Brussels, 26 Apr 2005
'We must create a new innovative spirit in Europe - a spirit that is going for change, is taking the risk and willing to enter unknown territory,' Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen told engineers on 22 April.
Mr Verheugen highlighted the need for a shift from 'current fragmented networking, projects and support services' to 'coherent cooperation of European, national and regional innovation policies'. The recently proposed Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) will encourage progress in this area and 'help foster a new spirit of innovation in Europe', said the Commissioner.
The theme of Mr Verheugen's presentation to Orgalime, the European federation of engineers, was promoting competitiveness. In addition to innovation, the European Commission is also looking to research and entrepreneurship to boost Europe's performance.
'Europe wants and needs to base its competitiveness on high technology value-added products and our knowledge and technical skills,' said the Commissioner. The Commission's framework programmes for research were described by him as 'one key area where EC funding can make a real difference', and he emphasised the industry-friendly nature of the next programme, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
However, if research and innovation are not seen as two parts of one process, Europe will miss opportunities, said Mr Verheugen. He cited the example of the Apple IPOD, the underpinning technology of which was developed by a European research institute, but commercialised by Apple. '[I]t is not enough to have good research skills, we need to be able to commercialise the research results and through these deliver growth and employment. That is why innovation is so important,' said Mr Verheugen.
If the appropriate measures are taken to support research and innovation, and if policies offering encouragement to entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are introduced, the EU should be able to narrow the productivity gap between itself and the US. Only by guaranteeing growth and employment in this way can the European social model be sustained, said the Commissioner.