Research and Innovation
Sustainable growth is increasingly related to the capacity of regional economies to innovate and transform, adapting to an ever changing and more competitive environment. This means that a much greater effort needs to be put into creating the eco-systems that encourage innovation, research and development (R&D) and entrepreneurship, as stressed by the Europe 2020 strategy and its Innovation Union flagship initiative.
The promotion of innovation is therefore a central feature in the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013, where about €86.4 billion or nearly 25% of the total allocation go towards innovation in the wider sense. This commitment is further strengthened in the new 2014-2020 programming period, where 30% of the total allocations are going to be deployed for innovation in the wider sense. In the future, smart specialisation strategies will also mobilise the innovation potential of all EU regions.
Macro-economic research points out that innovation contributes between two-thirds and four-fifths of economic growth in developed countries. In other words, about 85% of productivity growth in advanced economies is driven by innovation. However, statistics confirm large disparities between EU Member States and regions in the fields of innovation and R&D as well as a persistent gap compared to its main competitors at global level. Europe needs to become more inventive, reacting more quickly to changing market conditions and consumer preferences in order to become an innovation-friendly society and economy.
The 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, among others, in five key elements: Research and innovation, SME competitiveness, ICT take-up, Energy efficiency and renewable energy and Human capital development. Given the limited resources available, it is important to have a strategic approach in the form of a national and/or regional smart specialisation strategy (RIS3) bringing together the relevant business, research, education and public actors to develop and implement strategies that focus their resources on a limited number of areas with competitive advantages.
Innovation expenditure 2007-2013
Between 2007 and 2013, EU Cohesion Policy instruments provided 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:
- €52.8 billion goes to R&D and innovation in the narrow sense, including
- €11.2 billion to RTD infrastructure and centres of competence,
- €10.3 billion for investment in firms directly linked to research,
- €5.9 for R&D activities in research centres,
- €5,4 billion for assistance to R&D, particularly in SMEs,
- €4.9 billion for technology transfer and the improvement of cooperation of networks,
- €5.4 billion in developing human potential in the field of research and innovation
- €1.9 billion to assistance to SMEs for the promotion of environmentally-friendly products and production processes;
- €8.4 billion to entrepreneurship, including
- €5.3 billion for advanced support services for firms
- €3.1 billion to support self-employment and business start-ups: more information
- €12.2 billion to innovative information and communication technologies to foster the demand side of ICT, including
- €5.2 billion for services and applications for citizens (e-health, e-government, e-learning, e-inclusion, etc.)
- €1.5 billion for services and applications for SMEs (e-commerce, education and training, networking, etc.), more information
- €12.7 billion to human capital, including
- €8.5 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,
- €2.6 billion for the development of special services for employment, training and support in connection with restructuring and development of systems anticipating future skills needs
- €1.6 billion for the design and dissemination of innovative and more productive ways of organising work.
These investments represent more than triple 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 the Cohesion Policy investments with these centrally managed EU programmes, in particular by providing guidance on the EU funding opportunities for research and innovation.
Preparation for the 2014-2020 programming period
Innovation and research investments are expected to further increase in the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy programmes. In the next period, investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will be concentrated on 4 key thematic priorities: innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and the low-carbon economy.
The ERDF investments in innovation will be used to support the implementation of smart specialisation strategies (RIS3) to have a greater and more sustainable impact on jobs and growth in the different regions. Further guidance on the development of these RIS3 is available at the RIS3 fact sheet and RIS3 guide. To provide (pro)active support to Member States and regions who develop their RIS3 a 'Smart Specialisation Platform' has been set up: More than 140 countries and regions have already registered in this S3Platform (October 2013) to learn among peers on how to develop, implement and monitor their RIS3 and explore possibilities for cooperation. In addition experts are at the disposal of those regions who need specific support (if you would like to register as expert, please contact REGIO-G1-HEAD-OF-UNIT@ec.europa.eu; to register as expert: AMI list.
The Commission encourages to enhance synergies and complementarities of the ESI fund investments with Horizon2020, COSME, and other relevant EU programmes.
- RIS3 video
- The regional impact of technological change in 2020: Synthesis Report
- RIS3 guide
- RIS3 Factsheet
- Draft guidance on ex-ante conditionalities Part I - Part II
- Thematic guidance on R&I related policy and support tools, e.g. related to incubators, SME support, service innovation, eco-innovation, the role of universities in regional growth, creative industries and innovation, etc.
- OECD report on smart specialisation
- Cohesion Policy support for the circular economy
- All Publications
- Strategic report 2013 on the implementation of the current round of programmes 2007-2013
- Strategic report 2013: Factsheet "Innovation and RTD"
- European Commission - Research
- Innovation funding for SMEs and researchers
- Innovation Union
- Regional innovation scoreboard and monitor
- Policy Learning Database
- Research and innovation
- Information and communication technologies
- SME competitiveness
- Low carbon economy