R&D&I national systems share the common weaknesses consisting on the difficulty to drive the bridge to market, to transfer the scientific knowledge and applied research outputs to society through the market. Certainly, enormous efforts are made to promote basic research. However, today it is a challenge to consolidate it as innovation.
Let’s have a look to how the European Union is trying to address this issue through its policies and financial instruments directed to bridge the gap between research and innovation within R&D national systems.
Europe 2020 Strategy
Europe 2020 is the European Union’s ten-year growth strategy set out as a vision of Europe’s social market economy. Europe 2020 put forward 3 mutually reinforcing priorities and 7 flagship initiatives to catalyse progress under smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, providing a framework through which the EU and national authorities concentrate the efforts in some policies where results should be achieved.
The aim of Flagship Initiative: “Innovation Union” is to re-focus R&D and innovation policy on the challenge of bridging the gap, from research outputs to society outcomes. Some financing tools provided by “Innovation Union” are described as follows:
1. Horizon 2020, EU Research and Innovation Programme
Horizon 2020 lasts for 7 years (2014 to 2020) and the goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation, and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation. Horizon 2020 has 3 main sections.
· Excellent Science reinforces and extends the excellence of the Union’s science base and consolidates the European Research Area (ERA) in order to make the Union’s research and innovation system more competitive on a global scale. The main grant schemes are implemented by the European Research Council, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme and the Research Infrastructures calls.
· Industrial Leadership is devoted to speed up development of the technologies and innovations that will underpin tomorrow’s businesses and help innovative European SMEs to grow into world-leading companies. Some of the financial instruments are Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Advanced Manufacturing and Processing, and Biotechnology; Information and Communication Technologies; Space); access to risk finance and Innovation in SMEs programme.
· Societal Challenges addresses major concerns shared by citizens in Europe and elsewhere. It covers activities from research to market with a new focus on innovation-related activities, such as piloting, demonstration, test-beds, and support for public procurement and market uptake. The topics covered are:
- Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing
- Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy
- Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy
- Smart, Green and Integrated Transport
- Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials
- Europe in a changing world – Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
- Secure societies – Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens
Societal Challenges will include establishing links with the activities of the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) among stakeholders from public and private sectors. Catalonia is now a member of EIP on Active and Healthy Ageing involve key players working on shared interests to find innovative solutions that meet the needs of the ageing population.
Among others initiatives, it is worth to point out the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), that brings together the ‘knowledge triangle’ of business, education and research to form dynamic cross-border partnerships: Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). The KICs develop innovative products and services, start new companies, and train a new generation of entrepreneurs. Actually, there are 5 KICs: (i) Climate KIC; (ii) EIT Digital; (iii) EIT Health; (iv) EIT Raw Materials; (v) KIC InnoEnergy. In 2016 2 new KICs will be established: (vi) EIT Food; (vii) EIT Manufacturing. It also includes the cross-cutting activities on Circular Economy, Internet of Things and Smart and Sustainable Cities. Catalonia participates as a node on the EIT Health and KIC InnoEnergy.
2. European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020
The reform of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) for the 2014-2020 programming period aims to maximise their contribution to the Europe 2020 Strategy. This is why across Europe they are being designed Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3 Strategies) with the purpose of establishing the framework within which regional governments identify research and innovation actions and programmes. The Catalan Government provides support for the generation and development of innovative projects through Strategy for the Smart Specialisation of Catalonia (RIS3CAT).
As a conclusion, the EU is implementing some solutions to bridge the gap through the knowledge economy and the public private partnership. That is the new roadmap to innovation, not only for key players as R&D national and regional systems but also for regional and local governments willing access to new ESI funds.