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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Commission Encourages More Innovation At 1st European Innovation Summit

Masses of public money pours into research and innovation support and yet still the innovation system doesn't run smoothly.  According to one speaker at today's 1st European Innovation Summit, the whole concept of an 'innovation system' is false.  "Innovation is about creativity and inspiration, not just about getting products to market but about the process and a new way of working together", said the speaker.

Industry often says that it's not a question of needing more funding.  Money is not the bottleneck, said at least one speaker.  Institutional barriers are often cited, as well as slow time to market but increasingly, the economic crisis is mentioned as a major threat to innovation in Europe.  Europe is constantly compared with the US, Japan or other Asian countries in terms of innovation stimulus and innovation output.  Although some argue that this kind of benchmarking is not helpful. 

But you cannot ignore that the difference between the injection of investment for research, technology and education in the American stimulus package compared to the national European recovery plans is significant.  If we give up on innovation now, we will lose a decade, said MEP Danuta Hübner.  Most European innovation experts seem to accept that a change of mindset is needed for innovation to really fly in Europe.  Europe is seen as being less entrepreneurial and less willing to take risks as other regions.  And where European public funding is concerned, there is a zero risk approach.  How this can be reconciled with the risky nature of innovation remains to be seen.  Particularly when the economic crisis tends to leave both policymakers and the public more risk averse.

The European Commission said more than innovation is needed, but also that sustainability is required for the future.  Although they have put a lot of measures in place over the last years, they need to be better and faster if Europe is to stay at the forefront of innovation, according to the EU.  Some of the most innovative countries are in the EU, said Jean-Noël Durvy, but this level of performance has to be spread through the whole European Union.  Public procurement to drive innovation is largely unused, he said, but this will come, particularly in light of the huge public deficit.  Public procurement represents 60% of the economy. 

More should be invested in research and ICT by industry, said Durvy, which contrasted with industry speakers who claimed that there is enough funding in innovation.  Better governance is on its way, he hinted, as well as a public consultation on innovation as preparation to the forthcoming 2010 European Innovation Act which will shape the Commission's activities over the next five years and be part of the Lisbon process.  The exact timing is unknown but end-Spring 2010 is probable.

The Commission and much of industry says innovation will bring us out of the economic crisis but there is concern that it might not come to fruition.

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