Why Europe needs a ‘Pact for Innovation’

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

6085347780_06ac8d4e4c_o.jpg [Boegh/Flickr]

Europe has a strong reputation for being innovative and this will only continue if we engage the next generation of scientists and innovators. We must prepare for the future now, writes Roland Strauss.

Roland Strauss is co-founder and Managing Director of Knowledge4Innovation the platform that brings together innovation leaders from the private, public and academic sectors. Knowledge4Innovation is organising the 7th European Innovation Summit from 7 to 10 December 2015 in the European Parliament in Brussels. EURACTIV is a Media Partner of this event.

Keeping important long-term activities such as innovation continuously on top of Europe’s agenda is even more important during times of major crisis. Europe must continue to defend its values and elaborate on its strength on a daily basis. Luckily we can all agree that innovation is crucial for Europe’s future.

The objective of the Pact for Innovation (INPACT) is to create a space for close collaboration between key stakeholders and the European Institutions. The collaboration is meant to result in clear solutions addressing the pressing issue of multiple barriers that prevent strong and globally competitive innovation performance in Europe.

A close cooperation both at the level of the different Commission DGs as well as the stakeholder community will help in strengthening Europe’s innovation performance.

The Pact calls for a joint effort to create pro-innovation conditions to overcome well-known weaknesses in turning knowledge created by research and inventions into innovation providing “added value” for Europe’s economy and citizens. The signatories of the Pact share the vision that a globally competitive and successful Europe needs stakeholders and institutions to work together in an integrated approach so as to ensure that innovation can deliver solutions to major challenges that Europe and the world are facing.

To move quickly from research and invention to innovation that generates economic value, Europe must build on its existing strengths but also address shortcomings by creating a favourable environment and encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs to take risks.

The focus of the Pact for Innovation is on implementation of actions within identified priorities, where firm timely changes can be achieved best at EU level. Harnessing Europe’s innovation will be best achieved by creating strong value chains and innovation ecosystems at all levels. The signatories commit to implementing the Pact’s projects across EU borders, individual regions, sectors and institutions by 2020.

The formulation of successful innovation policy requires a horizontal approach with a particular focus on synergies between industrial, digital, research and innovation policies. Analysis of the consequences for innovation during the impact assessment of new and reviewed policies and legislation in various sectors must be systematically applied. The Pact advocates a supportive regulatory framework which fosters innovation, strengthens transparency and focuses on the quality of legislation.

It is crucial to put in place necessary structures and processes with a strong participation of stakeholders and create regular exchange of best practices in innovation policies between member states and the EU. This should include the adaptation of political structures and processes to new technological and societal challenges, while ensuring a strong role for stakeholders.

The review of the Europe 2020 strategy is a perfect opportunity to position innovation at the heart of the European agenda around a new Commission project.

Regarding budgets and investment, we must align various funding programs and instruments to overcome the “Valley of Death” and ensure a smooth transition from invention to innovation and the creation of economic value and employment. Investment gaps should be addressed for all critical phases from early stage to growth as well as on the way from SME to mid-cap and global market leader. The mid-term reviews of the MFF and Horizon2020 provide an excellent opportunity to scale up innovations creating new European-wide markets.

Another big challenge is about improving citizen and investor confidence. Better communication on science and an improved dialogue with key stakeholders will increase the understanding in the public for science and innovation and strengthen the relationship between scientists, societal stakeholders, media and the public.

Consumer and investor confidence in Europe must be increased by creating an EU wide dialogue between the different communities with the ultimate goal to find a balance between technology driven developments and those that are relevant from an environmental, health and safety perspective.

All these activities will not be possible if we cannot engage the next generation of scientists, researchers, inventors and innovators. We must prepare the future by strengthening networks of young innovators and entrepreneurs to gain critical mass across the EU. Appropriate skill sets have to be developed and made available in national curriculums from primary school to master degree levels.

The launch of the Pact for Innovation is taking place during the opening ceremony of the 7th EIS on 7 December 2015. The initial signatories invite committed stakeholders to co-sign in combination with the demonstration of their commitment. The progress of the work will be reported bi-annually.

The Pact will be governed by a High-Level Leaders Group (INPACT HLLG) of committed signatories. Commissioner Moedas is invited to represent the Commission in HLLG meetings and support the work of the Pact including the organisation of two major forum events per year. The different priorities of the work program are elaborated and implemented by multi-stakeholder working groups in which the Commission is expected to participate.

The Pact for Innovation is open to cooperate with other dedicated stakeholder groups working in the field of EU Innovation.

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