A year ago the European Commission drew attention to Europe's `innovation deficit' through the publication of a Green Paper on Innovation. The ensuing debate confirmed the Commission's view that the problem should be tackled on a broad front. At the June summit of EU heads of state and government, held in Florence, the Commission was invited to draw up an action plan of measures to stimulate innovation.
The Commission has now published its first action plan. It addresses three key issues: how to foster a real innovation culture in Europe, how to make sure that the environment in Europe allows innovation to thrive, and how to improve the link between Europe's research capabilities and innovation.
This special edition of Innovation & Technology Transfer presents the main points and also includes a detailed digest of the plan's contents. A series of tables summarizes the proposed measures and indicates how each should be implemented: by the Commission or in Member States.
The measures for implementation by the Commission fall into three areas. Firstly, adjustments should be made to the basic regulatory and administrative framework, notably in the areas of industrial property and administrative simplification, so as to favour innovation. Secondly, the Commission should provide a forum for comparing and exchanging information on innovation-promoting activities, and for disseminating `best practice'. This is particularly relevant in the area of financing and venture capital. Finally, the programmes managed by the Commission, notably the Research Framework Programme, the training programmes, and the structural funds, can be used to promote innovation.
At the EU level, the proposed measures could be introduced without any supplementary allocation of funds beyond what is already available or foreseen. But it is clear that the main effort to reduce the `innovation deficit' must be undertaken at national, regional or local level, with business enterprises to the forefront.