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First Action Plan for Innovation in Europe

Following the wide-ranging public debate instigated by the Commission's Green Paper on Innovation, launched in December 1995, the Commission has presented its first "Action Plan for Innovation in Europe". Approved by the Commission at its meeting of 20 November 1996, the Actio...
Following the wide-ranging public debate instigated by the Commission's Green Paper on Innovation, launched in December 1995, the Commission has presented its first "Action Plan for Innovation in Europe". Approved by the Commission at its meeting of 20 November 1996, the Action Plan for Innovation proposes three main lines of action for tackling Europe's "innovation deficit": promoting a genuine innovation culture; establishing a favourable legal, regulatory and financial environment for innovation; and gearing research more closely to innovation.

In spite of its excellent scientific capabilities, Europe's level of innovation is lower than that of its main competitors. At a time when innovation is becoming a driving force in economic competitiveness, this has serious implications for employment and economic prosperity in Europe. The Commission's diagnosis of the reasons for this situation, set out in the Green Paper, has been largely confirmed by the ensuing public debate and dialogue with the Member States.

There was broad agreement on the need for a global approach to the problem, involving technological aspects, training, the development of venture capital and the legal and administrative environment. The debate also drew attention to the importance of the international dimension and highlighted the diversity of national, regional and sectoral circumstances.

Requested by the European Council in Florence, and proposed at the initiative of Mrs. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, education and training, in agreement with Mr. Martin Bangemann, Commissioner responsible for industry and Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Commissioner for enterprise policy, the Action Plan sets out a general framework for action at the level of the Union and the Member States, as well as of the applicant countries. It sets out a limited number of priority measures to be launched rapidly at Community level. It also incorporates measures already underway or announced since the launch of the Green Paper and identified in it as being essential to the innovation process.

The Action Plan for Innovation identifies three main areas for action:

- Promoting a genuine innovation culture:
Particular emphasis is placed on the crucial role of education and training. The Commission proposes to set up a permanent "training and innovation" forum to stimulate the exchange of experience and best practice in this area. Links between schools will also be fostered as part of the "Learning in the Information Society" initiative. The mobility of researchers and engineers is also highlighted as an area to be further developed. The future Fifth European Framework Programme for Research will make a greater effort to promote the secondment of young researchers and engineers to enterprises in other countries;

- Establishing a legal, regulatory and financial framework conducive to innovation:
Emphasis is put on the need to improve the existing European patent system making it more efficient, more accessible and less expensive. In particular, it is proposed to launch a Green Paper on the European Patent in 1997, the main proposal of which will be the option of converting patent law into a Community instrument. A support service to help enterprises and researchers protect intellectual property and combat counterfeiting will be established within the Fifth Framework Programme.

With regard to finance, the Commission will support more European Investment Fund (EIF) intervention to promote innovation and will seek to strengthen cooperation between the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Structural Funds in order to develop financial instruments for the benefit of innovative enterprises and projects in the least favoured regions. Finally, an information service should be developed to help participants in the Framework Programme find out about sources of finance.

The Commission also recommends that the Member States set themselves quantified objectives and a timetable for cutting the formalities, costs and delays involved in starting up businesses. The Green Paper on Innovation in Europe had compared different countries' performances in this area and revealed that there was considerable room for improvement in many countries;

- Improving the links between research and innovation:
At national level, the Commission proposes that the Member States step up research carried out in businesses, encourage the setting-up of technology-based businesses, and intensify cooperation projects involving public research bodies, universities and industry. The Commission would also like encouragement to be given to spin-off activities at local, regional or national level and will support pilot projects in this field.

At Community level, the Commission proposes a number of administrative changes, within the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, aimed at promoting innovation and SME participation in Community research. Outside the Framework Programme, all Community instruments will be mobilized to support innovation. In particular, the increased input of the Structural Funds to innovation will be continued and international cooperation stepped up.

The Commission will draw up a detailed timetable for implementation and provide a precise costing of the measures proposed. On this basis, it will present the corresponding legislative and regulatory proposals to the Council, the Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. A regular report on the implementation of the Action Plan will be drawn up by the Commission.

Source: European Commission, DG XIII
DE FR

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