How could research, development and innovation contribute to enabling the European Union to address the grand challenges of our time such as the climate change, security, demographic changes, migration and social and cultural and diversity? Member states’ ministers responsible for research are seeking answers for these questions in their informal meeting on 12 April in Gödöllő, a city near the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
„The challenges the world and Europe are currently facing do not respect national borders, and as such our responses need to be collective and bold”, said Zoltán Cséfalvay, Minister of State for Economic Strategy of the Ministry for National Economy, in the foreword of the Discussion Paper prepared by the Hungarian Presidency for the meeting. Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will also attend the informal Competitiveness Council.
The Presidency asked the ministers questions on the following four subjects: 1) unleashing innovation; 2) addressing the Grand Challenges; 3) strengthening Europe’s science base; 4) spreading excellence.
According to the Hungarian Presidency, it is necessary to support the full innovation cycle, from research to market, ensuring that business, industry, government and the third sector join force with researchers, and scientists. We need to be creative in how we encourage innovation, for example by making use of public procurement policies, standardisation and intellectual property rights or via new financial instruments. SMEs in particular remain an untapped source of innovation, currently under-resourced and overwhelmed with administrative tasks.
Simplifying and streamlining
Innovation must be focused on clear targets, we urgently need to simplify and streamline the institutional infrastructure and funding frameworks. At the same time, we need to create an infrastructure throughout the EU which supports the best and most creative scientists and researchers to pursue original research. Finally, the Hungarian Presidency intends to deal with the problem that at the moment some countries are lagging behind in terms of their outputs from research and innovation. „These are typically the new Member States” Minister of State Cséfalvay told to eu2011.hu before the Competitiveness Council’s meeting on 9-10 March.
Between 2007 and 2013, the EU is to spend over €53 billion on research according to the 7th Research Framework Program. The March meeting of the Competitiveness Council approved conclusions on the interim review of this program.
Strategic and integrated approach needed
Previously, innovation was put on the agenda of the European Council’s meeting on 4 February. The conclusions adopted by the heads of state and government pointed out the need for the implementation of a strategic and integrated approach. Member States invited the Commission “to make proposals by the end of the year, ensuring that the full range of research and innovation financing instruments work together within a common strategic framework.”
The establishment of innovative funding methods is aimed to provide research, development and innovation (R+D+I) access to as much private funding as possible. The Presidency thinks that cooperation should be tighter than to date, with the key role played by Innovation Partnerships within the Innovation Union, a flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy.
The European Council took the view that the EU should make sure to utilise synergies between various community policies, emphasising the importance of the Single Market Act and another flagship initiative, the Digital Agenda.
Renewing Innovation Policy
In October 2010 the Commission published its communication on launching Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at promoting the EU’s competitiveness through the development of European innovation. On 25 November 2010 the Competitiveness Council adopted conclusions on the Innovation Union, in which it endorsed the Commission’s objectives and prepared a roadmap for executing the envisaged measures.
According to the package, a momentum given to innovation can solve problems such as climate change, energy and water supply, scarcity of resources, demographic changes, security and health. Research in these fields may also open new markets.
The document emphasises the institution of European Innovation Partnerships (EIP), which urges member states to cooperate in the field of R+D. The first pilot partnership will be launched on active and healthy ageing (AHA), which is aimed at increasing the number of healthy years.
EU member states intend to increase the utilisation of existing resources. With respect to the European Research Area, which was called to life by the Lisbon strategy, they aim to create an internal market for knowledge by 2014 through improving the mobility of researchers and by providing better access to R+D results. The EU also seeks to improve the conditions of corporate innovation, for instance in the field of standardisation, patents and public procurement. Restructuring the funding for R+D finance is also on the agenda: member states wish to simplify research framework programmes so that researchers can truly focus on research activity.
Az EU-tagállamok célja a már meglévő eszközök jobb kihasználása. A lisszaboni stratégiával életre hívott Európai Kutatási Térség (European Research Area) kapcsán elsősorban a kutatók akadálymentes mozgását, és a kutatási eredményekhez történő jobb hozzáférést szeretnék biztosítani azzal a céllal, hogy 2014-ig létrejöjjön a tudás belső piaca. A vállalati innováció feltételeit is javítaná az EU, például a szabványosítás, a szabadalmak vagy a közbeszerzések témakörében. Napirenden van a K+F finanszírozási struktúráinak átalakítása is, a tagállamok egyszerűsítenék a kutatási keretprogramok felhasználását, hogy a kutatók valóban a kutatásra koncentrálhassanak.
Péter Györkös is Hungary’s Permanent Representative to the European Union. Diplomats carry their duties wherever they are ordered by his superior officers, but Péter Györkös has a “personal attachment” to his present assignment: for more than twenty years, he has been monitoring closely the process of European unification and has actively worked for it in his successive positions.