Ms Mariya Gabriel delivers a keynote speech, via pre-recorded video-message, at the 8th Cohesion Forum
Ms Mariya Gabriel recently (18 March 2022) delivered a keynote speech, via pre-recorded video-message, at the 8th Cohesion Forum.
"Check against delivery"
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to start by thanking Commissioner Ferreira and the organizers of this Forum, for giving me the opportunity to address you today about the innovation cohesion and its role to ensure long-term convergence of European regions.
Why is this topic so important? As the 8th Cohesion report points out, a number of regions have been catching up in terms of economic output. It is a very positive sign that we can achieve cohesion.
However, disparities still exist, especially when it comes to the performance in terms of research and innovation.
Data show that research and innovation expenditure in the EU is highest in the northwestern regions, at an average of 2.7% of GDP in 2019. It is lower in eastern and southern regions, respectively 1.3% and 1.4%.
How can we tackle this divide?
First, the Recovery and Resilience Plans are an important opportunity to boost research and innovation expenditure in those regions.
I am proud to see that these plans are ambitious in terms of research, innovation and digitalisation, targeting significant investments in infrastructure and cooperation between research and business.
Second, we need to develop effective synergies between our programmes. On this, the provisions of Horizon Europe and the Cohesion Policy Regulations provide legal certainty.
They offer the possibility for a region to transfer up to 5% of its European Regional and Development Funds allocation to Horizon Europe. It is a good opportunity to invest to better research infrastructure for example.
Additionally, we have tripled the budget for Widening measures in Horizon Europe to reach 3 billion EUR. And, we will continue our efforts by adding additional measures. For instance, teaming, twinning will be fine-tuned and will give a more important role to the National Contact Points.
Third, an environment conducive to innovation and people, well equipped with digital skills and knowledge, are key for Europe and for its regions to best seize the opportunities offered by the digital transition.
And, I would like to mention here the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Bringing together more than 3000 partners, the EIT and its Knowledge and Innovation Communities work in areas such as climate, digitisation, efficient and renewable energies, sustainable raw materials, health and food.
Moreover, by enhancing the cooperation of regional and local actors, start-ups, research institutions, its Regional Innovation Scheme helps support local innovation enablers where they can make the biggest difference to enhancing innovation and cohesion.
On this, through a series of meetings, I have been consulting stakeholders such an ecosystems leaders or unicorns to take up bottom-up solutions adaptable in European regions.
In this regard, I am working on a European Innovation Agenda, one of the primary goals of which is to create a pan-European Innovation Ecosystem, where all innovation actors – universities, businesses, industries and research institutes – work together to bring novel solutions and innovative technologies.
Furthermore, under the ERA Forum for Transition, we will provide a platform for assisting Member States and regions in implementing existing policy tools, as well as stimulating cooperation. This will foster learning by doing and the exchange of good practices between regions.
Finally, as we are currently celebrating the European year of Youth, education must be part of the solution. The Digital Education Action Plan supports regions by setting out a series of actions to boost the basic and advanced digital skills of citizens.
The European Strategy for Universities will employ measures supporting Higher Education Institutions to spur their potential as facilitators of innovation ecosystems.
I would like to conclude by saying that we still have to increase our efforts. The last years have seen many opportunities emerge with a joint action plan with the Committee of the Regions on Research, Innovation and Education.
However, there is more that we can do and I call on you to encourage the uptake of bottom-up ideas. It is only by including regional and local actors that we will ensure convergence.
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