EU, industry to invest €22 billion in research and innovation

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This article is part of our special report Innovation and the Digital Economy.

The European Commission, member states and industry will invest more than €22 billion over the next seven years in innovation. The investment will primarily go to special sectors via five public-private partnerships called Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs).




The Commission says research and innovation are critical to create new, better-paid and more durable jobs and sustainable economic growth, to boost Europe's global competitiveness.

In certain areas, formal partnerships with the private sector and member states offer the most effective way to meet the goals of the EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, the EU executive said.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for research, innovation and science, said at a press conference in Brussels Wednesday (10 July) that many of the EU's competitors are investing faster and they are thinking big.

"There need to bolster both public and private spending if we are to stay in, never mind ahead of the game," she said.

Overall, a proposed €8 billion investment from Horizon 2020 will secure around €10 billion from the industry, and close to €4 billion from member states.

Neelie Kroes, the Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, said that in the EU there's a lot of talk about "investing in the future", finding the right sources for growth and stimulating the economy, and this is what the new proposal is about.

"This is essential in the current climate, no doubt about that. It is really something we need to do for the sake of all those who a badly looking for a job and for those who don't have the chance at the moment," Kroes said.

Most of the investment is earmarked for five public-private partnerships in innovate medicines (the Innovative Medicines Initiative), aeronautics (Clean Sky), fuel cells and hydrogen, electronics (Electronic Components and Systems) and the new initiative, the Biobased Industries.

Geoghegan-Quinn added that the Commission initiative not only strengthens the economy, but also boosts investment in a better quality of life.

The partnerships will deliver good jobs and major benefits to society such as greener, cleaner aircraft, alternatives to fossil fuels and new treatments to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

New partnership a 'game-changer'

The Biobased Industries Consortium (BIC), a cross-sector group of 48 large and small companies, has joined forces with the Commission to set up a public-private partnership (PPP) worth €3.8 billion to accelerate the deployment of biobased products in Europe by 2020.

"This is a unique partnership that places sustainability at the heart of all economic, social and industrial activities," said Berry Wiersum, chief executive of Sappi, a global paper company.

"It is about realising the untapped potential of biomass and waste, to deliver sustainable growth in Europe," the chief executive added.

Guy Talbourdet, chief executive of Roquette Frères, a company which transforms raw plant material, mentioned that BIC comes at a critical time for European development of the bioeconomy.

"Such a PPP will accelerate the market entry of new biobased products 'made in Europe' in the so-called biorefineries. The use of locally grown biomass will not only enable growth and jobs in rural areas across European regions, but it will also reduce the EU's reliance on fossil or proteins imports."

Geoghegan-Quinn said the emerging bio-based industry sector is set to be the game-changer for stimulating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe.

"By finding commercially viable ways of generating fuel and other products from plants and waste, it will significantly reduce our dependency on oil, help us meet climate change targets, and lead to a greener and more environmental friendly growth," the commissioner said.

"Europe must develop technology leadership in this sector, which is why the EU and industry are backing this new Joint Technology Initiative."

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "The EU must remain a leader in strategic global technology sectors that provide high quality jobs. This innovation investment package combines public and private funding to do just that. This is a perfect demonstration of the leverage effect of the EU budget for growth and jobs."

Peder Holk Nielsen, chief executive of Novozymes, commented: "The Biobased Industries PPP is important for Europe to remain competitive in the global bioeconomy race. It is an opportunity for re-industrialisation and for reversing the investment trend currently going to other regions of the world."

Feike Sijbesma, chief executive of Royal DSM, stated: "This is the start of a promising future for Europe. The development of biomased industries at the crossroads of agriculture, chemistry and energy will enable new value chains and translate the R&D potential into new, innovative and sustainable biomased products and markets serving society."

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) also welcomed the decision to launch a proposal for IMI 2, and hopes it will build on the successes and lessons learnt from IMI 1. Michel Goldman, IMI executive director, commented: "Since IMI launched its first call for proposals back in 2008, we have enjoyed some significant successes and learnt a lot about how to set up and run large-scale projects in which partners from industry, academia, small businesses, patient groups and others join forces to tackle some of the biggest challenges in drug research and development. As a result of these efforts, Europe is now globally recognised as a pioneer in open collaboration for health research. We hope that IMI 2 will build on the successes and lessons learnt from IMI 1, and continue to deliver breakthroughs that will make a real difference to patients, their families and careers, and society as a whole."

The private-public partnerships proposed by the Commission are in form of joint technology initiatives (JTIs). They represent the joining of forces between the EU and industry and provide vital funding for large-scale, longer-term and high risk/reward research.

They set out commitments, including financial commitments, over a seven year period from both the EU and from the industry partners and have objectives that need to be achieved by the partnerships.

They establish their own strategic research and innovation agendas, bringing together companies, universities, research laboratories, innovative SMEs and other groups and organisations, and fund projects selected through open and competitive calls for project proposals.

  • Beginning of 2014: Parliament and Council to reach agreement of Horizon 2020.

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