Brussels, 14 Mar 2003
EU Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, has called on Member States and the Commission to work together to create a common European framework for innovation policy.
He also urged Member States to draw up indicators and set targets for national innovation performance and communicate the results, as called for in the Commission's newly published communication on innovation policy.
The Commissioner was addressing a stakeholder conference in Brussels on 13 March, organised to present the communication, initiate a dialogue with national and regional representatives on the issues raised in the document, and offer some expert perspectives on innovation in Europe.
The communication was produced in the context of the EU's objective of becoming the world's most competitive economy by 2010, the so-called Lisbon strategy. Mr Liikanen warned delegates that statistical indicators of Europe's current innovation performance show that achieving this objective is by no means guaranteed, and said that: 'To reach the Lisbon goals means stepping up a gear.'
The Commissioner reiterated the importance of the measures recommended in the communication: the better coordination of Member State and EU innovation policies, and the promotion of innovation through related areas of policy such as employment and education.
He also emphasised the role of Europe's cities as centres of innovation, citing the existence of vital infrastructures and access to large workforces. 'European cities offer real opportunities to innovative individuals, but we must ensure that our cities also offer attractive lifestyles [...]. We must harness the diversity that exists in Europe and be welcoming to outsiders,' he said.
In the context of the enlargement process, Mr Liikanen said that the acceding countries face a major challenge, but that the capacity that they have already shown to reform their economies in preparation for EU membership gives him confidence in their ability to boost innovation levels.
Maja Bucar, from the Centre of International Relations at the University of Ljubljana, blamed the poor innovative record of candidate countries on a number of factors. Traditionally low levels of spending on research and development, a lack of investment capital and financing structures, and a failure to implement well meaning policies had all served to stifle innovation, she said.
In order to overcome such challenges, Ms Bucar highlighted the need for the promotion of an innovation culture at all levels of society. A commitment to lifelong learning, better cooperation between industry and research institutions, and the proactive intervention of government would all contribute to the creation of such a culture, and in turn boost competitiveness, she said.
Professor Paul Reynolds presented some of the key findings of the global entrepreneurship monitor, the world's most comprehensive research project on innovation and entrepreneurship, which he devised and manages. The results of the monitor show that the lowest levels of entrepreneurship are found in Europe and among developed Asian nations such as Japan and Singapore, while the highest levels are found in among developing Asian countries such as India and China.
Within the EU, there are marked regional variations in levels of innovative entrepreneurship, said Professor Reynolds. Efforts to promote innovation in Europe, he believes, will benefit from good educational systems, growing research investment, established financial structures, a skilled and mobile workforce, and the presence of strong political will.
Holding back progress, however, is the absence of a culture of innovation in Europe, and a spreading reluctance among citizens, when compared with a country such as the United States, to pursue business growth and economic wealth as their primary goals. Professor Reynolds, too, felt that the key to boosting innovation lay in the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture, with a particular focus on convincing young adults to start their own businesses.
Maria João Rodrigues, a key figure in the creation of the Lisbon strategy and a Professor at the University of Lisbon, focussed on the measures available to EU and Member State institutions to strengthen their innovative performance. 'As the main actors of innovation, Europe's companies should be encouraged and supported in creating innovative products and services,' said Professor Rodrigues.
She described the upcoming Spring Council as an ideal opportunity to enhance Europe's innovation policy framework and push forward cooperation. Professor Rodrigues also drew upon the best practice of the Portuguese government's innovation programmes when she proposed further stakeholder discussions with business and education leaders in order to draw them into the process of creating new generation innovation systems.
Indeed, Mr Liikanen's final message to the stakeholders present at the event was that they should communicate the Commission's proposals in their countries and regions, and that he hopes to generate feedback from all interested parties in preparation for future initiatives and the Spring Council at the end of March. To see the Commission's communication on innovation, please visit: http://www.cordis.lu/innovation-policy/c ommunications