"Strengthening European Innovation Policy" (Extract from Background on the Competitiveness Council of 13 May)

May 9, 2003

Brussels, 08 May 2003

Following an exchange of views on the Commission communication "Innovation policy: updating the Union's approach in the context of the Lisbon strategy" the Council is expected to draw conclusions on the strengthening of European innovation policy.

The Council will, in particular, invite the Member States, acceding countries and the Commission to intensify their co-operation and to create a framework of common objectives for strengthening the innovation in the EU. This framework should include an assessment mechanism for taking stock of the progress achieved, while respecting the characteristics of national innovation systems and the diversity of national approaches.

The mentioned communication envisages the development of an enterprise policy that fosters competitiveness of companies. It describes the diverse routes to innovation and analyses the consequences for the design of innovation policy and for different means by which innovation policy is put into action. The analysis is complemented by an examination of the current EU specific challenges taking into account the implications of enlargement, demographic trends, and the large size of the public sector in EU economies. Finally, the Communication suggests several new directions for EU innovation policy development and, in particular, interaction with other policy areas.

The Council will have an exchange of views on the basis of the Commission's communication "Investing in Research: an Action Plan for Europe ("3% Target"). As this communication was only received on 30 April together with voluminous background material, the exchange of views is of a preliminary nature and no conclusions are envisaged at Council level at this stage.

The Commission's communication is to be seen in the general context of the Lisbon process and particularly the "Barcelona target" of 3% GDP expenditure for research. It is also an important follow-up to recent Council conclusions on the European Research Area, the "Competitiveness" Council's input to the Spring European Council and the conclusions of the Spring European Council (20/21 March).

One of the elements of most interest to the Council in the communication is likely to be the suggested approach to the implementation of the "open method of co-ordination" (OMC) concerning the 3% target. Judging from the experience of earlier exercises in other sectors, any agreement on the application of the OMC will require extensive technical preparation, to be continued under the forthcoming Presidency/ies.

Under these circumstances and in order to avoid an endless "tour de table", the Presidency submitted, at this stage, a questionnaire of a fairly general nature. Ministers are invited to confine their interventions to major messages on issues such as priority action at national and at EU level, the role of the regions in this context or the need for industrial sector-specific measures.

Press Release: Brussels (8/5/2003)

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