The Commission sees a bigger picture for Innovation Union

Commissioner for Research and Innovation would like to add 7 billion euros in research funding for innovation in the EU.

As the biggest ever European Commission funding package, it is hoped that this money will go some way to creating around 174,000 jobs in the short term, as well as 450,000 jobs and nearly EUR 80 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) growth within the next 15 years.

The funding boost, part of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), is the latest phase of the Innovation Union rollout, one of the flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy launched in October 2010. The Innovation Union strategy is to ensure Europe is well equipped to take on fierce global competition from emerging markets by tackling its ‘innovation deficit’. Challenges like climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population can be better managed if public sector intervention is used effectively to stimulate the private sector and remove bottlenecks stopping the best and brightest ideas from reaching the market, due to problems such as a lack of finance or fragmentation in research.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn emphasised how important this cross-portfolio initiative was for helping the EU recover from the financial crisis: ‘If we do not transform Europe into an Innovation Union, our economies will wither on the vine while ideas and talent go to waste. Innovation is the key to building sustainable growth and fairer and greener societies. A sea change in Europe’s innovation performance is the only way to create lasting and well-paid jobs that withstand the pressures of globalisation.’

This new funding will take the form of grants awarded to 16,000 recipients comprising actors and organisations across a plethora of European universities, research organisations and industry specialists; there will be a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Commissioner also announced the launch of a new EU Prize for Women Innovators whose work has been funded under FP7 or earlier EU research funding programmes. She added that the European Research Council (ERC) will award close to EUR 1.6 billion to the best senior and young researchers working in Europe.

To support researchers’ mobility and careers, around EUR 900 million will be provided through Marie Curie Actions for around 10,000 highly qualified researchers. This will include EUR 20 million for a pilot project funding European Industrial Doctorates, to stimulate entrepreneurship and cooperation between universities, research institutions and companies, highlighting the Commission’s awareness of the importance of maintaining strong links across all actors in the research field.

‘Europe is again showing its commitment to putting research and innovation at the top of the political agenda for growth and jobs. EU-wide competition for these funds will bring Europe’s best researchers and innovators together to tackle the biggest issues of our time, such as energy, food security, climate change and our ageing population, commented Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. ‘I want to show taxpayers already with the calls we are announcing today, our determination to get the best value for every euro.’

A common problem is bridging the gap between research and the market, and this funding can help demonstrate the commercial potential of a new technology, for example, or that a new idea can work on a sufficiently large scale to be industrially viable.

This market-focused approach is also central to the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) set up under the Innovation Union action plan. Each EIP, including the pilot on Active and Healthy Ageing, will be supported by FP7 projects. All in all, EUR 220 million (from funding allocated to health research funding) and EUR 240 million (from funding for information and communication technology (ICT)) will go towards tackling the challenge of providing for an ageing population.

The remaining ICT funding will be channeled into key developments in network and service infrastructures, nanosystems and microsystems, photonics and robotics, digital content and language technologies, and for applications such as ICT for health and for energy-efficiency.

The EUR 265 million reserved for environment research will help address major challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss or resource efficiency; research and innovation for cleaner, safer and more efficient transport and mobility will get EUR 313 million. The Commission has also set aside EUR 40 million for its Smart Cities initiative to find more efficient ways to use energy and provide urban transport. The EUR 488 million for nanotechnologies will focus on areas such as factories of the future, green cars and energy-efficient buildings.

In response to the increasing demand for safer, healthier food and sustainable bio-resources, the European Commission will invest over EUR 307 million in building a strong bio-economy that will improve production methods, create new industries and provide jobs.

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