1. A Sustainable Europe

1.3 Addressing global challenges through R&I

R&I is a cornerstone for a robust European project in a global context. It fosters sustainable development across different dimensions: people, planet and prosperity.

R&I is helping to address global challenges and is key to delivering on the SDGs.

R&I can provide solutions to overcome the challenges we face; it can enable us to better understand our world; and it can make our society more resilient in the long term.

In the context of accelerating digitalisation, R&I solutions are also needed to mitigate the environmental footprint of ICT and artificial intelligence, improving, for example, the energy efficiency of data centres, high-performance computers, and telecommunications infrastructure.

The EU is already performing strongly in several areas, leading technological progress in the fields of energy, climate, environment, food and bioeconomy.

It is crucial that the EU maintains and reinforces leadership in key areas to successfully deliver on the SDGs.

The interconnection between social, economic and environmental issues calls for a deep transformation of our systems, in particular agro-food, energy and transport systems.

This sustainability transformation is an unprecedented governance challenge at all levels, from local to global. It results from the combined effect of the urgency, the scale of the necessary transformations, the complexity and the interdependence of issues in the context of fragility and unpredictability.

The European Green Deal provides a strategy to make the EU economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas.

However, the European Green Deal will only be possible with a highly ambitious agenda linking research, innovation and investments with reforms and regulation that mobilises a collective response across Commission services, Member States, regions, companies of all sizes, academia and the public.

To deliver on the Green Deal, EU R&I policy should shift to a transformative policy.

A transformative agenda will set a direction for investments, reforms and regulation to stimulate the emergence and diffusion of knowledge and (radical) solutions for the transformation towards sustainability.

A transformative innovation policy can become a compass helping the EU to navigate the complexities of our world and to co-create a common direction, as a key enabler of the European process for SDG policy coordination.

However, this is not an easy task: a transformative innovation policy involves several policy challenges, such as synergies between policies, co-creation, involving a wider set of actors and ensuring the diffusion of radical innovation into the market and society.

Horizon Europe, the EU R&I Framework Programme for 2021-2027, is a key part of an EU transformative policy. It will continue to create new knowledge and solutions to attain the SDGs and will provide greater directionality through its mission-oriented approach (on, for example, climate change, healthy oceans, climate-neutral and smart cities, and soil health and food) and European Partnerships.

Mobilising research and innovation for the European Green Deal

Mobilising research and innovation for the European Green Deal
Source: DG Research and Innovation, adapted from Communication on the European Green Deal
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2.1 R&I: engine of productivity