The European Investment Fund (EIF) should be expanded to fund corporate ventures and innovation projects, according to a panel of experts brought together by the EU executive.
The group, which includes policymakers and leading thinkers from the world of innovation, said the EIF should be used to accelerate pan-European venture capital funds. The EIF’s role should be broadened to create funds “with the critical mass of resources and expertise to operate on a transnational basis funds and specialise in future growth markets”.
A report produced by the panel is the result of an online brainstorming session on the future of innovation in Europe and is expected to have a major influence on the shape of the European Innovation Act, which will be launched in spring 2010.
The group says venture capital funds backed by the EIF must attract sustainable co-investment from the private sector and should be free from political interference from Brussels or EU governments.
Incentives are also required to create a functioning EU market for intellectual property, which would allow universities, public research organisations and small companies to find partners and to access the unused intellectual property of larger players.
Broaden concept of innovation
The group wants a broader definition of innovation which would encompass community-based innovation and reforms in the public sector.
“Scale and speed are everything in innovation,” according to the report, but more work is needed to accelerate the adoption of new technologies, especially in the public sector.
EU directives and regulations must support innovation, according to the expert panel, and public procurement should be reformed to encourage innovative proposals.
On a practical note, the report says every household, business and public building in Europe should have “ultrafast” broadband and smart energy grid connections.
“We propose that the EU commits to universal access to ultrafast broadband and smart grids, implements an integrated, cross-border investment strategy, and combines infrastructure projects with support for innovative services and open access,” the group suggests.
Information exchange via new Web 2.0 tools will feed innovation, according to the experts, who say boosting collaboration will increase innovation.
“We propose to create and network innovation labs, invest in cultural and creative institutions, organisations and networks, reinforce the role of brokers and intermediaries, develop a major prize for innovative localities, and stimulate universities and public research centres to be more open and international,” the report says.