, €5.8 for R&TD activities in research centres, €5,7 billion for assistance to R&TD, particularly in SMEs, €5.6 billion for technology transfer and the improvement of cooperation of networks, €4.9 billion in developing human potential in the field of research and innovation and €2.6 billion to assistance to SMEs for the promotion of environmentally-friendly products and production processes;
  • €8.3 billion to entrepreneurship, including €5.2 billion for advanced support services for firms and €3.2 billion to support self-employment and business start-ups;
  • €13.2 billion to innovative information and communication technologies to foster the demand side of ICT, in particular €5.2 billion for services and applications for citizens (e-health, e-government, e-learning, e-inclusion, etc.) and €2.1 billion for Services and applications for SMEs (e-commerce, education and training, networking, etc.), and;
  • €14.5 billion to human capital, including €9.7 billion for the development of life-long learning systems and strategies in firms; training and services for employees to step up their adaptability to change, promoting entrepreneurship and change, €2.8 billion for the development of special services for employment, training and support in connection with restructuring and development of systems anticipating future skills needs and €1.9 billion for the design and dissemination of innovative and more productive ways of organising work.

These investments represent more than a tripling of absolute financial resources dedicated to innovation and R&D compared to the previous period (2000-2006). This amount also largely exceeds the budget of the 7th Framework Programme for Research (€50.5 billion) and of the Framework Programme for Competitiveness and Innovation (€3.6 billion).
The Commission encourages the Member States and regions, as well as enterprises, universities and research centres to optimise synergies of Cohesion Policy investments with these centrally managed EU programmes, in particular by providing guidance on the EU funding opportunities for research and innovation.


The regional impact of technological change in 2020

The regional impact of technological change in 2020

This study highlights the great diversity in development pathways and trajectories of innovation across European regions. A regional knowledge-based economy has multidimensional aspects. It includes a variety of knowledge activities and multiple interactions among a range of actors including universities, research institutes, enterprises, knowledge workers and institutions. The spatial patterns and trends for the different aspects of the knowledge-based economy vary significantly across Europe. Most aspects show convergence and generate catching-up processes, while some show divergence between European regions.

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