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Para uma União da Inovação mais forte, coesa e aberta – Working for a Strong, Cohesive and Open Innovation Union

Comissão europeia

[Só faz fé o texto proferido]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

Presidente da Comissão Europeia

Para uma União da Inovação mais forte, coesa e aberta – Working for a Strong, Cohesive and Open Innovation Union

O futuro da Europa é a ciência

Lisboa, 6 outubro 2014

Sua Excelência o Senhor Presidente da República,

Senhora Secretária de Estado,

Senhora Presidente do Conselho de Administração da Fundação Champalimaud, cara Dra. Leonor Beleza,

Senhora Comissária, Dear Máire Geoghegan-Quinn,

Senhor Comissário indigitado, meu caro Eng. Carlos Moedas,

Minhas Senhoras e meus Senhores,

Ilustres convidados,

Caros amigos,

Tenho muito prazer em estar aqui hoje convosco para vos falar do papel da ciência no futuro da Europa. Gostaria de começar por agradecer à Senhora Presidente da Fundação Champalimaud, Dra. Leonor Beleza, por nos acolher nesta impressionante sede de uma instituição que em relativamente pouco tempo já ganhou reconhecimento nacional e internacional pelo seu trabalho ao serviço da ciência. Quero de modo muito especial agradecer ao Senhor Presidente da República pela honra que nos dá ao ter dito sim quando o convidei para presidir à abertura desta conferência.

De fato, não poderíamos ter escolhido um sítio melhor do que Lisboa para realizar a conferência. A sensibilidade para a descoberta e para a abertura a novos horizontes faz parte do ADN de Portugal!

E as novas gerações têm honrado esse legado, como foi brilhantemente demonstrado pelos jovens João Pedro Estácio Gaspar Gonçalves de Araújo, Mariana de Pinho Garcia e Matilde Gonçalves Moreira da Silva, que há menos de duas semanas foram reconhecidos entre os melhores jovens cientistas da Europa por ocasião do 26.º Concurso da União Europeia para Jovens Cientistas realizado em Varsóvia.

E também não teria sido possível escolher melhor sítio que a Fundação Champalimaud, que não só é um centro de excelência em investigação sobre a saúde, como também uma instituição muito empenhada em divulgar a educação científica junto do público em Portugal. A atitude dos cidadãos em relação à ciência é, sem dúvida, um aspeto crucial que importa ter em consideração. O progresso científico deve ser devidamente explicado para poder ser bem recebido, em vez de ser encarado, com muitas vezes acontece, com injustiçadas dúvidas ou até perniciosas resistências.

Esta conferência não poderia ocorrer em melhor altura, pois é precisamente nesta semana que se procede a entrega dos Prémios Nobel, que se iniciou esta manhã com o Prémio Nobel da Medicina de 2014 – cujos vencedores, como já foi dito, foram John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser e Edvard Moser, que felicito muito sinceramente. E é com grande orgulho que o faço, pois estes últimos dois neurocientistas, apesar de trabalharem na Noruega, foram ambos bolseiros do Conselho Europeu de Investigação (ERC).

Quero também agradecer muito a presença entre nós do Prémio Nobel da Física, Serge Haroche, que participará logo a seguir numa das mesas redondas, e a todos os outros eminentes cientistas, empresários e membros da sociedade civil que quiseram juntar-se a nós nestes dois dias de importantes reflexões.

A Comissão Europeia tem vindo a colocar a ciência, a investigação e a inovação no centro da agenda europeia. Para construir uma Europa forte, unida e aberta neste domínio, a Comissão tem desempenhado um importante papel procurando soluções para os problemas, estabelecendo pontes e promovendo os nossos princípios fundamentais.

A ciência, a investigação e a inovação são áreas a que tenho dedicado especial atenção desde o início do meu mandato de dez anos como Presidente da Comissão Europeia. Os alicerces foram criados ao longo dos anos: desde a criação do Instituto Europeu de Inovação e Tecnologia (EIT) e do altamente reputado Conselho Europeu de Investigação – European Research Council -, à participação da Europa em grandes projetos científicos como por exemplo – um dos maiores em curso no mundo – o Reator Termonuclear Experimental Internacional (ITER), cujos progressos constatei pessoalmente durante a visita que efetuei em julho a Cadarache, em França, na sede do projeto.

A razão pela qual dedico uma atenção especial a este setor está relacionada com a grande esperança na ciência, na grande confiança que tenho nas capacidades da mente humana e numa sociedade criativa para solucionar os seus problemas. O mundo está a mudar drasticamente, a uma velocidade nunca vista. Acredito que muitas das soluções, na Europa e fora dela, virão de novos estudos científicos e das novas tecnologias. Gostaria de ver a Europa a liderar esse esforço a nível global, o que será determinante para o futuro bem-estar e a prosperidade das nossas sociedades e para a influência europeia a nível global.

A verdade é que foi possível, mesmo em momentos de grandes dificuldades financeiras, colocar a investigação no centro da estratégia para o crescimento e para o emprego – a Estratégia Europa 2020: com o objetivo de criar condições favoráveis à inovação; promover o dinamismo da União da Inovação; lutar por um maior investimento na inovação, na tecnologia e no papel da ciência.

Gostaria de aproveitar esta oportunidade para enaltecer o trabalho incansável e muito competente da Comissária para a Investigação, a Inovação e a Ciência, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, em prol da obtenção de resultados concretos num setor com tão grandes ambições. Muito a ela se deve, nomeadamente na luta de persuasão de alguns Governos no sentido de nos apoiarem em relação a um orçamento mais ambicioso para a investigação.

Acredito igualmente – e tive experiência direta disso durante estes anos – na importância da competência científica independente e consistente. De facto, a Comissão Europeia é muitas vezes chamada a tomar decisões que são extremamente complexas do ponto de vista técnico e que têm profundas repercussões do ponto de vista social, e até, muitas vezes, implicações de um ponto de vista ético. E penso que essas decisões devem ser sustentadas numa abordagem científica.

Foi por essa razão que decidi criar o cargo de conselheiro científico principal do Presidente da Comissão Europeia, exercido pela Professora Anne Glover, e também criamos o Conselho Consultivo para a Ciência e Tecnologia (STAC), que nos aconselha e apoia nos domínios da ciência e da tecnologia.

Dado que o progresso da ciência levanta por vezes questões éticas, a Comissão Europeia é também aconselhada pelo Grupo Europeu de Ética para as Ciências e as Novas Tecnologias, um organismo independente, pluralista e pluridisciplinar, cujo papel se encontra já bem consolidado.

Dado que há muito a fazer quando se aceita a ideia de que a mudança é uma oportunidade de melhorar; e que as novas formas de pensar e os novos dados podem obrigar-nos a abandonar visões por vezes antiquadas do mundo e a aceitar algo de novo, dei também o meu pleno apoio a várias iniciativas prospetivas no âmbito da Comissão Europeia, desde o projeto ESPAS (European Strategy and Policy Analysis System) à criação de uma rede interna em matéria de prospetiva, que cobre também o domínio científico.

Penso que estes exercícios prospetivos são realmente necessários pois, embora a incerteza faça sempre parte da decisão política, a falta de antecipação política adequada pode e deve ser evitada. Os decisores políticos precisam de dispor de alternativas de políticas públicas bem informadas que lhes permitam tomar decisões claras e estratégicas a médio e longo prazo.

Por isso solicitei, portanto, ao meu Conselho Consultivo para a Ciência e Tecnologia (STAC) que se debruçasse sobre estas questões e que elaborasse um relatório sob o lema «O futuro da Europa é a ciência». É precisamente disso que se trata: identificar os desafios e as oportunidades que a ciência, a tecnologia e a inovação colocam à Europa e formular uma série de recomendações em três domínios diferentes, todos eles de importância primordial para os cidadãos europeus: o futuro da sua saúde, o futuro do trabalho e o futuro do ambiente.

Queria aproveitar esta oportunidade para agradecer publicamente aos membros do STAC. Sempre trabalhámos juntos, de uma forma aberta e construtiva. Sempre valorizei o seu aconselhamento e congratulo-me com o relatório que é hoje mesmo publicado na ocasião da realização da conferência.

Gostaria agora de vos explicar sucintamente o que significa uma Europa forte, unida e aberta do ponto de vista da Comissão Europeia no que se refere à ciência e à investigação.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Contradicting what I call an intellectual glamour of pessimism about Europe, which unfortunately happens to be rather fashionable in some circles, we have to recognize that, when it comes to research and innovation, Europe is strong. Much stronger than what sometimes is publicly acknowledged. Europe is one of the leaders in science in the world!

We are not short of world-class researchers and innovators with the skills and ideas to drive Europe forward. And today’s audience is a perfect illustration of this. We have twice the number of science and technology graduates than in the United States; with 7% of the world’s population, we still produce roughly a third not only of the world’s GDP, but also of patents and high impact scientific publications; and despite the crisis almost all our Member States have improved their innovation performance; and we have been able to halve the innovation gap that we still have with the United States and Japan. While in science we are, in many areas, the number one in the world, in innovation we are not always in the first places.

But we cannot afford to rest on these laurels. We live in a world where scientific and technological progress is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, and where South Korea is moving further ahead, with China quickly catching us up. So we need to capitalize on our strengths and to address also some of our weaknesses.

From a European Commission’s perspective, this basically means to act as a problem-solver in an environment of scarce resources and under very challenging circumstances. This is what we have been doing over these last years.

The best illustration of this is certainly the new research programme Horizon 2020. This is a large framework programme with wide-ranging objectives from supporting excellence in science – with the European Research Council now chaired by Professor Bourguignon – to developing industrial leadership and addressing key societal challenges, allowing us to focus on the big priorities relevant to our citizens.

That said, as we are all aware, money is the crux of the matter. But despite very difficult financial conditions, we have managed to get our Member States closer to our objectives for research, with an increase of 30% through the new Horizon 2020 programme – around € 80 billion for the next seven years – which makes it today one of the most important scientific funding programmes in the world.

I have to say, to be honest with our Member States, that while in some areas they were very negative when we discussed the Multiannual Financial Programme for the next seven years regarding some expenditure, when it came to science there was, generally speaking, very good opening from our Member States considering the ambitious proposals of the Commission. And this is certainly a very important progress, compared to the situation in the past.

And because entrepreneurs, researchers, innovators cannot afford to have their energy and time drained with red tape, with Horizon 2020 red tape was sensibly reduced. All phases of the innovation cycle are now funded under a single platform.

More private investment has also been secured to address major societal challenges. Public-private partnerships are one of the key elements of Horizon 2020. The private sector has committed to invest nearly € 10 billion in Joint Technology Initiatives stimulating innovation in areas such as medicines, transport and bio-based industries. Together with EU and Member States funding, this amounts to a € 22 billion boost for growth and jobs in Europe over the next 7 years.

Another example of the European Commission acting as a problem-solver is the Risk Sharing Finance Facility that we have set up jointly with the European Investment Bank.

As you know, one of the major obstacles to getting innovation to the market is the insufficient availability of finance for new and innovative projects, particularly for SMEs. The principle of this Risk Sharing Finance Facility is that for every billion euro of European budget money, the European Investment Bank has mobilised € 12 billion in loans and over € 30 billion in final research and innovation investment. Concretely, this has led to additional resources of up to € 40 billion since 2007 for research and innovation activities, which would otherwise be left unfunded. Besides, a very substantial share of Horizon 2020 will be devoted to funding innovative SMEs which, no need to recall, form the backbone of the European economy.

And I am happy and even proud to add that after 30 years of negotiation, – because the Member States were not able to agree on a common position on that matter – we finally agreed a European-wide patent, even if there are two Member States that are outside the final agreement. This is a major step forward in our effort to deliver a more innovative-friendly business environment in Europe. We estimate that once fully implemented, this will reduce the cost by up to 80% for small and medium size business and individual researchers to register their creative ideas.

But clearly the European Commission’s actions are not enough. They are necessary but not sufficient. Our countries must also act as problem-solvers and our governments make an equal effort in research. Budgetary consolidation is certainly an essential prerequisite for sound growth and competitiveness. But investment in growth and jobs of the future are also vital. And if you want to invest in the future, you should think science, research and innovation!

Ladies and gentlemen,

A stronger Europe is also a more united Europe. And for Europe to be more united in the field of science, research and innovation, we have to address existing fragmentations, notably between academic and business worlds, between public and private sectors.

From a European Commission’s perspective this means to act as a bridge-builder and make the knowledge triangle work better in favour of new socio-economic benefits. This is what we have been doing over these last years, notably through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) which I took the initiative to create during my first mandate and which was launched in 2008.

The EIT, and I recently visited the headquarters of the EIT in Budapest, precisely brings together the three strands of the knowledge triangle – higher education, research and innovation – and businesses, in new types of partnership, the so-called Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) operating so far in three areas, but we are going to enlarge them: sustainable energy, climate change and ICT; and with a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship. Until 2020, the EIT will be expanded to new areas and five new KICs will be created, as well as its outreach capacity that will be strengthened.

By 2020, the EIT is expected to train 10.000 Master students, 10.000 PhDs and create 600 new companies, and achieve systematic impact in the way universities, research centres and companies cooperate for innovation.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions are also another good example of how to bridge gaps between sectors. Horizon 2020 will allow for the funding of 65.000 researchers under the new Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions which will combine research excellence with training on entrepreneurial skills; and encourage researchers to engage with industries and other employers during their fellowship.

A more united Europe depends also on an increased mobility of researchers and on the development of pan-European infrastructures. This is, as you know, the objective of the European Research Area: to have a real single market for knowledge, research and innovation. Good progress has been made. Most of the conditions for achieving a European Research Area are in place at the European level. The completion of this objective therefore now largely depends on national reforms and on national implementation. Member States are expected to present “European Research Area (ERA) roadmaps” by mid-2015, outlining their next steps towards the implementation of a true European single market for research.

And as it is just impossible to speak of a more cohesive Europe without referring to cohesion policy, I would like to mention that, to maximise territorial and social cohesion, Smart Specialisation Strategies are being developed with the support of the European Regional development Fund as well as other relevant funds, in order to make the most of the innovation potential of each region and each country across Europe. This is what we call the “Staircase to Excellence”, allowing all Member States to attain the best level in science with the support of European funding.

Finally, a stronger Europe is also an open Europe. When I had the great honour to deliver, together with my colleague, the President of the European Council, the acceptance speech of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union in Oslo, I made a point about science and culture being at the core of our European project, precisely as a way of going beyond borders. I think it is very interesting that the idea of the European Union was, to some extent, to overcome borders and divisions and in science we know something about that. As Louis Pasteur said: “La science n’a pas de patrie.”

From a European Commission’s perspective this means to hold true to our Union founding values and principles by reaching out not only to our countries, but to all countries in the world. For example 15.000 out of the 65.000 researchers to be funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will be non-EU researchers.

We are also promoting a dynamic science diplomacy. Horizon 2020, for example, is fully open to participation from international partner countries as shown by the agreement we recently signed with Israel. And I am happy that we have now found a solution to associate Switzerland to the Horizon 2020 programme that is one of the most important science and research funding programmes in the world.

We are also developing major dialogues on science and innovation with other world regions, notably with Africa. For instance, a year ago, we have agreed to start working towards a long-term jointly funded and co-owned research and innovation partnership with Africa, with a first focus on food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture.

Another example is the decision taken with the United States and Canada, in May 2013, to join forces on Atlantic Ocean research, to better understand this Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources.

That said, openness is not a one-way street. It has to be reciprocated. Our ongoing negotiations of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) contribute to the establishment of a level playing field with our international partners, with the aim of ensuring, in particular, equivalent protection of intellectual property rights. We are clearly aiming at promoting win-win situations, so as to foster international research and innovation opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have been through the worst financial, economic and social crisis since the start of European integration. This has clearly put our European model to the test. This was the biggest stress test ever in terms of European integration. Under these challenging circumstances, it was not easy to struggle to keep Europe united and open to the world, and to prepare Europe to emerge stronger and better prepared for the demands of globalisation, prepared to deal with demographic, technological and environmental challenges. A Europe ready to face the future.

In this process, the European Commission has always considered science and innovation as key strategic priorities for promoting a competitive European economy, but also a vibrant European society. We have been fully committed to create a more science and innovation-friendly environment. Because indeed “the future of Europe is science.”

And the discussions you will have later today and tomorrow on foresight will be an opportunity to highlight how much science and innovation are key to deliver on the issues which matter most for every European: health, jobs and therefore the society they live in and the economy. And there is no alternative: we have to deliver on these issues – crucially on jobs – to regain the trust of our citizens.

The reforms driven by the European Commission, and of course with our Member States, over the past five years are a solid foundation for that. Still a lot remains to be done. Science and innovation have to remain more than ever strategic priorities. But one thing I can tell you very sincerely after these ten years in the European Commission is that the European Union has demonstrated its great resilience. All those that were betting on the implosion of the euro or on the implosion of the European Union, were wrong. And one of the things that tie us together is, and should continue to be, science and the commitment to an open society where these ideas and this creativity can be kept and can be developed.

Let me conclude in Portuguese,

A título mais pessoal, quero manifestar hoje a minha satisfação por saber que a enorme responsabilidade de conduzir a ciência no futuro incumbirá ao meu compatriota e amigo, o Comissário português indigitado, Carlos Moedas. Gostaria de agradecer a sua presença hoje e estou confiante de que desenvolverá profundos esforços a favor da ciência, da investigação e da inovação. Desejo-lhe o melhor para as suas futuras funções. Para o futuro de Portugal e para o futuro da ciência na Europa!

E a todos vós desejo muito êxito nas discussões acerca do futuro da Europa e da ciência.

Muito obrigado pela vossa atenção.

Daily News of 2014-07-31

MEX 14 / 31.07

DAILY NEWS

31 / 07 / 14

G-7 Leaders Statement on Ukraine

G-7 leaders joined yesterday in expressing their grave concern about Russia’s continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. “This week, we have all announced additional coordinated sanctions on Russia, including sanctions on specific companies operating in key sectors of the Russian economy. We believe it is essential to demonstrate to the Russian leadership that it must stop its support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine and tangibly participate in creating the necessary conditions for the political process.”, said G-7 leaders in a joint statement. “We remain convinced that there must be a political solution to the current conflict, which is causing rising numbers of civilian casualties. We call for a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, and underline the need to implement President Poroshenko’s peace plan without any further delay.”

Read the full statement online .

June 2014: Euro area unemployment rate at 11.5%; EU28 at 10.2%

The euro area (EA18) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 11.5% in June 2014, down from 11.6% in May 2014, and from 12.0% in June 2013. This is the lowest rate recorded since September 2012. The EU28 unemployment rate was 10.2% in June 2014, down from 10.3% in May 2014, and from 10.9% in June 2013. This is the lowest rate recorded since March 2012. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
Eurostat estimates that 25.005 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 18.412 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in June 2014. Compared with May 2014, the number of persons unemployed decreased by 198 000 in the EU28 and by 152 000 in the euro area. Compared with June 2013, unemployment fell by 1.537 million in the EU28 and by 783 000 in the euro area. European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented: “The unemployment figures for June 2014 confirm the first signs of economic recovery we have been seen in Europe over the past year. But while job destruction seems to have come to a halt, the reduction of unemployment has only been very modest so far. Our objective must be to create the right macroeconomic conditions for sustainable recovery and for Member States to implement structural reforms such as the Youth Guarantee to ensure that the recovery is job-rich. Only then will we see the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, and an end to these excessively high and unacceptable levels of unemployment.”

Other news

Bank transfers: Single Euro Payments Area to bring easier payments and transfers in euro area from 1 August

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) creates a true European Single Market for retail payments in euro where and transfers, direct debits and payments between Member States are as easy and fast as the equivalent domestic transactions. It will become operational in all eurozone countries on 1st August 2014. It will also apply to euro-denominated transactions in non-eurozone countries from 30th October 2016. SEPA will greatly facilitate euro payments for citizens and businesses and increase competition between banks.

Commission adopts French programme to use €499 million from Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived

The European Commission has approved today the French Operational Programme to use the new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). France, the first Member State to have its FEAD programme adopted, will receive 499 million euros in current prices in the period 2014-2020 to support the provision of food aid to those most in need in the country (complemented with €88 million from national resources). Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, commented: “I welcome the swift adoption of the French operational programme. The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will play a key role to help Europe’s most vulnerable citizens with food or other basic goods. In many Member States severe material deprivation is on the rise and many households cannot afford a meal. I am looking forward to approving the programmes of all the other Member States, so that the rest of the 3.8 billion euros available can be put to the best use in our fight against poverty”.

Protecting Intellectual Property Rights: Customs authorities detain nearly 36 million fake goods at EU borders in 2013

Customs authorities in the EU detained almost 36 million items suspected of violating intellectual property rights (IPR) in 2013, according to the Commission’s annual report on customs actions to enforce IPR. Although this is less than previous years, the value of the intercepted goods still represents more than € 760 million. Today’s report also gives statistics on the type, provenance and transport method of counterfeit products detained at the EU’s external borders. See also the Q&A: MEMO/14/501 .

EU develops new driverless car parking system – so you never waste another minute looking for a space

There are only a few minutes before your flight check-in closes, or before your train departs, but you now have to spend precious time hunting for a free space at the airport or station car park. Imagine leaving your vehicle at the main entrance and letting the car do the rest on its own. Researchers from Germany, Italy, the UK and Switzerland are working on this, and successful tests took place at Stuttgart airport earlier this year. €5.6 million of EU funding is invested in the system which will be available in the coming years. Vice President Neelie Kroes said:We need to think ahead and find smarter ways to move, to save time, money and our environment. Who wouldn’t want to save time parking their car?

Compromise found: Part of EU fleet can continue fishing in Mauritanian waters until end of 2014

EU vessels fishing shrimps and small pelagics in Mauritanian waters in the framework of the EU-Mauritania Fisheries Protocol will be able to continue to do so until 15 December 2014. This is part of the compromise which EU negotiators found last night in Nouakchott after the Mauritanian authorities had upheld the position that all EU vessels would have to leave Mauritanian waters as of 1 August 2014. According to the agreement found, Mauritania accepted EU fishing activities for a period of 24 months as part of the bilateral Fisheries Protocol, hence the shrimps and small pelagics fisheries which started in January 2013 can continue, whereas those EU vessels which had been fishing tuna and demersals since August 2012 during a transitional period will need to leave Mauritanian waters today. Furthermore, the EU and Mauritania agreed to continue the discussions for a renewed Fisheries Protocol so to allow the full EU fleet to resume their activities soon. More information

Flash estimate – July 2014: Euro area annual inflation down to 0.4%

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 0.4% in July 2014, down from 0.5% in June, according to a flash estimate from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Looking at the main components of euro area inflation, services is expected to have the highest annual rate in July (1.3%, stable compared with June), followed by non-energy industrial goods (0.0%, compared with -0.1% in June), food, alcohol & tobacco (-0.3%, compared with -0.2% in June) and energy (-1.0%, compared with 0.1% in June).

Aides d’État: la Commission conclut que la cristallerie belge Val Saint-Lambert a reçu des aides d’État incompatibles; autorise la vente de certains de ses actifs

La Commission européenne a conclu que certaines des mesures d’aide octroyées par la région wallonne à Val Saint-Lambert SA (VSL) ont conféré à l’entreprise un avantage indu sur ses concurrents, en violation des règles de l’UE en matière d’aides d’État. VSL doit à présent rembourser ce montant, majoré des intérêts, pour atténuer les distorsions de concurrence engendrées par l’octroi de ces aides incompatibles avec le marché intérieur européen.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Pirelli’s steel tyre cord business by Bekaert

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the steel tyre cord business of the Italian company Pirelli by its Belgian-based rival NV Bekaert SA. Steel tyre cord is used to reinforce radial tyres and has a major impact on their safety and performance. The Commission concluded that the acquisition would not raise competition concerns as the merged entity’s customers, which are large, multinational tyre companies, have countervailing buyer power which is further strengthened by over-capacity in the steel tyre cord market. In addition the Commission found that Bekaert will continue to face effective competition from a number of other strong competitors located outside the European Economic Area (EEA), in particular in Belarus, Korea and China. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7230 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Uniqa Life by Uniqa Insurance Group.

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Uniqa Life of Italy by the Uniqa Insurance Group (Uniqa) of Austria. Uniqa Life is a life insurance company active only in Italy, while Uniqa is an Austrian-based insurance group offering products and services in all insurance sectors (life, non-life, re-insurance) in a number of European Economic Area (EEA) countries. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the very low combined market shares resulting from the transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7298 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of GEA’s heat exchanger business by private equity company Triton

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of sole control over the German heat exchanger business of GEA by the private equity company Triton of Jersey. Triton invests in medium-sized businesses in Northern Europe, in particular in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the five Nordic countries. GEA’s heat exchanger business manufactures a broad portfolio of heat exchangers serving different applications such as power, climate and environment or oil and gas. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns, because the overlaps between the activities of Triton’s portfolio companies and GEA’s heat exchanger business are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7306 .

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Doeflex by INEOS in plastic compounding sector

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Doeflex Compounding Limited (Doeflex) of the UK by INEOS AG (INEOS) of Switzerland. Doeflex is a PVC compounder with a single manufacturing facility located in Swindon, UK, controlled by two individuals. INEOS is a global manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oil products. Among other activities, INEOS produces commodity S-PVC E-PVC, plasticizers and S-PVC compounds in the European Economic Area (EEA). The Commission examined the effects of the merger on competition in the area of S-PVC compounding and more specifically for the manufacture and sale of dry blended and gelled compounds in North Western Europe, Western Europe and the EEA. S-PVC compounds are intermediate products between S-PVC and end-products. They are obtained by blending additives such as plasticisers, heat stabilisers and pigments with S-PVC. S-PVC compounds are then further processed to produce end-products such as pipes, window and door frames, cables, etc. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns because the merged entity would continue to face strong competition after the merger and customers would still have sufficient alternative suppliers in the market for S-PVC compounds and its sub-segments. The Commission found, in particular, that other strong players, such as Kem One, which recently acquired Solvay’s compounding business, and Begra will continue to compete with the merged entity in these markets. The Commission also found that in spite of the vertical links between INEOS’s upstream activities in S-PVC, E-PVC and plasticizers and its compounding business, the proposed transaction does not affect INEOS’s ability and incentives to shut out competitors from the S-PVC compounds market or customers from access to supplies because INEOS was already vertically integrated pre-transaction and the addition of Doeflex’s business has limited impact on the pre-existing situation because of its limited size. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission’s public case register under the case number M.7132 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Bull by Atos

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Bull S.A. by Atos S.E., both of France. Atos delivers IT services, including managed services, business process outsourcing, consulting & systems integration and cloud & enterprise software. Bull is active in the development of High Performance Computing (HPC) supercomputers and uprange servers, in the design, building and managing of data centres, HPC infrastructure and cloud computing solutions, in the consulting as well as integration and maintenance of critical business applications and in the design, consulting and integration of end-to-end security solutions. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not give rise to competition concerns, given the parties’ moderate combined market positions resulting from the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players that are active on the respective markets. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7308 .  

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.