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. Innovation is thus key to a range of Commission priorities, in particular the European Green Deal, an economy that works for people, and making Europe fit for the digital age.
The promotion of innovation is a central feature in the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2014-2020, where about €65 billion go towards innovation and research. Some 30% of the total Cohesion Policy allocations are invested in innovation in the wider sense. Smart specialisation strategies mobilises 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, ICT take-up, SME competitiveness, skills development, energy efficiency and renewable energy . 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 2014-2020 programming period
In the current programming period, investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) are concentrated on 4 key thematic priorities: innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the low-carbon economy. The ERDF investments in innovation are being used to support the implementation of the over 120 smart specialisation strategies (S3) to have a greater and more sustainable impact on jobs and growth in the different regions . The S3 strategies were drawn up in entrepreneurial discovery processes, involving business, research, public bodies and civil society. Smart specialisation has turn the diversity of our territories into strength by building on the specific assets in each region or Member State. It also helped to understand that the success of investment in innovation depends on how well public, private, research bodies and businesses work together.
To provide support to Member States and regions who develop and implement their S3 the 'Smart Specialisation Platform' has been set up: More than 180 countries and regions have registered in this S3Platform to learn among peers on how to develop, implement and monitor their S3 and explore possibilities for cooperation.. The S3Platform provides guidance, opportunities for peer-learning, and tools, such as the Eye@RIS3 database on the smart specialisation priorities in Europe, which shows that 33% of S3 priorities concern digital transformation and 51% relate to sustainable transformations related to the Green Deal.
The S3Platform also facilitates the work of 33 interregional partnerships gathered in 3 thematic smart specialisation platforms (industrial modernisation, agri-food and energy), and implements pilot actions (support for lagging regions, Romania, Stairway to Excellence) proposed by the European Parliament.
As a follow-up to the Communication on Strengthening Innovation in Europe's Regions – Strategies for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth (2017), two pilot actions were launched:
- The pilot for “Interregional innovation partnerships” complements the efforts of the thematic smart specialisation platforms in accelerating the commercialisation and scale-up activities of the 9 selected partnerships (marine renewable energy, sustainable buildings, bio-economy, 3D-printing, De&Re-manufacturing for circular economy, cybersecurity, traceability and big data, high-tech farming, and in 2018, as part of the EU Battery Alliance and the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries, a partnership on advanced materials on batteries). The pilot is part of the broader reflection for the post-2020 mechanisms to help develop and test jointly new ways to commercialise and scale-up interregional innovation projects to reshape European value chains, help attract private investment, and strengthen synergies. It also feeds into the preparation of the new interregional innovation investment instrument under the 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy funds.
- The pilot for “Industrial Transition” in ten regions and 2 countries received support by experts and the OECD to develop a comprehensive strategy for economic transformation, building on their smart specialisation strategies, a broad innovation concept, and addressing globalisation, automation, decarbonisation, emerging and digital technologies, skills and investment. The lessons learnt from the pilot help to test new approaches to industrial transition and provide evidence to underpin post-2020 policies and programmes. See OECD report “Regions in Industrial Transition: policies for people and places” (2019).
The Commission also encourages to enhance synergies and complementarities of the ESI fund investments with Horizon2020, COSME, and other relevant EU programmes.
- Smart Regions 3.0 conference
- EC Communication “Strengthening Innovation in Europe’s Regions: Strategies for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth.” COM(2017) 376 Final and accompanying staff working document SWD (2017) 264 Final
- Brochure “Regions in industrial transition: no region left behind”
- 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
- Staff Working Document
- All Publications
- 2016 Synthesis of Evaluation Results and Plans under the ESIF Programmes 2014-2020
- 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
- Seal of Excellence
- Stairway to Excellence
- ESIF Open Data Portal 2014-2020
- Research and innovation
- Information and communication technologies
- SME competitiveness
- Low carbon economy
- Evaluation of investments in Research and Technological Development (RTD) infrastructures and activities supported by the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) in the period 2007-2013
- Where does the EU cohesion policy produce its impact? Simulations with a regional dynamic general equilibrium model