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First indications of results of Innovation Green Paper consultations

At a conference on the Commission's Green Paper on Innovation, held in Rome on 29 May 1996, Commissioner Edith Cresson welcomed the success of the consultation process on the Green Paper so far. The conference was the last in a series held in all the EU Member States, and mark...
At a conference on the Commission's Green Paper on Innovation, held in Rome on 29 May 1996, Commissioner Edith Cresson welcomed the success of the consultation process on the Green Paper so far. The conference was the last in a series held in all the EU Member States, and marked the end of the consultation period for the ideas contained in the Green Paper.

In addition to the ideas raised at the national conferences, more than 300 submissions were received from research and industrial organizations during the consultation period. The Commissioner felt that, by raising awareness and mobilizing ideas, the consultations were a great success. The action plan which the Commission intends to produce in the autumn will cover not only Community research policy (in particular the preparations for the Fifth RTD Framework Programme) but also other policies at both national and Community level, such as education, finance, internal market, regional policies and actions aimed at SMEs.

Three priority areas for action have been identified so far. The first of these concerns research:

- European research suffers in budgetary terms. While the research funding of Europe's competitors is increasing, it is decreasing in the EU;
- Dispersion of European research efforts leads to duplication of effort and a scattering of resources. Another problem is the gulf between research communities and industry, although the Commission's use of sectoral task forces was welcomed;
- A substantial effort is needed to improve the use of knowledge and skills, in particular by reorienting employers and workers towards lifelong learning and by focusing on disseminating research results.

The second priority area is that of financing innovation:

- Greater encouragement is needed for risk capital and capital resources investment in innovative enterprises;
- The development of trans-European capital markets for innovative companies needs to be strongly supported;
- Conditions of access to long-term loans should be improved;
- Contact between technological innovation and financial sectors must be strengthened.

The third area is the judicial and regulatory environment. Of particular concern is the protection of intellectual property, with the Community Patent Convention not yet ratified. The cost to companies of registering a patent is some six times higher in Europe than in the USA, and many SMEs cannot afford to register their inventions. As regards administrative simplification, the Commission has recently launched the SLIM initiative (simpler legislation for the internal market), which could also be implemented in the innovation sector.

Mrs. Cresson also emphasized two essential elements for elaboration of the action plan: subsidiarity and coordination. Subsidiarity is important since the primary responsibility for innovation rests with individuals and companies, although Community action is relevant in the areas of exchange of experience, diffusion of best practice and transnational cooperation. The Commission will establish a regular report on innovation in Europe, as part of a strategy to increase knowledge of national and regional policies.

A greater effort to coordinate policies, between Member States and the Community in particular, but also between all levels of action is needed. If innovation is to be a key element of the Confidence Pact for Employment, launched recently by Commission President Jacques Santer, there is a need for public authorities at all levels to have adequate structures to decide on the complex questions which underpin a horizontal theme such as innovation.

Source: European Commission, Service du Porte-parole
DE FR

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