6. The way forward: 11 policy recommendations

R&I for a safe and just space for humanity

As an overarching policy recommendation: the European Green Deal requires a shift towards a transformative innovation policy.

  • To deliver on the Green Deal, EU R&I policy should shift to a transformative policy, which sets 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 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.
  • Given the size of the challenges ahead, ambitious levels of investments in R&I will be crucial.
  • EU R&I policy can set the direction to generate knowledge and solutions for the transformation.

Making sure that growth does not leave anyone behind … people, regions, countries and firms.

  • There is a need to support the cohesive and inclusive growth of companies, regions and countries. This calls for greater coordination at all levels.
  • R&I policy plays an important role for the catching-up of laggard companies and regions by improving the conditions to speed up knowledge creation and diffusion, through investment, regulation, science-business links, framework conditions, and capacity and quality of R&I systems. In this context, the European Research Area will play a key role.
  • Innovation in less-developed regions in particular should be promoted to trigger economic dynamism that would increase the competitiveness of the EU as a whole and close the innovation divide.
  • It is also essential to ensure Europeans have the skills to accompany the new technological revolution.

Equipping Europeans with the skills to navigate the changing world

  • There is a need to step up efforts and look for new orientations regarding skills.
  • EU policies must tackle the mismatches between available skills and the labour market and improve skills intelligence and recognition.
  • Greater adult participation is required in learning, training, mentoring, coaching and other activities that promote lifelong learning and soft skills, such as the capacity to adapt and adopt new technologies in a fast-changing world.
  • There is a need for more synergies among programmes such as Horizon Europe, the European Social Fund (ESF), and Erasmus+. A further strengthening of links between the European Research Area and the European Education Area will be required to ensure that skills and education are key drivers of Europe’s competitiveness and innovation.

Fast-forwarding to gender equality in and through R&I

  • Despite progress, gender inequalities are persistent in Europe and in R&I activities. There is also a pronounced gender gap in the creation of innovative startups, including unicorn companies.
  • This calls for efforts to be pursued at all levels to promote gender equality. Gender equality and gender ‘mainstreaming’ (by integrating a gender perspective in the preparation and evaluation of policies) in research and the promotion of these policies in R&I should be maintained and, where possible, reinforced to ensure further progress.

R&I for global leadership

Shaping Europe’s competitive edge in the global race for technology.

  • The rapid pace of global competitors’ technological development is creating concerns in terms of technological sovereignty.
  • R&I can reinforce the ability of companies to be competitive at the global level through improved productivity, resulting in jobs and value creation, in a sustainable way.
  • EU technological sovereignty at risk has several implications which link R&I policy to industrial policy. An EU industrial strategy, supported by a vibrant ecosystem that allows for the scaling up of its innovators and SMEs, is key to countering deindustrialisation trends in the EU and increasing long-term EU competitiveness while meeting the need for a transition towards a climate-neutral and sustainable economy.
  • The EU’s approach to R&I should also remain one of openness to the world to maximise its access to the world’s best minds, the latest scientific knowledge, foreign markets and global value chains.

Modernising R&I policy to make it fit for purpose in the digital age.

  • Digitalisation is transforming R&I. All areas of research are becoming data-intensive, increasingly relying upon and generating big data. R&I in artificial intelligence has developed significantly in recent years.
  • With innovation moving at an unprecedented speed, policymaking also needs to react faster to the changing contexts. An example is the need for fair taxation of the digital economy.
  • Fostering deep-tech, science-driven innovations requires the right policy mix, such as supporting frontier research, R&D labs, innovation and digital hubs, appropriate research, technology and digital infrastructures, and access to patient capital.
  • To exploit the full potential of digitalisation of science, policies must be adapted to reinforce researcher’s digital skills, promote open science as well as ensure necessary investments in high quality data infrastructures. There is also a need to improve digital competences and foster the adoption of digital technologies.
  • The EU should capitalise on its scientific and industrial strengths to lead in AI development.
  • Europe should improve the ‘trust in tech’. The promotion of guiding principles on trustworthy, human-centric, and ethical AI is a strength and not an obstacle to the EU’s AI innovation ecosystem.

Ensuring scientific leadership and stimulating knowledge flows within the EU.

  • We must continue aiming for excellence in science.
  • The EU leads in terms of open science policy, with significant impact and structuring effects on research performance. However, it can do more and foster further knowledge flows between disciplines and actors. While the open access policy in the EU is well advanced, with a strong open-access and open-data mandate in the EU Framework Programme, there is a need to step up efforts in implementing its ambitious open and FAIR data policy for Europe.
  • It is essential to support the dissemination of research results, researchers’ mobility, public-private cooperation and (open) international cooperation.
  • The divergence between Member States on researcher’s mobility patterns calls for a better understanding of the drivers of and barriers to international and inter-sectoral mobility as well as the implementation of policies to foster brain circulation.
  • There is a need for a strong European Research Area, improving and further integrating national R&I systems, continuing to facilitate and strengthen the interaction between industry and academia, stepping up efforts in implementing an ambitious open data policy for Europe and strengthening the capacity of small firms to engage in R&I collaborations.

Building a vibrant and resilient R&I ecosystem in the post-Siemens-Alstom era

  • Although Europe is rich in ideas and talent, it can improve the framework conditions and ecosystem in which business takes place.
  • Europe needs to give more support to the scaling up of its innovators and SMEs. When it comes to tech scaleups and unicorn companies, a pronounced scaling-up gap remains in relation to the United States and (sometimes to) China.
  • Overall, there is a strong need for policy initiatives that aim to tackle the scaling-up demands in terms of capital in EU startups, such as the European Innovation Council, the VentureEU programme, and the various financial instruments available via the European Investment Bank.
  • There is a need to improve the overall framework conditions for innovation, including access to finance – risk capital and other alternative sources of financing – and the deepening of the Single Market to ensure the scaling-up of ‘Made in EU’ disruptive ideas, and their permanence in the EU, while maintaining a global outreach.
  • It also means boosting the resilience and integration of startup ecosystems to reach critical mass, underpinned by a strategic vision that builds upon the EU’s industrial strengths and tackles societal challenges.

R&I for economic and societal impact

Maximising the value of R&I results for society, the economy and policy.

  • Producing excellent solutions is not enough. It is necessary to go beyond the approach of innovation output only for a more holistic approach in order to ensure robust exploitation of R&I results and, overall, knowledge valorisation – i.e. the process of creating value from knowledge and turning the results into sustainable solutions with economic value and societal benefits.
  • Europe needs to make more of its R&I. This calls for a reinforced knowledge valorisation policy in Europe that relies on a set of instruments acknowledging different knowledge-valorisation channels. This means supporting European intellectual property policy and culture, as well as fostering science-industry interaction and engaging citizens and local communities in knowledge uptake by the markets and by society.

Making the EU’s regulation innovation-friendly and forward-looking

  • Europe needs a fit-for-purpose, forward-looking, and overall innovation-friendly regulatory framework to ensure well-functioning markets that incentivise competition and innovation, maximising the impact of EU R&I investments.
  • Regulation, when featuring adequate levels of stringency and appropriate timing, can steer innovation towards addressing societal needs. At the same time, regulation needs the flexibility to adapt to an industry and society that are evolving rapidly.
  • Hence, regulation design can be a crucial lever for stimulating R&I to deliver on policy objectives.
  • In this context, experimental approaches to regulation, including the so-called ‘regulatory sandboxes’ and policy experimentation can also be relevant.
  • Using horizon scanning and innovative regulatory approaches to harness future technological advances, the innovation principle can provide valuable insights into other policies in the areas of climate, environment, health, food, competitiveness and industry.

Anticipating the future world through better evidence for policy

  • R&I policy needs to deal with a lot of uncertainties, and related risks. Priorities and choices must be informed, while evidence from various sources, i.e. indicators, analyses and policy evaluations, are essential to guide policymaking. Although the notion that the future is uncertain is hardly novel, it poses challenges for policies that take a long time to set up and execute as they have to rely on longer-term forecasts that can demonstrate a poor track record.
  • Horizon scanning is key for a strategic R&I policy that anticipates the future world. A good understanding of capacities and aspirations for future innovation is an invaluable basis for reflection and debate on the potential impacts of different investment decisions, and on the normative and strategic considerations that should guide such investment decisions.
  • Foresight analyses and scans of the horizon must be systematic, continuous and comprehensive, feeding into decision-making processes that are engaging and participative, involving broad sets of stakeholders and concerned publics, in a new EU R&I policy that will successfully pave the way towards sustainability.


1.1 A changing world