Data shows that in the EU the capacity for research and innovation differs greatly between Member States. This innovation divide between top performing and underperforming countries poses a threat to the economic efficiency, cohesion and social stability of the EU.
Europe has for a long time focused on science and research resulting in a globally leading knowledge portfolio in the form of scientific publications, patents, and key enabling technologies. A major challenge for the completion of a European Innovation area is to overcome the innovation divide between member states and regions. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel stressed that Europe still has difficulties turning all the good ideas and knowledge into innovations, economic activities, and productivity gains. Big potentials, in particular in new member states remain untapped. At the same time there is a great opportunity through better-linking education and entrepreneurship. There are more and more universities that build innovation ecosystems around their campuses sometimes referred to as “University Valleys”.
Several programmes have been designed to increase the innovation performance of less innovative countries and regions. The Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence actions contribute to building research and innovation capacity specifically for countries lagging behind. With the support of the European Innovation Ecosystems Programme and the synergies with the Structural Funds Programmes, innovation actors will be able to upgrade their research and innovation systems, making them stronger and allowing the EU as a whole to advance together. A particular role is played by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) with links to the Smart Specialisation Strategies and extended Regional Innovation Schemes.
In addition to the MFF instruments, the NGEU funds will finance the transition towards a digital and green future where the development of new technologies and impact innovations are the main drivers.
Improved innovation cohesion is one of the 8 Focus Areas of the European Innovation Area (EIA) initiative that will help connect innovators and ecosystems across Europe and provide great opportunities for cooperation and improved cohesion.
The overall objective of this debate is to provide a platform for policy makers and stakeholders to have an in-depth discussion about shortcomings and actions needed to foster innovation cohesion. What opportunities are presented through the various EU funding instruments (MFF) and what can we expect from the “Next Generation EU” funds to overcome the innovation gap between member states? What can be learned from high performers? What is the role of governance, infrastructure, and innovation support organizations?