According to Robert Madelin, Senior Adviser for Innovation to the President of the European Commission, Europe has always been a world-leading inventor. Europe retain the core skills and deep science culture that have made this possible. In this century too, Europe can contribute a great share of the world’s new tools: in genomics and biotech, in data and materials, in energy and nutrition, in propulsion and cognition, in health and well-being, both physical and mental.
Will Europe continue its innovation mission? This is not a theoretical or empirical question but one of intent and principle. Do we choose politically to be innovators?
If Europe dropped its mission to innovate, the blame would lie not with the world but with ourselves. But if we choose to hold to the innovator’s path, we can succeed: and in doing so, we shall innovate our way to social inclusion and sustainability as well as to productivity, growth and jobs.
The purpose of this publication is to clarify what is at stake and make the case for a renewed commitment to innovative Europe.
This volume offers four key messages to European decision-makers eager to innovate but unclear on what is at stake or on the choices that confront them.
It’s complicated… (Chapter 1)
Innovation works best if we all understand what is really going on. Innovation ecosystems have a complex life of their own. Too often, even if policy-makers really know better, we imagine innovation in a linear way, as a pipe-line with inputs and outputs.
The mythical pipeline exists, since science remains at the heart of much that is new. But where we focus only on the pipeline, we miss the real needs of Europe’s more diverse and demand-driven innovation system. We must instead work from a more accurate map of the system. This implies more open collaboration, both globally and between citizens, governments and inventors at home.
Everyone must own the Revolution (Chapter 2)
The world is on the crest of a wave of revolutionary disruption. Europe can choose to own, not merely experience, this Revolution. Europe could also easily miss the wave, if we quite humanly ignore it, or exaggerate its challenge and freeze in impotence. Europe can catch the wave by drawing on our strengths as a mature community of values and an open society. But success requires the collective courage to open and sustain a different public conversation.
Focus on People, Places and Processes (Chapters 3-7)
Europe needs better assets. We have to get back to basics. Innovation is not all about money and research. Both matter hugely, and Europe must continue to work hard on both fronts. But they are not enough. This means paying greater attention to three key foundation stones of innovation:
upskilling Europe’s people, using local strengths to underpin local innovation, and transforming public processes. We too often underplay these tasks as being beyond our competence or effective reach. But we need at least a complete, shared understanding of these key drivers of our innovative capacity. We need a common sense of mission to favour European innovation in our rules, and in our schools.
And the public sector must change faster. EU 1.0 cannot deliver Europe 2.0. The Commission can and must become a beacon for embedded innovation.
We can seize the opportunity now (Chapter 8)
It is time to make a fresh start. Feasible, fresh initiatives in the year ahead, joined up at local, national and EU level and pursued at scale, will bear fruit by the end of the decade. We need all innovation actors, the young as well as the historic incumbents and their older leaders, to co-create Europe’s innovation road-map and build Europe’s own future. This note offers examples of feasible action, but is a case for action, not yet an action plan.
This annexe contains 67 articles, each of which offers additional insight on some aspect of EU innovation.
- Section 1 contains basic background.
- Section 2 sets out the positions of key EU players, including some recently adopted institutional agreements.
- Section 3 focuses on how we can better nurture people.
- Section 4 explores the role of innovation in creating sustainability and social inclusion.
- Sections 5 and 6 describe some successful current actions, which both invite support and raise policy challenges.
- Sections 7 and 8 conclude with proposals to better accommodate the needs of innovators and to modernise public service.
You may find further information about this strategic note here