The EU investing in innovation - new partnerships to support electronics and ageing well

Source: N. (Neelie) Kroes i, published on Wednesday, July 10 2013.

In the current climate - with so many looking for work and worrying about the future - we need to look towards the future sources of growth. And today the Commission came forward with a very clear example: a package for investment and innovation; including measures to stimulate new ideas in electronics, and to support a society that is getting older.

In electronics we have launched what’s known as a “Joint Technology Initiative” - a sort of public-private partnership. Known as “Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership” (ECSEL), it will bring together billions of euros from the EU, its member countries, and the industry — behind common strategic goals.

And we picked electronics for a good reason: it’s a strong and strategic sector, that has grown around 5% per year since 2000. In Europe today it directly employs 200,000 people. And there is huge demand for more skills and more workers. But it’s not just about this one sector: it’s about every sector enabled and stimulated by new electronic innovations. You’ve probably got a good example in your pocket; but it’s not just phones, it’s all sorts of gadgets. And it’s a list that grows ever longer: soon all sorts of things could rely on microchips, from your fridge to your energy grid. The fact is, electronics supports and enables a huge value chain, reaching across the economy.

At a time when others are investing aggressively, we cannot be left behind. And we need to work together as Europe to build on our strengths, across the member states.

That is why just over six weeks ago I set out an ambitious electronics strategy for Europe. Including for bigger, better, more coordinated investment; to reinforce our world-class electronics clusters; to reverse Europe’s declining market share; and to double our chip production by 2020, to overtake the United States. Today’s announcement is just the first step implementing that Strategy. And it’s something that received a lot of support, including from national ministers. So I am confident it can make quick progress by decision-makers in the Council.

Today we also launched one other “digital” initiative — using technology to help an ageing population stay active and independent longer. Our existing Programme in this area already showed it’s a rich area for innovation, especially from smaller companies. And our new joint programme, “Active Assisted Living”, will continue that good work. It will be even more agile and with even more user participation, looking at a range of areas, from preventing falls to independent living.

This is a major opportunity to score a triple win: for more active and independent older people, more effective sustainable care, and more European jobs and growth in a competitive global market.

Those two areas are not all that’s in the package of course. All together my colleagues and I today set out how we are working together in a range of areas - from fuel cells and hydrogen for cleaner transport; to innovative medicines — in a package all together worth €22 billion.

But one thing is clear across the EU’s research funding: digital innovation is the source of so much future growth; information and communications technology is becoming more and more important. It’s not just about electronics, not just about care for the ageing: it’s a pattern emerging across the board.

Today’s announcement is just one example of how the EU is investing in our digital future. First thing in September I will come forward with further proposals to build a connected continent - so watch this space!