2. Non-budgetary

Innovation Union

The research, innovation and science portfolio is about far more than just awarding research funding.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn at political level and DG Research and Innovation at administrative level are driving the creation of an "Innovation Union" in Europe, in cooperation with many other Commissioners and services.

As the Commissioner has said : "We face an innovation emergency. We need a pro-growth, anti-crisis micro-economic environment."

So the Innovation Union is a cornerstone of the Europe 2020 Strategy. It has three main characteristics. First, a world beating science base; second, coherent, Europe-wide use of public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector; third, a concerted and determined effort to remove bottlenecks which stop ideas reaching the market. Those bottlenecks include: poor availability of finance, costly patenting, market fragmentation, outdated regulations and procedures, slow standard-setting, the failure to use public procurement strategically and fragmentation and duplication of research efforts between Member States.

The Innovation Union is partly to be achieved by EU-level legislative action – for example to set up a unitary EU patent, to build a more effective system for setting standards and to remove barriers to cross-border venture capital and to the free movement of researchers and knowledge in Europe.

Equally importantly the political commitment and experience of the Commission gives it enormous "softower" to bring Member States together to share best practice and replace duplication and fragmentation of effort with coordination and voluntary pooling of resources and expertise.

The Innovation Union is just as much an economic policy as, for example, the eurozone governance framework .It aims to back innovators all the way - instead of putting barriers in their way. Not just business innovators but also public service and social innovators, in increasingly crucial areas like the care for the elderly sector.

We need an Innovation Union to help get our 23 million unemployed people back to work and keep them there. We need an Innovation Union to tackle society's biggest challenges: climate change, energy and food security, healthy living and an ageing society. We need an Innovation Union because Europe does not yet have an innovation culture like the US – and China and India are catching up.

The latest figures from the Nemesis economic model suggest that if the EU implements the Innovation Union concept in the three following ways alone:

  • achieve the Europe 2020 target of investing 3% of EU GDP in R&D
  • re-orient €20 billion in EU regional funding to research and innovation;
  • invest €50 billion in pre-commercial Public Procurement

We can create 6 million jobs by 2025 and raise EU GDP by 8.1%

Innovation Partnerships

The European Innovation Partnerships aim to achieve in Europe what the US and China do, which is set clear targets and then mobilise all actors in the relevant sectors to achieve them. That is easier in a unitary state like the US than in a Union of 27, but with political will, we can achieve it here.

  • First, the Innovation Partnerships will each focus on a specific societal challenge where, by taking a lead, Europe can improve the lives of its people and become a commercial world leader. They will have concrete and measurable goals.
  • Second, they will be co-driven by political, industrial and scientific stakeholders. Steering Boards will be chaired by the European Commissioner or Commissioners whose portfolio corresponds to the subject matter.
  • The Board will include national Ministers, MEPs and key stakeholders. Funding will be European, national and private.
  • Third, the Partnerships will act on the regulatory and demand sides as well as the supply side. They will, for example, help fast-track regulation and standards and deploy co-ordinated public procurement to create lead markets.

The first pilot Partnership launched in early 2011 is on active and healthy ageing. The aim is to increase the average number of healthy life years by two by 2020. That would reduce strain on social security and health budgets and help create an EU and global market for innovative products and services, with new opportunities for EU business.

There will be more Partnerships launched during 2011-12, including on energy, smart mobility and "liveable cities", water efficiency, non-energy raw materials, and sustainable and productive agriculture.