“If Europe wants to be a serious global competitor, it needs to create a truly open internal market where R&D, knowledge, finance and services can move freely in an open and undistorted environment, and where competition is the main mechanism for selecting successful innovations, “ said a policy brief published by the EPC. The report goes on to suggest 10 different steps to achieve that across Europe.
The report was launched at a Brussels conference headlining EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, and followed nine months of meetings by the EPC Innovation Task Force, chaired by Pavel Telicka, a former commissioner.
Other participants at the meeting urged action. Joachim von Heimburg, European director for corporate R&D management and innovation at Procter & Gamble, urged the Commission to focus its policy efforts on specific themes – for instance, developing a sustainable energy supply, or innovative healthcare for an aging population. Such an approach could generate broader political support. “Innovation must become exciting and relevant again for the public,” he said.
Potocnik praised the EOC report, but said innovation policy generally “needs constant support and development. It will not happen overnight. You need to be patient. It’s a bit contradictory with the political cycle of life.”
The EPC study, resulting from regular meetings with industry and regional-government lobbyists, bears reading as a summary of the industry’s current consensus on innovation policy: That the focus should be on creating the right market conditions in Europe for companies to innovate, academics to discover, and investors to take risks. That doesn’t necessarily come from spending more money on research, it said. Instead, it’s a question of freeing technology markets to work more efficiently – an approach that many call “demand-side” innovation theory (See also a Science|Business report on this.)
While all EU funding programmes are well and good, the report says, “there is a more urgent need to persuade national, regional and local governments to remove existing barriers in order to reap all the benefits of a well-functioning internal market.”
It goes on to list 10 steps that could be taken towards that end. They include education and training for entrepreneurship; strengthening the internal EU market by removing regulatory barriers to innovation; and promoting so-called “lead market” programmes that harness government procurement and standardization processes to create a market for emerging technologies.