Knowledge is Europe's Equivalent of Oil, says Verheugen, and "We have to defend it like the oil producers defend their resources."

Brussels, 18 Sep 2006

Research and innovation are key to a successful European industrial policy, but more needs to be done to protect intellectual property rights (IPRs). This was one of the messages emerging from a workshop on the EU's new industrial policy organised by the Alliance for a Competitive European Industry. Heinz Zourek, Director General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry, highlighted the importance of innovation to achieving a competitive European industry. 'Innovation is the core driver in economies which cannot compete on low prices, but on added value,' he said, adding that innovation is not an easy thing to measure and is more than simply research and development (R&D) expenditure. On the EU's Lisbon agenda for jobs and growth, he noted that 'there is no competitiveness without innovation.'

In a discussion on how to promote innovation in industry, Edward Krubasik, President of the European engineering industry association Orgalime, called for a greater emphasis on applying the results of research and said Europe needed to look for new opportunities for technology. Meanwhile Fabbrizio d'Adda of European business association, UNICE, said that better regulations were needed which would be clear, simple, stable and innovation friendly.

Hungarian MEP Edit Herczog doubted that better regulations alone would help to make European industry more competitive. In her view, creating a good business framework requires not just regulations but generating support for industry among the general public. She recommended that industry spend more time and effort on communicating the benefits of industry and innovation to the public in a straightforward way.

Another hot topic at the workshop was Intellectual Property Rights. 'Many European companies rely on innovation and design for their competitiveness,' said Leif Kjaergaard of Danish biotech firm Danisco, noting that 60 per cent of the counterfeit goods seized at EU borders comes from China.

Speaking at the workshop, European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen said, 'Our oil is knowledge. We have to defend it like the oil producers defend their resources.'

In its recent communication on innovation, the European Commission promised to launch a new IPR strategy which should address many of the concerns raised by the workshop participants. In his speech, Mr Verheugen added that the EU would 'boost [its] cooperation and defend intellectual property rights world wide,' particularly in China and Russia.

'European entrepreneurs have to be able to rely on a proper reward for innovation, based on sound and recognised rights, enforceable and enforced in third countries,' he added. 'Otherwise, why would our companies invest more in R&D for the sake of innovation?'

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