The EU Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, addressed the opening session of a conference on European Technology Platforms, hosted by the Austrian presidency of the EU in Vienna on May 4, by putting his weight firmly behind the initiative, explaining that up to 60 per cent of FP7 funding will be set aside for cooperative ventures, exploitable by technology platforms. Technology platforms (TPs) are one of the cornerstones of the recent Aho expert group report on how to improve European innovation, which Commissioner Potocnik has backed unequivocally. A technology platform is like a forum, co-funded by all the relevant partners and a way of sharing ideas and boosting innovation. This allows work to progress more efficiently and prevents the duplication of effort. 'Technology Platforms are one of the most important comparative advantages we have at our disposal, to make the future of Europe happen the way we want it. Let's not miss this opportunity,' said the Commissioner. The Commissioner ran through a quick history of TPs and their rapid proliferation throughout European industry. 'There has been impressive progress since the first European Technology Platforms were proposed in 2002. Today there are 29 European Technology Platforms up and running and some additional ones are under consideration,' he said. The Commissioner explained why TPs are so essential and so effective in driving the targets of the Lisbon agenda. He broke the concept up into three parts. Firstly, TPs unite all relevant stakeholders around common objectives, looking to where the community wants to be in, say, 15 years. An essential part of these objectives requires the development of Strategic Research Agendas. Secondly, TPs place industry at the forefront of innovation, which ensures the development of lead markets, again a cornerstone of the Aho expert group report. Finally, the pan-European character of TPs ensures win-win situations for Europe, with productivity boosted at all levels, from research to end-users. The Commissioner went on to explain that TPs are at the centre of the forthcoming Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and that the 'cooperation' component of FP7 will receive around 60 per cent of total funding. 'The Seventh Framework programme, particularly through the Cooperation programme, should provide the means to help implement [the TPs'] Strategic Research Agendas where they have a genuinely European dimension and strong industrial relevance,' he said. Although the budget for FP7 was 'not as high as I had hoped', the Commissioner explained that TPs will drive the economy, making money work harder. 'We can make a difference with the budget we have. We can succeed in leveraging knowledge for growth in a coherent European effort. But it will be even more important that we prioritise our resources carefully. For this, I look to European Technology Platforms as our partners in helping to ensure the necessary prioritisation of our activities under the Seventh Framework Programme.' The Commissioner had an important message concerning the proposed Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs). These will be in areas identified by the Commission as priorities for research and will be sufficiently large for EU-wide public-private partnerships. Commissioner Potocnik emphasised that, 'Firstly, such proposals will have to be justified individually to the Competitiveness Council, which will take the final decision on each of them, based on the merits of the case made by each. The Commission will, therefore, only propose Joint Technology Initiatives where the leaders of the industries involved have demonstrated the necessary long-term commitment to concrete deliverables in areas that will significantly enhance Europe's competitiveness. 'Secondly, I wish to dispel any notion that Technology Platforms are only successful if they lead to a Joint Technology Initiative. All platforms that deliver effectively on their Strategic Research Agendas will be success stories. Success stories for Europe. But even more importantly, success stories for the participants,' he said. The Commissioner pointed out that funding for TPs is by no means limited to FP7. He pointed to regional and national funding bodies, Structural Funds and the European Investment Bank, which the Commissioner envisages will develop 'a novel Risk-Sharing Finance Facility to improve access to loans for European research actions'. To sum up, the Commissioner once again turned to the expert Aho report on innovation in Europe. He explained how the report calls for technological innovation to drive new markets. Because each TP carries with it a strategic research agenda, those agendas can be developed into lead market agendas, which would again be carried out by all the relevant partners, so driving innovation and lead markets - two essential areas for European growth. He proposed to meet leaders of Technology Platforms in the coming weeks to pick their brains for advice on a wide consultation, which will report to the Council later in the year. 'I would like to invite all European Technology Platforms and the public authorities involved in them, to expand their role and to take a proactive approach to identifying what needs to be done, when and by whom in relation to regulation, standardisation and public procurement in their areas,' said the Commissioner. Mr Potocnik reminded delegates of the essential TP attributes of openness and transparency, and that there is only room for a limited number of TPs, each in a field identified as a competitiveness objective. He added that horizontal links in related areas would be considered positive moves. Finally, the Commissioner paid tribute to the assembled delegates, explaining that while the Commission 'can provide support to you and improve framework conditions for research and innovation - but without you, we will miss out on important opportunities for innovation, for growth - and ultimately, for improving quality of life in Europe.'