Mrs. Edith Cresson, European Commissioner responsible for research, education and training, spoke at a conference in Brussels on 23 April 1996 aimed at stimulating debate on the Commission's recently published Green Paper on Innovation. The conference was one of a series of 17 conferences organized in every EU Member State as well as Iceland and Norway, to provide an opportunity for local participants in the innovation process, particularly businesses, to make their views known on the Green Paper. Mrs. Cresson began by outlining Europe's industrial and competitive weaknesses in relation to Japan and the USA. Although EU external trade is greater than that of either the USA or Japan, and despite the fact that EU productivity has grown at almost twice the rate of US productivity in the past 10 years, the growth in jobs in Europe is only one third of that in the USA. A vital area in which Europe has fallen behind its competitors is in the development of the Information Society. Europe's capacity to assimilate scientific progress and to translate research successes into commercial profits has declined, and Europe now suffers from a deficit of innovation. Presenting the Green Paper on Innovation, the Commissioner highlighted the following main areas in which European innovation is handicapped: - Insufficient funding for research; - Dispersion and duplication of research efforts, particularly between Member States; - Insufficient and ineffectual contact between scientific researchers and industry; - Unfavourable legislative and regulatory environment; - Problems in financing the exploitation of research and the patenting of new products in the European Union. The Green Paper presents 130 proposals for action, but the Commission does not suggest priorities for their implementation, nor does it present these as the only actions which may be taken. The purpose of the Green Paper, and the consultation process, is to establish, through contact with those active in research and industry throughout Europe, what actions need to be taken, and their order of priority. Over 20,000 copies of the Green Paper have been distributed throughout Europe. The Commission has already received numerous submissions, which, in the main, support the Commission's diagnosis of the problems and its approach to them. On the basis of these submissions, as well as the Commission's own work, Mrs. Cresson identified six major objectives: - Develop human resources for innovation; - Gear research further towards innovation; - Improve the conditions for financing innovation; - Establish a more favourable legal and regulatory environment for innovation; - Develop the role and activities of public authorities; - Stimulate innovation in SMEs and the regions. After presenting details of several projects conducted in Belgium which showed the benefits of coordinated action to stimulate the innovation process, Mrs. Cresson outlined the timetable for further Community action. The consultation process should be completed in May 1996, following which the Commission will submit an action plan to the Community institutions in the autumn of 1996.
Policy making and guidelines
30 May 1996