Brussels, 19 Apr 2005
The European Commission has unveiled a new Mutual Learning Platform (MLP) for research and innovation in EU regions, designed to encourage regional policy makers to share their experiences and enable regions to participate fully in the knowledge-based society.
The platform is a joint initiative of the Commission's Enterprise and Industry, Research, Regional Policy and Information Society DGs, with the active involvement of the Committee of the Regions (CoR). It pulls together a number of existing Community initiatives for greater coherence, such as regional foresight activities, the European Innovation TrendChart and Scoreboard, and the Regions of Knowledge pilot actions.
'Essentially, the Mutual Learning Platform is a way of making sure that [one region's] mistakes and successes become the experience of everyone in trying to promote innovation across the EU,' explained David White, Director of the Innovation Policy Directorate at DG Enterprise and Industry, at a launch meeting for representatives of EU regions.
The latest European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) had the EU trailing the US in 10 out of 11 indicators for innovative achievement, said Mr White. 'This disappointing performance calls for fresh efforts in Europe. We must build on existing programmes as well as new ones, such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme [CIP].'
Mr White reminded those present, however, that innovation is essentially driven at regional and national level, and that the EU cannot take on this role. 'At European level we can provide coordination mechanisms and take the lead on policy discussions. The Commission can help regions and Member States to pull together [...] and the MLP is an important example of how we can encourage mutual learning within and between European regions.'
The activities of the MLP will concentrate on three core topic areas within the field of research and innovation: regional foresight, regional benchmarking and regional profiles. Working groups comprising around 50 regional actors will be established under each of these headings, with the objective of sharing experiences and making concrete suggestions for regional policy makers across the EU.
Under the regional benchmarking heading, for example, activities will be based on the forthcoming 'innovation impact assessment and benchmarking' projects planned by DG Enterprise and Industry, as well as the EIS and TrendChart. The aim is to agree on common regional innovation indicators that would allow for inter-regional comparisons, as well as analysing the actual impact of such indicators on regional policy.
The MLP will also take advantage of existing networks and structures for innovation support, such as the Innovating Regions in Europe and Innovation Relay Centre networks. According to CoR Vice President Sir Albert Bore: 'There is some recycling of old programmes, but that is no bad thing. We need to learn from previous experience and find a new partnership approach that the MLP can demonstrate.'
Mr White added that while the previous multiannual programmes had achieved a lot, not all activities had ended in success. 'The MLP is, in a sense, a way of reducing the costs of making such mistakes, as every region should be able to learn from the mistakes of the others.'
He concluded that Europe's future growth depends on being able to improve the quality and quantity of innovation. 'We have to foster the conditions that encourage innovation. This is a critical challenge - and we have a lot to learn from each other.'
For further information, please consult the following web addresses:
http: //www.innovating-regions.org/networ k/presentation/mlp_details.cfm
http:///www.cordis.lu/innovation /en/home. html