Annexes to COM(2018)306 - Renewed European Agenda for Research and Innovation - The European Commission's contribution to the Informal EU Leaders' meeting on 16 May 2018 on innovation

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Agreement commitments on climate change, to discovering new planets, making major advances on cancer treatment, EU funding has a real and demonstrable added-value. It may even help you to print a 3D version of your dream house in the near future.

Europe can take this added value and impact one step further by setting EU-level research and innovation missions. These would set ambitious goals that would push the boundaries for research and innovation, drive our jobs, growth and competitiveness agenda, and help solve some of society's biggest challenges. These missions would be defined in close cooperation with Member States, stakeholders and citizens. They could range from the fight against disease, to clean transport, or plastic-free oceans.

Recognising that what gets measured gets done, these missions would need to set ambitious, targeted and time-bound objectives. Taking the example of oceans plastics, these objectives could include, for instance, reducing the amount of plastics entering the marine environment by 90% and collecting more than half of the plastics present in our oceans by 2025'.

The missions will encourage investment and participation across multiple sectors throughout the value chains, policy areas (e.g. energy and climate, transport, advanced manufacturing, health and nutrition, digital), scientific disciplines (including social sciences and humanities), as well as different actors and stakeholders. This requires an inclusive process which identifies areas with greatest potential in terms of scale of economic impact on the one hand, and addresses societal challenges on the other. Missions could have a societal, scientific or technological focus and should create synergies with research and innovation strategies at Member State, regional and local level.

Missions should encourage and even require experimentation and risk-taking. They will be able to build on and continue the experience of the Graphene and the Human Brain flagship projects 42 , and more recently the Quantum project, all of which have shown ambition and a strong technology-driven approach based on multi-disciplinary research.

Key steps

- Launch a first set of EU level research and innovation missions with bold, ambitious goals and strong European added value. 

2.5 Support rapid dissemination of innovation and uptake throughout the Union

There used to be a clear innovation divide in Europe between North and South, and West and East. However, that division is now much more nuanced, as a number of countries have made significant progress in catching up, notably in terms of investment levels. Pockets of scientific and technological excellence have emerged in all parts of Europe. But the innovation divide between regions still persists, with several areas lagging significantly behind in terms of investment, innovation capacity and performance. Weaknesses in innovation dissemination explain a large part of Europe's slow aggregate productivity growth. 43

Performance of EU regions in terms of innovation 44  

Additional efforts are needed to accelerate the uptake of innovation in less developed regions and in more traditional sectors. Investments need to be made more efficient, effective and better tailored to regional and local needs. EU funding has been instrumental in developing regional innovation eco-systems, including "Innovation Hubs" that give Small and Medium Enterprises easy access to infrastructure and expertise to experiment with new technologies. To support these efforts, Smart Specialisation Strategies are key to ensuring that all EU regions can harness their potential and succeed with innovation-based industrial transition. 45

Since 2014, the focus on innovation within the European Structural and Investment Funds has been reinforced through 120 Smart Specialisation Strategies that promote innovation based on the strengths of each region. Around EUR 80 billion is available from the European Regional Development Fund to encourage entrepreneurship, digitisation and business research, in particular in the least developed regions. The European Social Fund and the Erasmus +Programme support investment in developing people's skills. The Common Agricultural Policy strengthens innovation capacity in rural areas through support for the uptake of digital-based opportunities.

For Europe to build a stronger innovation capacity and more effective and faster innovation diffusion across the Union, we need a stronger and more strategic coordination across different EU funding schemes, with a better alignment of priorities at European level, including between Smart Specialisation Strategies and Horizon Europe. More support is needed for cross-border and cross-region collaborations across European and international value chains. Institutional capacity at regional and local level also needs to be strengthened to support reforms of innovation systems and help develop the new skills needed.

Key steps

- Use European Structural and Investment Funds to bring regions into the innovation economy. Smart specialisation strategies should be strengthened and streamlined to enable interregional innovation support. Synergies should be created with the Horizon Europe Programme, InvestEU Fund, the European Social Fund, the Erasmus +Programme, the Digital Europe Programme, the Common Agricultural Policy and other programmes.

2.6    Invest in skills at all levels and empower European universities to become more entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary

Developing a learning and entrepreneurial society in Europe is crucial to spur innovation across all sectors of the economy and all segments of the population. It requires major changes in the education and training and research system, as well as in the workplace to ensure that life-long-learning and upskilling becomes a reality for all. This is needed to address skills gaps and mismatches that exist in Europe. It is estimated that around 40% of the workforce in Europe needs digital upskilling, while 70 million Europeans lack basic literacy and numeracy skills.

More than half of all citizens have either basic or no digital skills 46

At the other end of skills spectrum, European universities need to better tap-in to their innovation and entrepreneurship potential. 47 This will help generate the ideas and new business models that can translate into start-ups and spin-offs. Universities should also be more ready to break down disciplinary barriers and work with business and civil society. Moreover, both general and technical education should better match emerging business and societal needs by offering more agile learning programmes that will help to close the skills gap as well as help the faster diffusion, reuse and access to knowledge.

At the Gothenburg Summit in November 2017, Europe's leaders recognised the key role of higher education in providing the future-oriented skills and competences to successfully innovate. 48 The European Council called on Member States, the Council and the Commission to take work forward on a number of initiatives, including encouraging the emergence by 2024 of some twenty "European Universities" made up of bottom-up networks of universities across the EU. 49 The "European Universities" will bring cross-border cooperation to a new level, going beyond what exists today through the development of long-term strategies for top-quality education, research and innovation, more mobility for students, staff and researchers, and true transnational European knowledge-creating teams. They should become key drivers in the European Education Area and contribute to the international competitiveness of universities in Europe. 50  

The take up of open science practices at different stages of the researchers' careers can also stimulate attractive career environments for all, give more recognition and reward international and science-business mobility. 51 The modernisation of universities and public research organisations should therefore also be supported with an Open Science label. Such a high-quality label could be awarded to individual universities and trans-national university partnerships, and would be recognised in future EU support for trans-national projects involving universities. 52

At the European level, we should pursue and further improve initiatives that have proven to bear good results, such as the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and the HigherEducation Innovate Initiative. 53  They connect business, education and research organisations and promote entrepreneurship and stronger knowledge flows throughout the value chain.

To strenghten knowledge transfer, a stronger link between vocational education and training and innovation systems is needed, to contribute to skills intelligence and better skills matching in line with the Skills Agenda for Europe. 54

Moreover, to meet the demands of the new economy and help develop a more agile and enterpreneurial workforce, the European Social Fund will continue to help Europeans to re-skill and up-skill, while the Blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills 55 can help adjust training for new occupations in selected sectors. The Digital Education Action Plan and the Digital Skills Strategy work towards identifying and developing future skill needs.

Key steps

- Contribute to the modernisation of universities and public research organisations with an Open Science label. 

3. Conclusions

Europe's economic and social prosperity depends on our ability to innovate. Sustaining Europe's social and economic model, modernising industry and building a cohesive and inclusive European Union means ensuring that innovation permeates all policies as well as social, economic and industrial decisions.

The changing nature of innovation will bring new opportunities to drive job creation and growth in Europe. We must be in a position to seize these opportunities, while addressing the challenges and uncertainty. In doing so, we must be vigilant that the benefits are fairly distributed within our society.

This transformation will require a shared ambition and a change in mind-set regarding innovation and science in Europe. A shared agenda between regions, Member States and the European Commission is essential. We must build on Europe's strengths and give a new direction and a new impetus so that Europe becomes a true global leader in innovation for all.

The Commission invites Leaders to discuss and give strategic orientation with a view to:

1.Swiftly adopting the next Multiannual Financial Framework with the proposed innovation funding to ensure that research and innovation continues to be one of the essential EU policies and funding priorities in the future, across different budgetary instruments.

2.Member States taking the necessary steps to maximise their investments in research and innovation to reach the 3% of Gross Domestic Product target.

3.Increasing private investment in research and innovation and scale-up initiatives such as the VentureEU initiative to boost private investment and patient capital.

4.Building future proof EU and national regulatory frameworks by applying the innovation principle, ensuring that whenever policy and legislation are reviewed, developed or implemented, the impact on innovation is fully assessed.

5.Giving priority to the transposition of the Directive on preventing restructuring frameworks, second chances and measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures.

6.Further simplifying state aid rules to facilitate the seamless combination of different funds and the better use of common assessment standards for research and innovation projects.

7.Establishing a European Innovation Council to identify and scale up breakthrough and disruptive innovation, focusing on fast moving, high-risk innovations that have a strong potential to create entirely new markets.

8.Launching a set of European research and innovation missions with bold, ambitious goals and strong European added value.

9.Using European Structural and Investment Funds to bring the regions into the innovation economy. Smart Specialisation Strategies should be strengthened and streamlined to enable interregional innovation support. Synergies should be created, with the Horizon Europe programme, InvestEU Fund, the European Social Fund, the Erasmus+ Programme, the Digital Europe Programme, the Common Agricultural Policy and other programmes.

10.Contributing to the modernisation of Universities and public research organisations with an Open Science label.


   Report "Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU 2018".


   COM (2018) 237.


   This is particularly relevant when the EU negotiated trade agreements. See the Commission's proposal for a regulation establishing a framework for screening Foreign Direct Investments into the EU, COM(2017)487.


   Report "Re-finding Industry –Defining Innovation", of the independent High Level Group of Industrial Technologies chaired by Jürgen Rüttgers, European Commission, 2018.


   COM (2015) 192 , COM (2015) 550.


   COM (2015) 80, COM (2016) 763.


   COM (2017) 479.


   30% of the funds allocated by the Investment Plan were devoted to Small Medium Enterprises, 22% to research and innovation projects and 11% to projects that aim at enhancing Europe's digital capacity.


   The EU is currently spending close to EUR 80 billion for its Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework Programme over 2014-2020.


   The European Structural and Investment Funds are investing over EUR 44 billion in research and innovation, including some EUR 30 billion in transition, less developed, outermost and sparsely populated regions.


   COM (2018) 2.


   COM (2010) 2020, COM(2017) 690. See also Report "Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU 2018", and report "Lab, Fab, App" of the independent High Level Group on maximising the impact of EU research and innovation programmes, chaired by Pascal Lamy.


   Source: European Commission, Directorate-General for Research & Innovation. Data: Eurostat.


   COM (2018) 2, and report "Lab, Fab, App".


   The European Research Council was established in 2013 for implementing a part of Horizon 2020. It is composed of an independent Scientific Council, its governing body consisting of distinguished researchers, and an Executive Agency, in charge of the implementation. It forms part of Horizon 2020.


   To give an example, Prof Feringa, a European Research Council grantee and scientist in charge for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie co-fund project, won in 2016 the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.


   Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions are part of the Horizon 2020 programme. Since 2013, nine Nobel Prize winners have been either former Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows or supervisor .


   30% of the funds allocated by the Investment Plan were devoted to SMEs, 22% to research and innovation projects and 11% to projects that aim at enhancing Europe's digital capacity.


   See report "Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU" in BG, CZ, EE, HR, LV, LT, HU, MT, PL, RO, SI and SK the European Structural and Investment Funds are the main source of funding for research and innovation.


   COM(2018) 321.


   Other programmes such as the Innovation Fund, Single Market Programme, Funds for agriculture and maritime policies, the European Social Fund, Erasmus + , the EU Culture and Values programmes, will have key innovation components.


   Report "Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU 2018".


   Source: European Commission DG Research and Innovation. Data: Eurostat, OECD.


   COM(2017) 479.


   COM(2015) 215 and COM(2017) 651.


   COM(2018) 008, COM(2018)237.



   PwC / CB Insights MoneyTree™ Report, Q4 2017.


   Source: European Commission, DG Research and Innovation – Data: Invest Europe, NVCA / Pitchbook /


     Currently EUR 9.2 billion are planned for smart growth related loan, guarantee and equity instruments leveraging important additional public and private funding.


   The Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base proposal aims at incentivising R&D investment with a super-deduction. COM(2016) 685.


   VentureEU is a pan-European venture capital Fund of Funds encompassed by a set of six private-led funds ( ).


   The Seal of Excellence certifies internationally excellent, but unfunded projects, submitted to the Horizon 2020 programme so that they can be financed by the Structural Funds.


   The Innovation Principle is an integral part of the EU Better Regulation approach, and ensures that whenever policy and legislation are developed, the impact on innovation is fully assessed.


   European Commission proposal for a Directive on preventive restructuring frameworks, second chance and measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures ( ).


   C(2018) 3051.

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   Report "Re-finding Industry –Defining Innovation", High Level Group of Industrial Technologies, European Commission, 2018.


   The percentage of firms that do not grow at all or by less than 5 % is over 45 % in Europe compared to 37 % in the USA. European Parliament (2017), Helping European SMEs to grow.


   The EU's shortcomings are evident from the almost complete absence of EU based companies in leading global technology companies.


   High Level Group of Innovators in their report "Europe is back: accelerating breakthrough innovation" ( ).


   Graphene is a Horizon 2020 Project launched by the EU in 2013. It is one of Europe's biggest ever research initiatives that aims to take graphene (an ultra-thin carbon material that could replace silicon) and two-dimensional materials from laboratories to the European society. Human Brain is a Horizon 2020 Project launched in 2013, which strives to accelerate the fields of neurosciences, computing and brain related medicine. They are both facilitated by the European Development Fund investments, respectively in the Graphene Institute in Manchester and the European Institute for Neuromorphic Computing in Heidelberg.


   "Science Research and Innovation Performance of the EU 2018"( ).


   Source: European Commission, Directorate –General for Regional and Urban Policy.


   COM(2017) 376.


   Source: Data from the Digital Scoreboard, European Commission.




   European Council of December 2017. In response, the Commission presented on 17 January 2018 a first package of measures addressing key competences, digital skills as well as common values and inclusive education. A second package on facilitating recognition, boost language learning, increase quality of early childhood education and care and present progress on European universities and the EU student card, has been presented on 16 May 2018 with the COM (2018) 267-272.


   Work on the "European Universities" has progressed fast since the European Council Conclusions and a first call for pilot projects will already be published next October in the framework of Erasmus+.



   A package of incentives shall be put in place, recognising existing successful schemes and supporting new ones that develop digital and entrepreneurial skills, knowledge transfer, innovative curricula, career incentives, cross-sectorial mobility, and trans-disciplinarity.


   The 'HEInnovate' Initiative enables universities to assess their entrepreneurial capabilities and supports Member States in enhancing them.


   COM(2016) 381.