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 2021-2027, where at least €56,6 billion go towards innovation and research. Smart specialisation strategies mobilises the innovation potential of all EU regions.
The diffusion of top R&D results across economic sectors and EU borders and their transformation into innovation and marketable products and services is key for the EU economy. The EU, in fact, needs to be able to compete with other more advanced and emerging economies in a fast changing economic and social environment. The EU is a global leader in research in many fields. Well performing innovation systems are, however, found only in a few EU regions, while many others lag behind in terms of their R&I investments, capacity and performance. Europe’s highest performing regions are up to nine times more innovative than the least performing ones. The improvement of Member States and regions innovation capacity is done through Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3), that set priorities at national and/or regional level depending the characteristics and needs of the territory to increase their competitive advantage by developing and matching research and innovation strengths with business needs and necessary skills through an Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP).
Innovation 2021-2027 programming period
In the current programming period, investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will make Europe and its regions:
- More competitive and smarter;
- More green;
- More connected;
- More social;
- Closer to citizens.
Based on their prosperity, all regions and Member States will concentrate the support on a more competitive and smarter Europe (policy objective – PO1), as well as greener, low-carbon transitioning towards a net zero carbon economy and resilient Europe (PO2), through the mechanism of “thematic concentration”.
The support for research and innovation will build on smart specialisation strategies (S3) that reflect the strengths and assets of the regions concerned through a place-based approach. So far, the ERDF investments in innovation have supported over 185 smart specialisation strategies to have a greater and more sustainable impact on jobs and growth in the different regions.
In the 2021-2027 programming period, stronger emphasis is put on market orientation of research and innovation activities to support industrial transition to higher value added, future oriented activities, including services and primary production as well as value chains. Therefore, the focus of support is on applied research and the uptake of new technologies by firms, public administrations and citizens, particularly in relation to societal challenges such as climate change, digitalisation, or health.
Supply-side approaches will need to be accompanied by the diffusion of knowledge, technologies, and innovations. Specific focus is given to digitalisation as innovation enabler and on to the development of skills for smart specialisation. The choice of types of investment will be different in different categories of regions, depending on the maturity of their innovation eco-systems.
These investments will greatly contribute to closing the innovation divide which is persisting in Europe.
Driven by the internationalisation of innovation, the Commission proposed the Interregional Innovation Investments instrument (I3) under the ERDF, with a budget of €570 million over seven years to support the commercialization and scale-up of interregional innovation projects. The instrument will encourage the development of European value chains with a strong cohesion dimension as at least half of its budget is dedicated to less developed regions. In synergy with other programmes at the national and European levels, like Interreg Europe, Horizon Europe and the Single Market programme, it will mobilise additional investments and enhance cooperation among partners from the different Member States.
The I3 instrument is implemented under direct management by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA).
- EC Communication “Strengthening Innovation in Europe's Regions: Strategies for resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth” COM(2017) 376 final
- EC Communication “A new ERA for Research and Innovation” COM(2020) 628 final
- EC Communication “A renewed European Agenda for Research and Innovation - Europe's chance to shape its future” COM(2018) 306 final
- EC Communication “A New Industrial Strategy for Europe” COM(2020) 102 final
- EC Communication “An SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe” COM(2020) 103 final
- EC Communication “European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience” COM(2020) 274 final
- EC Communication “on a renewed EU agenda for higher education” COM(2017) 247 final
- Shaping Europe’s digital future
- RIS3 video
- RIS3 guide
- RIS3 Factsheet
- OECD report on broad-based innovation policy for all regions and cities
- OECD report on Regions in Industrial Transition: Policies for People and Places
- Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation
- All Publications
- Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2021
- European Regional Competitiveness Index
- Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU 2020
- European Research Area for Research and Innovation
- European Commission - Research and innovation
- Policy Learning Database
- Seal of Excellence
- Stairway to Excellence
- ESIF Open Data Portal
- Research and Innovation for the European Green Deal
- Interregional Innovation Investments instrument (I3) - European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA)
- Interregional Innovation Investments instrument (I3) - Regional Policy - European Commission (europa.eu)
- Research and innovation
- Information and communication technologies
- SME competitiveness
- Low carbon economy