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European industry is too slow to innovate, warns ESC

The pace of technology in Europe differs from that of its competitor countries, being far slower, less pervasive and less a part of daily life, according to the Economic and Social Committee (ESC).

The ESC published its opinion in commenting on a Communication from the Europe...
The pace of technology in Europe differs from that of its competitor countries, being far slower, less pervasive and less a part of daily life, according to the Economic and Social Committee (ESC).

The ESC published its opinion in commenting on a Communication from the European Commission, "Reinforcing cohesion and competitiveness through research, technological development and innovation".

"In Europe, scientific excellence has not been accompanied by a capacity to translate it into industrial and commercial success at market level," said the ESC.

This is because Europe has devoted fewer resources to technological intangible investment than the other trading blocs and also because the inflexibility of the surrounding environment has favoured financial investment in production rationalisation over job-creating investment, as it was held to be safer, easier to control and hence more profitable, according to the ESC.

The Communication from the Commission set out to provide a single, coherent framework for the wide range of actions and measures, which are aimed at bring together cohesion, competitiveness, research and technological development and innovation in order to integrate them into the productive fabric for the regions, and particularly the less-developed ones, in the interest of the harmonious development of the European Union.

More specifically, the Commission aimed to reinforce the competitive capacity of less favoured regions and geographical areas eligible for support from the Structural Funds, by ensuring that Fund-supported research and innovation were closely coordinated with the schemes of multi-year Community programmes which are aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovation, or at the training and mobility of researchers.

Close coordination of this kind must, in the Commission's view, involve the strategies and roles of the various local, regional, Member State and Community levels, in order to:

- Strengthen the willingness of the regions to integrate research and innovation into their economic development;
- Enhance learning processes in order to make businesses more innovative;
- Assist businesses and institutions to break down obstacles and adjust to new forms of work organisations;
- Coordinate nation-level sectoral policies in such a way as to support regional development more closely.

Overall the ESC welcomes the Communication's presentation concerning the links between Community structural policies and the Union's research and innovation policies, as the Committee had urged this approach on several occasions.

The ESC also believes that close coordination of these policies is essential in order to achieve optimum levels of practical synergy and to enable the needs of citizens, businesses and society to be met fully with the overall objective of sustainable, smooth medium to long-term growth, in keeping with the integrated RTD (research, technological development and demonstration) problem-solving approach and with the key development factor of intangible investment.

The ESC says it is necessary to:

- Formulate and adopt an overall Community strategy for streamlining the relevant mechanisms of European policies, in order to allow Europe to speak with one voice from the point of view of competitiveness and the sustainable and harmonious development of the European system;
- Identify integrated instruments with which to decompartmentalise local, regional and national innovation markets, which are all the more anachronistic in the view of European Monetary Union (EMU) and the countdown to the single European currency that will represent the completion of the European Single Market;
- Establish the levels of integration and their interaction, inter alia in order to synchronise and to ensure the compatibility of the decision-making and implementation aspects of the structural cohesion policy and RTD/innovation policy;
- Identify new ways to combine the cohesion and RTDD (RTD and dissemination) instruments, pursuing simplified methods and procedures which are, wherever possible, uniform and automatic;
- Set up systems to control and monitor combined RTDD/cohesion schemes in order to assess their effectiveness in terms of the achievement of the declared objectives.

The ESC goes into greater detail on the following subjects of the Communication:

- Towards an overall Community strategy of streamlining and integration;
- Identifying integrated instruments;
- Defining the integrated levels of action;
- New forms of integrated action: procedures and methods;
- Control and monitoring systems.

Source: Official Journal of the European Communities
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