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The European Commission evaluates the state of the Innovation Union

Last year saw the launch of “Innovation Union”, one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. This month, the European Commission issued a report assessing its implementation progress. Addressed to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions, the report confirms good progress, with 30 out of 34 Innovation Union commitments achieved so far.

To support the EU’s growth agenda, the Commission is proposing to increase investments in research, innovation and education, and the recent launch of Horizon 2020 represents one of the concrete steps forward at the EU level. However, additional efforts are needed to reach the EU’s 3% R&D target, and member states are called upon to do more to protect expenditure for research and education in order to avoid a risk of widening the innovation divide within the EU. (Notably, only France and Germany, as well as Slovenia, have recently earmarked considerable additional funding for higher education, research and innovation).

On the university front, the report refers to several actions feeding into the progress of the Innovation Union, namely: 

  • the recent adoption of a strategy for modernising higher education, including an agenda to increase graduate numbers; 
  • the call for the development of national strategies to train more researchers (the first assessment of progress to be given in spring 2012); 
  • the support of researchers’ mobility and the attractiveness of Europe as a destination for research (e.g. promoting the “EU Blue Card”, Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training in Europe, a European Framework for Research Careers, a European fund for supplementary pensions for researchers, EURAXESS); 
  • the launch of a user-driven multidimensional university ranking in 2012; and 
  • the launch of the Pilot Project for Knowledge Alliances helping universities to modernise by developing stronger business partnerships, and other measures.

Further action will be taken for completing the European Research Area by 2014, with the European Research Area Framework and the new innovation headline indicator to be finalised next year. Moreover, the Commission will review the current approaches to innovation in other policies and propose strategies to mainstream innovation into all EU policies.

European Commission