Nantes, 20 May 2005
Ladies and gentlemen,
I welcome the opportunity to speak to you in the closing session of this conference on networking and clustering - important motors of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe. Such issues are of keen interest and concern to me in my capacity as the Commissioner in charge of science and research.
In my short speech, I will up-date you on recent efforts at EU level, concentrating my comments on the Research Framework Programme, and in particular, on efforts made in the preparation of the next – seventh – Framework Programme to raise SME participation and its innovation impact in terms of the effective exploitation of research results. I will also point to the complementarities between FP7 and the proposed new Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.
The Framework Programme
Central to the success of the Framework Programme is its relevance to European industry and its ability to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.
My vision for FP7 is of a powerful instrument leveraging knowledge for growth, with flexible and simpler instruments and procedures, focusing on consolidating our strengths, addressing our weaknesses, and serving the needs of our industry.
On the 6th of April last, the Commission presented its proposals for the 7th Framework Programme. It is structured into four main ‘specific programmes’ each with a clear objective and title:
- Ideas, and
I will first focus on the “capacities” programme, as I believe that this is an area which will raise your interest - since it is heavily focused on SMEs and SME-related issues.
In this programme, we will put a lot of effort into extending the research done to benefit SMEs – currently known as collective and cooperative research. In these areas, we have proposed more than doubling the annual budget - from the current figure of €120M to about €0M!
In parallel, complementary actions to support SME participation in the research Framework Programme will be funded under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, or CIP as it is increasingly known.
CIP will support networks to encourage SME participation. These networks will look at: raising SME awareness of research relevant to them; identifying needs and potential partners; and assisting in the preparation and coordination of proposals.
Beyond this, CIP will support actions to encourage entrepreneurship and improve conditions for entrepreneurs, including easier access to finance for SMEs. It will stimulate investment in companies in the early stages of growth, and it will extend and consolidate to business support services to SMEs - notably on IPR and technology transfer for the exploitation of research results.
As you can see, the Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme are being designed to work side by side in support of the Lisbon objectives and for the benefit of SMEs in particular.
The “co-operation” programme represents the core of the 7th Framework Programme and will support transnational collaborative projects focused on the needs of industry. This focus has been achieved through wide-ranging consultations to identify priority themes, and in particular the work of industry-led European Technology Platforms.
A challenge for FP7 is to support the implementation of these strategic research agendas established by the technology platforms. Although the Commisison is not bound by them, in many cases we agree with the priorities suggested and have included them in our proposals for FP7.
In this programme, we will facilitate Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) participation in all thematic areas. We will do this through the use of simpler and faster financial and administrative procedures coupled with appropriate financial schemes. The Work Programmes will concentrate on two things:
- on identifying areas of particular interest to SMEs;
- and secondly, on encouraging SME participation where it is beneficial.
The “ideas” programme will stimulate excellence and creativity in basic research through the creation of a new European Research Council. This will provide the basis for tomorrow’s breakthrough innovations. It will fund individual teams of researchers competing for the first time at European level and evaluated solely on the basis of excellence.
The “people” programme in FP7 will support researcher training and career development through a further enhanced “Marie Curie” scheme, promoting public-private career paths and mobility.
Evidently, we cannot forget that research for research’s sake is not the objective of the Framework Programme – we need to ensure that the results are used.
This view was supported in the public consultation which we ran recently. All sectors made it clear that the dissemination and exploitation of research results needed to be brought higher up the agenda.
This is why we are placing much more emphasis on promoting knowledge transfer and the use of research results in FP7.
We propose to have dedicated actions in all thematic areas that synthesise results - making them more accessible to target users, such as companies and entrepreneurs (in particular SMEs), who could exploit the results. This could take the form of conferences which present European research results to a given audience – possibly with knowledge transfer brokerage services provided in parallel.
As well as such awareness raising and knowledge transfer events, we also propose to roll out “exploitation seminars”, which currently only exist in the nanomagnetics area. In these seminars, which will be available upon request, commercialization experts are brought in to assess the potential for future exploitation of an individual project's results, as well as the possible risks and obstacles that could hamper such exploitation.
In this way, the Framework Programme will look to offer support at project level – creating new knowledge and alerting people to its existence.
This will be complemented by the activities funded under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme which will offer support for the exploitation of the research results through various network services such as the IPR Helpdesk, the Business and Innovation Centres, etc.
If we really want to make Europe into the technological leader worldwide, all of this will require significant resources. This is why we are proposing to double the research funding for FP7, focusing on actions where there is real added value at European level and which create a multiplier effect on national and private sector funding.
But hanging over all of this is the crucial debate on the EU budget for 2007 to 2013 – the so-called “financial perspectives”. The decision by Member States on the financial perspectives, and in particular on the Research Framework Programme budget, will be a moment of truth. European leaders will decide whether they want a Europe that focusses on redistributing existing wealth or one that thrives on knowledge-based growth and creates sustainable prosperity for its people.
In this respect, we need as much support as we can get to help us convince national authorities to take the decisions which are necessary in order to deliver the knowledge-based competitiveness at the heart of the Lisbon Strategy.
I hope that, as European stakeholders, and from your various positions of influence, you can also help us take forward our EU agenda. I invite you, therefore, to take an active part in the debates on these issues. Your views are important and must be heard.
You can rest assured that I will deliver on my part of the job to make a Knowledge Europe a reality. And, seeing you, I feel confident that you in your respective roles will help us to deliver as well.
Thank you for your attention.