Jean-Noël Durvy, director of innovation policy at the European Commission's enterprise department, has promised a broader definition of innovation and support for networks of creative industries across Europe.
Speaking at a debate hosted by the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, Durvy said the new innovation blueprint would represent "a paradigm shift" away from focusing solely on high-tech business.
"The traditional concept of clusters needs to be adapted to move beyond groups of technology companies," he said, adding that Brussels is exploring ways to strengthen links between regions keen on beefing up so-called "knowledge-intensive industries".
A platform where European regions could meet to share experience and expertise on the development of creative clusters is one of the measures under consideration, but Durvy accepted that a more concrete policy framework will also be needed.
"Exchange of best practice is not enough. Networking is necessary but what we need is partnerships and business support services. We are developing better support systems for the innovative services industry," he said.
Access to finance remains a headache for creative sector
Durvy said the innovation strategy, due to be published in spring 2010, will look at technology transfer, access to finance and support for new businesses.
The Act is also likely to focus on practical issues like patent reform and making public procurement more SME-friendly.
According to Durvy, who is intimately involved in drawing up the innovation plan, the role of design is likely to feature strongly in the final document. He said design is an aspect of innovation that the Commission has paid particular attention to as a driver of innovation and competitiveness.
This is in line with the priorities set down in the Manifesto for Creativity and Innovation presented to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso earlier this month (EurActiv 13/11/09).
Durvy said all industries should be encouraged to make better use of designers when thinking about innovative products and services.
A fundamental problem for creative industries, according to the EU official, is access to finance. While all start-ups have struggled to secure bank loans in recent times, this has proven to be a particular challenge for knowledge-based companies whose only capital is their creativity.
One of the key recommendations of an EU-sponsored panel of business innovators last month was to transform the European Investment Fund (EIF) into a venture capital vehicle which would back innovative projects (EurActiv 14/10/09).
Durvy said the EU executive would like to develop more public-private partnerships (PPPs) and to cooperate more with the EIF on finding ways to support the creative sector.
However, he stressed that venture capitalists will not invest unless they are confident of making a return, adding that the market – not public authorities – will determine which entrepreneurs succeed.