Commissioner Janez Potocnik: European Technology Platforms: Developing Lead Markets - Seminar of Industrial Leaders of European Technology Platforms and Associated Representatives of National Authorit

July 6, 2006

Brussels, 5 July 2006

Seminar of Industrial Leaders of European Technology Platforms and Associated Representatives of National Authorities
Brussels, 5 July 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you at this fourth seminar of the industrial leaders of European Technology Platforms.

A warm welcome also to the representatives of the national public authorities who have joined us today to discuss the potential role for European Technology Platforms in the creation of an innovation-friendly Europe.

Presidency Conference on European Technology Platforms

I would like to begin by thanking you for your active contribution to the Austrian Presidency Conference of 4 and 5 May on European Technology Platforms.

The Conference was timely as a good number of platforms have an agreed common vision and Strategic Research Agenda. The Conference provided valuable input for helping a smooth and effective implementation of these agendas.

It is significant that representatives of three European institutions – the Commission, the Parliament and the Council - participated in the opening of the Conference. I can testify to a great level of commitment to European Technology Platforms right across the European institutions.

This is not a surprise to me. As I said in Vienna, technology platforms are a competitive advantage for Europe in boosting our industrial competitiveness.

The Conference rightly stressed the value of increased interactions between platforms. This is indeed important to address horizontal issues, exchange good practice and avoid an overlap of research activities. At the Commission, we will continue our commitment to facilitating this.

Developing Lead Markets

At the Vienna Conference, I suggested that European Technology Platforms could extend their role to help improve the conditions for innovation in Europe.

I would like to thank you for your positive response to my proposal that we come together to explore how European Technology Platforms contribute to this lead markets initiative. This is why we are here today.

Let me briefly recall the background to this initiative.

At their informal Council meeting in Hampton Court in October last year, European leaders identified research and development as a priority in the face of globalisation.

Following this Council, a High-Level Group, chaired by Mr. Esko Aho, was set up with the objective of defining a strategy to improve the conditions for research and innovation in Europe.

One of their central recommendations is that key strategic areas should be earmarked where there is a need to create a stronger focus on demand-side aspects.

The areas to be considered are innovative markets where the EU is in a position to strive for world leadership. They should be areas where there is scope for public authorities to play a critical role - as regulator, customer and facilitator - on the supply side as well as the demand side.

This is endorsed by the 2006 Spring European Council’s call to action to support markets for innovative goods and services and excellence in research in new technologies.

In this regard, the Expert Group’s report highlights the key role that European Technology Platforms could play in creating and exploiting innovation-friendly markets through the setting of research and innovation strategies at European level.

Technology platforms could help create dynamic market conditions whereby more demanding and novelty-seeking customers and potential higher returns on investment would act as a strong pull on private research and innovation.

I see platforms playing an important role here. They are ideally placed to provide concrete guidance on where they see the potential market barriers and opportunities to be addressed by co-ordinated public action. This, in turn, could lead to the definition and implementation of demand-side sectoral policy agendas.

There are a couple of instruments to help achieve this.

Firstly, standards. The early prospective development of standards by stakeholders will help drive the demand for high technical performance levels. The example of mobile phones is a classical one. The early development of a common European standard for mobile phones was an extremely important factor in the success of the European telecommunications industry.

European Technology Platforms are in an excellent position to identify areas where such standardisation could be decisive in developing new high-growth markets, and agreeing on what those standards should be and how to get them established.

A second instrument is public procurement. In markets where public authorities are important customers, public procurement could be used - in particular in combination with performance standards - to drive the demand for innovative goods or services, while at the same time improving the level of public services.

A third is regulation. The fragmented regulatory environment is currently a strong barrier to innovation in Europe. To improve this situation, we need to develop a pre-emptive and anticipatory approach to product market regulation.

A fourth instrument is intellectual property rights. By improving and optimising IPR regimes, we can create more legal certainty and we can ensure the effective protection and diffusion of knowledge as technological progress is made.

I call upon you, as companies, customers and regulators, to help us identify where the main obstacles and opportunities lie.

I invite you to help us determine where the demand-side instruments such as standardisation, public procurement, regulation and IPR can be used to facilitate innovation in your technological area or sector.

In other words, you can help us anticipate future market needs and determine what needs to be done to realise these lead markets.

The report of the High-Level Group cites e-Health as an example of an area where a market for innovation can work and where public policy can have a key role. European collaboration in this field could bring tremendous opportunities for standardisation, shared assessment of technologies and, hence, market creation.

The Lisbon Strategy and 3%

All this fits in the Lisbon strategy and the generally-agreed goal to invest 3% of our GDP in research. Two-thirds should come from the private sector: not only because we, politicians, believe that this is a good thing, but also because it is in the companies’ own interest.

In order to incite companies to invest in R&D, we have a programme to improve the framework conditions for research and innovation. Our programme is to create a truly European market that rewards research and innovation.

With lead markets, we can take this a step further and quicker. The idea is to adapt framework conditions to the needs of specific technology-based sectors so that we, public and private together, create prospects for markets that provide return on investment in research and innovation.

Seventh Framework Programme

The development of lead markets should also increase the impact of the Framework Programme.

In this regard, I am pleased to inform you that we are progressing towards the launch of FP7.

On 15 June, the European Parliament voted in favour of the Commission’s FP7 proposal. It expressed strong support for European Technology Platforms. We will continue to work closely with Parliament to ensure that European Technology Platforms remain flexible, bottom-up and industry-driven tools for defining and implementing Strategic Research Agendas.

We will now work to get Council’s agreement on FP7. Next Monday, I will report to ministers at an informal Competitiveness Council on innovation on the progress we make on FP7 and on the role of technology platforms in making sure that FP7 leverages knowledge into growth and competitiveness.

Platforms will continue to play a guiding role as we move to the implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme.

We have made sure that key stakeholders across European Technology Platforms are also members of the Advisory Groups set up for the different research themes of the Cooperation programme. This will be an additional way to ensure that Strategic Research Agendas inspire the content of Work Programmes and Calls for Proposals.

The wider impact of European Technology Platforms

As well as influencing European research policy, European Technology Platforms are influencing the development of national and regional research agendas. This is very encouraging.

Let me cite an innovative example that was highlighted at the Conference in Vienna. In the Czech Republic, the evaluation procedures of the Coal and Steel Fund award extra points to research proposals that are linked to the Strategic Research Agenda of the Steel European Technology Platform.

Given the positive signals from many national authorities, I would expect that the impact of platforms in shaping national and regional programmes and policies will become ever more important.

In doing so, we will create a stronger and more coherent European Research Area. It will make Europe a more attractive place to invest in research and to innovate.

I was struck by a report from a High-Level Group on Key Technologies, which highlights the need for Europe to define and implement a research strategy, with a vision looking ahead up to 50 years from now. This ‘Beyond Lisbon Strategy’, recognises European Technology Platforms as a tool to identify European research priorities.

This to show that technology platforms have an immediate interest and a long-term potential.

Conclusions

Let me conclude by recalling the purpose of our meeting today.

By identifying barriers and opportunities in relation to public procurement, standards, regulations and Intellectual Property Rights, you can help develop lead markets and create an innovation-friendly Europe.

Many of you have already taken steps in this direction and our objective today is to hear your views on this approach.

I would also like to use this opportunity to take stock of any existing initiatives or plans in your respective fields.

In this regard, I very much welcome the contributions to this meeting of a number of other Commission services in addition to Research. I welcome the senior representatives from the Directorates General for Enterprise, Information Society and Media, Health and Consumer Protection, Environment as well as Transport and Energy. Such a broad range of participation demonstrates the level of interest in this matter across the Commission.

Where will today’s discussions lead us?

Based on the information we will receive from you – and from a wider consultation of stakeholders – the Commission services will identify some areas where we could take action to create conditions that promote technology-based innovation.

In other words, we would like to identify some areas where strategic research agendas could be developed into lead market agendas.

At the political level, I expect that the recommendations of the post Hampton Court Expert Group, together with the Commission’s initiatives for enhancing research and innovation, will be discussed and endorsed during the Finnish Presidency. The informal European Council that the Finnish presidency is planning in October as a follow-up to the Hampton Court one last year will be a good occasion for this.

My ambition, and that of my colleagues in the Commission, is to prepare the political and operational ground so that we can launch concrete actions as of early next year.

With your guidance and support, Europe can achieve a world-leading position in driving markets for innovative goods and services and excellence in research in new technologies.

Thank you for your attention.

Item source: SPEECH/06/435 Date: 05/07/2006

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