Tagged: OlliRehn

Keynote speech to the WIRE V Conference

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Keynote speech to the WIRE V Conference

WIRE V Conference

Athens, 12 June 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I wish to congratulate the Hellenic Presidency for organising this fifth edition of the Week of Innovative Regions in Europe, following on from Granada in 2010, Debrecen in 2011, Krakow in 2012 and Cork last year.

WIRE I in Granada in March 2010 was one of the first major policy events in which I participated as Commissioner, so I remember it well!

The successive conferences have given me the opportunity to take stock of ongoing developments in the important relationship between research and innovation and cohesion policies.

In 2010 we were just beginning to set the framework for the future of these policies.

By 2011, the cohesion regulations and Horizon 2020 were being drafted. By 2012 they had been adopted by the Commission and were under discussion with the Member States.

Those discussions were completed in 2013 and now, in 2014, the first calls for proposals under Horizon 2020 have already been launched – indeed, some are already being evaluated – while the cohesion programming documents are being submitted and adopted.

WIRE V builds on the work of these earlier conferences by focusing on the concept of smart specialisation and on a policy agenda that is very much results-oriented.

The three broad themes of this conference – European funding and smart specialisation for 2014-2020; business driven regional innovation and the use of open data and knowledge to drive scientific excellence – provide rich possibilities for debate and analysis, as is shown in the detailed programme for the next two days.

Smart specialisation is at the heart of WIRE V and with good reason.

In Granada in 2010, everyone was wondering about this new idea and what it would mean.

Things have moved quickly in just four years.

Now, future cohesion support for research and innovation is conditional on having a smart specialisation strategy in place. And more broadly speaking, such a strategy should also be the broad framework in which to pursue ‘smart growth’

I welcome the fact that many Member States, through the process of self-assessment, are reporting the existence of smart specialisation strategies, at national or regional level.

Nevertheless, I also know that other Member States and regions have not yet made the necessary progress and may need to submit action plans for later completion of their strategies.

Whatever your situation, I would urge that all strategies be put in place as soon as possible. Smart specialisation is now an essential, if not the essential tool in the successful planning and implementation of support for research and innovation.

As I said at WIRE IV, there is no denying that we have a considerable research and innovation divide in Europe – a divide that remains despite our best efforts.

There are several reasons for these disparities, mostly related to structural deficits such as lack of research investment, insufficient capacity-building, the structure of a country’s industries and the profile of its companies, as well as lack of access to international networks.

Cohesion policy has a crucial role to play in tackling this divide through capacity building. And a smart specialisation strategy can act as the blueprint.

Today’s discussion on Regional Innovation and European Growth couldn’t be more timely.

The Annual Growth Survey 2014 confirmed that, after five years of financial and economic crisis, the first signs of a slow recovery are starting to appear in Europe.

While we seem to have reached a turning point in the crisis, the recovery is still modest and very fragile, so these positive signs should not make us complacent, they should encourage us to take further measures to secure a lasting and sustainable recovery.

I think it is safe to say that we are all agreed – whether researchers, business people, policy makers or civil society – that research and innovation drives sustainable growth and jobs.

So if Europe is to re-take the path to a strong and lasting recovery, it will have to place its bets on research and innovation.

Since we last met at WIRE IV in Cork last year, the EU has launched new programmes for research and innovation and for cohesion.

Horizon 2020 couples research and innovation by focusing on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges, while the European Structural and Investment Funds are designed to ensure that this knowledge can be absorbed and used effectively.

Combining these two sources of funding could significantly increase their impact, which is why we have made sure that the two programmes are mutually compatible and mutually supporting.

Research and innovation is also taking an increasingly prominent place in the broader EU policy framework, and in particular the European Semester. I am therefore particularly pleased that, for the 2014 Semester, Country Specific Recommendations relating to research and innovation have been proposed by the Commission for 15 Member States, the highest number so far.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’d now like to bring you right up to date with some news that’s hot off the press!

Two days ago I launched, together with Vice President Olli Rehn, a Communication on Research and Innovation as Sources of Renewed Growth.

One of the thorniest issues we have to face is how we square the circle of investing more in research and innovation in times of fiscal consolidation, when public budgets are under greatest pressure.

The very clear message from the Communication is to prioritise and to reform.

The Communication underlines the importance of investing in research and innovation in order to allow Europe to capture new growth opportunities.

In recent years, we have seen that continued investment in the sources of jobs and growth is paying off in several Member States and in the transformation of economies like South Korea and China.

And this is also what the EU did last year when it agreed its new seven-year budget. While the overall budget envelope was reduced, there is a decisive shift towards research and innovation, with Horizon 2020 seeing a 30% real terms increase in finance.

However, maintaining or increasing investment will only be most effective when they go hand in hand with measures to increase their quality.

We need far-reaching reforms of research and innovation systems in order to increase the quality and efficiency of public expenditure in these areas.

I have no illusions about how difficult this can be, having steered through the major reform of Horizon 2020 to be simpler and to achieve greater impact.

Our new proposals will support governments to make the necessary reforms to their own research and innovation systems.

And reform of Member States’ research and innovation systems will also encourage businesses to invest more in R&D and innovation. Many businesses look globally when they invest in research and innovation. So Europe, the Member States and regions must be able to put forward an attractive proposition.

Progress at European level, for example on the European patent, remains essential, so we will continue to implement the innovation-friendly measures championed by the Innovation Union initiative.

Alongside these framework conditions, there is the potential for smart investments by the public sector to leverage private investment.

Improvements in the quality and efficiency of public spending can help create a ‘virtuous circle’, by leveraging higher investment levels from the private sector and generating increasing economic returns.

No government can fund world class science and innovation in all areas, and so each country and region must take tough decisions to prioritise their research and innovation budget in the areas where it will produce the greatest impacts.

This brings us back to smart specialisation.

Here, European regions have a strong role to play: by identifying the most promising growth opportunities, they can reprioritise action and investments, build innovation frameworks and direct us towards solutions that foster growth and jobs. Regions can also profit from systemic learning and the exchange of good practice on smart specialisation.

I have a feeling that this new Communication will provide many ideas to discuss at a future WIRE conference.

In conclusion, let me once again express my gratitude to the Hellenic Presidency, including Georgia Tzenou of the National Documentation Centre and her team, as well as to my services in the directorate General for Research and Innovation, for organising this event.

As ever, I very much look forward to hearing concrete recommendations from your deliberations that can help us increase the impact of research and innovation across the EU at every level.

I would therefore like to wish all the participants a very enjoyable and productive conference.

Thank you.

Commission points to innovation reforms to sustain economic recovery

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 10 June 2014

Commission points to innovation reforms to sustain economic recovery

The European Commission has today highlighted the importance of research and innovation (R&I) investments and reforms for economic recovery in the European Union, and made proposals to help EU Member States maximise the impact of their budgets at a time when many countries still face spending constraints. Increasing R&I investment is a proven driver of growth, while improving the efficiency and quality of public R&I spending is also critical if Europe is to maintain or achieve a leading position in many fields of knowledge and key technologies. The Commission has pledged support to Member States in pursuing R&I reforms best suited to their needs, including by providing policy support, world-class data and examples of best practice.

Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, said: “The European economic recovery is gathering speed while the pace of fiscal consolidation is slowing down, in line with the EU’s reinforced fiscal framework. Nonetheless, budgetary constraints will remain, which is why.it is more important than ever that Member States target their resources smartly. The EU budget is helping drive growth-enhancing investment in research and innovation and today we are putting forward ideas to help maximise the impact of every euro spent.”

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: “Fostering innovation is widely accepted as the key to competitiveness and better quality of life, especially in Europe where we cannot compete on costs. This is a wake-up call to governments and businesses across the EU. Either we get it right now or we pay the price for years to come.”

The Communication published today highlights three key areas of reform:

  • Improving the quality of strategy development and the policy-making process, bringing together both research and innovation activities, and underpinned by a stable multi-annual budget that strategically focuses resources;

  • Improving the quality of R&I programmes, including through reductions of administrative burdens and more competitive allocating of funding;

  • Improving the quality of public institutions performing research and innovation, including through new partnerships with industry.

The Commission has also called on Member States to prioritise R&I, as public authorities regain margins for growth-enhancing investment. With current R&I spending across the public and private sector worth just over 2% of GDP, the EU remains well behind international competitors like the United States, Japan and South Korea, with China also now very close to overtaking the EU (see graph). Increasing R&I spending to 3% of GDP therefore remains a key target for the EU, but the Communication today shows that improving the quality of public spending in this area is also essential in order to increase the economic impact of investment. The Communication points equally to the need for the EU needs to put in place the right framework conditions to encourage European companies to innovate further.

Public and private R&D intensity in 2012 in the EU and some third countries

Background

Innovation is central to economic growth and business competitiveness, and is at the heart of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy. Today’s proposals follow those of the 2014 Country Specific Recommendations where a number of Member States received recommendations to reform their research and innovation policies. The Commission has also issued today a State of the Innovation Union report demonstrating progress against the 34 commitments made and highlighting the need for further efforts.

The EU budget for 2014-20 marks a decisive shift towards R&I and other growth enhancing items, with a 30 % real terms increase in the budget for Horizon 2020, the new EU programme for research and innovation. A further EUR 83 billion is expected to be invested in R&I as well as SMEs through the new European Structural and Investment Funds.

Innovation Union: http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm

Horizon 2020: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/

MEMO/14/405

Innovation vs. Austerity: how can Spain enhance its knowledge economy in austere times?

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Innovation vs. Austerity: how can Spain enhance its knowledge economy in austere times?

The Economist’s Spain Summit Closing session

Madrid, 3 June 2014

Ladies and gentlemen,

The subject of this Summit, “Accelerating the return to growth”, could not be more relevant for the situation in Europe today.

After a long period of economic downturn, the signs of recovery in Europe are becoming evident. This is true in Spain, where the European Commission’s Spring forecast put growth in 2014 at 1.1 percent, rising to 2.1 percent in 2015.

However, the recovery remains fragile and uneven, and it is now urgent for the European Union to really focus on the measures that can secure growth and jobs.

I am convinced that research and innovation must be at the heart of a lasting recovery, so that Europe takes its place as the knowledge economy.

I’m certainly not alone in that conviction. Last October the EU Heads of State and Government declared clearly that ‘Investment in research and innovation fuels productivity and growth and is key for job creation’.

And the point of consensus following the European elections is that Europe must focus even more on jobs and growth.

Indeed, the evidence shows that the Member States that continued to invest in research and innovation have fared better in the current crisis.

There is also a wide agreement that investing in research and innovation is the entry ticket to the knowledge economy.

So it is worrying to see that many Member States have cut research and innovation spending in the last few years. In Spain, the public budget for research was cut by 25% in real terms between 2008 and 2012. And Spain is by no means the only such Member State.

At first glance, and considering the severe pressures on budgets, such cuts are perhaps understandable. However, public research investment helps create the knowledge base and talent that innovative companies need, and it also leverages business investment in research and innovation, crucial elements in fulfilling the aims of Europe 2020.

The countries that are cutting investments for a prolonged period risk losing the highly skilled talent that is essential to remain competitive and for generating future jobs and growth. It will be very difficult to recover from these lost investments.

So unless we reverse this trend, I am afraid that there will be parts of Europe that, in the long run, will not be able to compete in the knowledge economy. The ‘innovation divide’ risks becoming an entrenched economic divide.

It is against this backdrop that the European Commission is preparing new proposals that focus on research and innovation as the sources of renewed growth.

I will be presenting these with Vice President Olli Rehn next week.

One of the thorniest issues that we will address is how we solve the conundrum of investing more in research and innovation in times of fiscal consolidation, when public budgets are under greatest pressure.

The very clear message from the Commission is to prioritise and to reform.

Some countries have been here before. Finland turned its economy around in the 1990s by focusing on innovation and making the necessary investment, despite huge budget pressures.

At the same time, Finland reformed its research and innovation policies and has been continuously improving them ever since.

And more recently, we are seeing that continuing to invest in the sources of jobs and growth is paying off in several Member States and in the transformation of economies like South Korea and China.

And this is also what the EU did last year when it agreed its new seven-year budget.

While the overall budget envelope was reduced, there is a decisive shift towards research and innovation – with Horizon 2020 seeing a 30% real terms increase in finance. And hand in hand with this increase, Horizon 2020 has been radically reformed to be simpler and achieve greater impact.

Reform will bring in more business investment in innovation. Many businesses look globally when they invest in research and innovation. So Europe and Member States like Spain must be able to put forward an attractive proposition.

The Single Market is, I believe, a huge motivation to invest in Europe. But we need to make sure the Single Market works, especially in high tech areas such as the digital economy and biopharmaceuticals.

Progress at European level, for example on the European patent, remains essential, so we will continue to implement the innovation-friendly measures championed by the Innovation Union initiative.

Alongside these framework conditions, there is the potential for smart investments by the public sector to leverage private investment.

The European Union has just agreed six partnerships with industry worth some 17 billion euro in pharmaceuticals, ICT, transport and the bio economy. More than half of this investment comes from the private sector. This kind of public private partnership can, and should be, supported by individual countries.

Indeed, public and private investments in research and innovation are closely linked.

Improvements in the quality and efficiency of public spending can help create a ‘virtuous circle’, by leveraging higher investment levels from the private sector and generating increasing economic returns.

Our proposals next week will support governments to make the necessary reforms.

No government can fund world class science and innovation in all areas, and so each country must take tough decisions to prioritise their research and innovation budget in the areas where it will produce the greatest impacts.

The aim here must be smart specialisation – playing to a region or Member State’s particular strengths and talents and focusing resources where they have the greatest impact rather than spreading investment too widely and too thinly.

We’re encouraging this approach under the EU’s new Cohesion Policy. From now on, every Member State and region must have a smart specialisation strategy in place as a condition to receiving funding for research and innovation from the European Structural and Investment Funds.

I am also a firm believer that public funding for research and innovation should be allocated on a competitive basis to the best proposals. This objective approach is the foundation of excellent science, but it is not yet common practice in all Member States.

There is also much to be done to improve the performance of universities and public research organisations.

Universities need to be able to enter partnerships with business and other actors.

The performance of universities should be assessed independently. And positions in universities should be advertised openly with recruitment based on merit.

These reforms are all important ways to ensure that public money is being well spent. They will also enable the free movement of researchers and ideas across Europe creating a European Research Area.

We also need to reform how we finance research and innovation. Beyond grant funding, we have seen that many countries are using tax credits and financial instruments to support business research and innovation.

And at European level we have also reformed how we support research and innovation, with the new Horizon 2020 programme which has a budget of nearly 80 billion euro.

The programme aims to get bigger impacts for our investments in scientific excellence, industrial leadership and societal challenges.

Horizon 2020 also represents economic reform, designed to generate growth and jobs. We have a programme that has cut red-tape, where excellence is the benchmark and where we champion both top quality fundamental research, and its application in innovation.

The programme will promote even greater industry involvement, in particular for SMEs and new entrants.

Indeed, while research and innovation for SMEs are promoted across the whole programme, Horizon 2020 also introduces a new instrument designed to meet their specific needs.

There are also new financing options in the form of risk-sharing (through guarantees) or risk finance (through loans and equity) to support innovative companies.

I urge Spanish companies, including SMEs, to seek out the new opportunities provided by Horizon 2020. This is not just about support to finance innovative projects, but also to enable companies to access the best knowledge and expertise from across Europe.

But Horizon 2020 can only complement investment and reform at national level.

Spain is not facing its challenges alone – many Member States share similar problems. I know that Minister de Guindos, who is responsible for research in the Spanish government, is ambitious to reform, and the European Commission is keen to help.

For example, the Commission is financing a Peer Review of Spain’s research and innovation policy by experts from seven other European countries.

The European peer review will provide suggestions to Spain on how to reinforce the contribution of research and innovation to your economy and society.

Minister de Guindos has committed to closely examining the suggestions and take them on board.

Spain’s determination to reform has already resulted in the very welcome National Reform Programme, in particular the newly-adopted Strategy and Implementing Plan for Research and Innovation and the announcement of a National Research Agency.

These are the right steps, but what more could Spain do?

Yesterday, as part of the European Semester process the European Commission presented the results of its assessment for 2014, together with proposals for Country Specific Recommendations to be endorsed by the European Council.

Recommendations are made for each Member State, and the proposed recommendations for Spain include the financing of the new national strategy for science, technology and innovation as well as making operational the new State Research Agency.

This means that when Spain reviews its spending priorities within its fiscal consolidation strategy, it should identify the sources of funding for the new National Strategy and Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation.

The Commission also considers that Spain needs to increase the quality of research outputs. This means that the new State Research Agency should follow best practice in the allocation of funding to universities and other research-performing organisations based on their performance. Greater use should be made of competitive calls for proposals which use international standards of peer review. In the long run such measures will encourage excellence and deliver better value for money.

Finally, the Commission’s assessment is that Spain needs to foster public-private cooperation and facilitate the commercial development of research outputs. So there should be incentives for researchers, universities and public research organisations to cooperate with industry.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If I were to distill what I have been discussing down to one message, it would be this:

Combining investment and reform of research and innovation must be Europe’s roadmap to growth and prosperity.

I don’t underestimate the task. I know from my own experience with Horizon 2020 just how difficult this is, and I know what a big challenge it is for Spain.

This means a relentless focus on jobs and growth. It will mean Europe as a whole will need to shift resources towards research and innovation and other growth-enhancing measures.

This is already happening at the EU level, and the Commission is encouraging Member States to do likewise within their fiscal consolidation strategies.

At the same time we need to reform our research and innovation systems and create the framework conditions that will attract innovators, entrepreneurs and business investments.

It’s a challenge that I know you will meet and it is absolutely essential to do so – so that the economy that will emerge from the crisis will be very different from before.

We are with you every step of the way.

Thank you.