Investing in innovation 'key to economic recovery'

09.02.09 – 09.03.2009
The EU will pump additional funds into research as part of its budget for 2013-2021 in a bid to innovate its way out of economic decline, according to European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering (© text: Euractiv).
Investing in innovation 'key to economic recovery'

Speaking at a conference on the role of technological development in Europe's economic recovery on 28 January, Pöttering said the EU will have to earmark a larger proportion of its funds for innovation if is going to secure new investment from industry.

"I have always been a strong supporter of the 7th EU Research and Technology programme. I can assure you all here today that this programme is here to stay and I would be confident that for the next EU Financial Perspective 2013-2021, the European Union will allocate an even greater proportion of the EU annual budget for research, technology and research programmes," said the Parliament president.

EU Commissioner for Science, Research and Technology Janez Potočnik said now would be the wrong time to slow investment in innovation. "Investment is vital if Europe wants to emerge stronger from the economic crisis and if it wants to address the challenges of climate change and globalisation."

The commissioner said the European Research Area was becoming increasingly attractive, but he was critical of "relative underinvestment by business" in developing high-tech products.

"The European Commission's initiatives to improve the EU's research efficiency, to stimulate innovation and to develop high tech markets are putting the EU on the right tracks," he said.

The Internet will be central to long-term competitiveness, said Irish MEP Brian Crowley, president of the Parliament's UEN Group, who chaired the meeting. He said evolving information technologies are fuelling a revolution in the way people interact, including in the way they interact commercially.

"We need to ensure that we put in place a policy platform which will guarantee that consumers and businesses alike can prosper in an ever-changing technological world and to guarantee that privacy issues are addressed."

He noted that 150 million people already use the Internet to shop online, but warned of a growing "digital age" between those who have access to information technology and those who do not.


Meglena Kuneva, the EU commissioner for consumer affairs, said the Internet has the potential to be one of the most empowering tools consumers have ever had and can also be good for business. "It expands the size of the market that they operate in, gives them access to more choice and providers and makes it possible to compare products, suppliers and prices on an unprecedented scale. Without a doubt, the single market for consumers will happen online. But in order for this to happen effectively and to ensure that the digital environment is one where consumers thrive, action must be taken in all policy fields to remove unnecessary barriers to cross border trade."

Erika Mann (PSE, DE) said embracing new technologies is vital to Europe's economic recovery plan. "European industry, educational and research organisations must get the maximise benefit available from the €52 billion that is being allocated under the 7th EU Research and Technology Programme 2007-2013 so that the European economy can remain competitive into the future."

Dirk Sterckx MEP (ALDE, BE) said "we must all work towards ensuring that the 27 member states of the European Union put aside 3% of their GDP for research and technology programmes, in line with the Lisbon Strategy".

The meeting was attended by representatives from the high-tech industry and universities. Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corporation, said investment in R&D is a particular incentive during economic downturns. "We look forward to deepening our ties with European researchers and policymakers, and finding ways to continue inspiring innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Such a commitment can lead to everything from computers that continually cost less and yet are increasingly powerful, to the creation of whole new industries that lift living standards and that spur further productivity and creativity."


EU investment in research and innovation is grouped together under a single 'framework programme'. The seventh such programme (FP7) was unveiled in April 2005 and came into effect in 2007. It will run until 2013 and provides for €52 billion to be spent on research and technology and sets out key target areas for investment.

The creation of a European Research Area (ERA) was first proposed in 2000. Since then, several texts have been put forward to address the main obstacles facing researchers in Europe. Two of the key challenges to maintaining competitiveness in this area are attracting capable scientists from outside the EU and facilitating their free movement within the Union.


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