Innovation is the key development for Greece
Contribution to Kathimerini
Future-proofing our economy
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
The European Union is currently engaged in the fight of its life: a fight for jobs and prosperity during a severe economic and financial crisis. The European Commission is focused on growth, including in its work with the Greek authorities. The efforts that are being made now will yield results in the near future, and a very important aspect of this is that we need to innovate to emerge from this economic downturn. This is important for the people of Greece and for the whole of Europe.
Investment in research and innovation safeguards our competitiveness, and that means jobs. We know that those countries that have consistently invested the most in research and innovation have weathered this economic crisis the best. Innovation gives our companies an edge, and employment growth in research-intensive sectors like pharmaceuticals or automotive is higher. Without investment in research, we will also not tackle the big issues that affect us all, like better healthcare or fighting climate change. So we need to invest more in innovation and we need to create better conditions for our innovators. The European Commission is doing both of these.
Greece can contribute its expertise and at the same time profit from EU research funding, and this will be evident tomorrow at the Transport Research Arena (TRA) conference in Athens. It is the biggest conference of its kind in Europe and will this year, for the first time, look at all modes of surface transport, including maritime. In this area, Greek researchers are world class. For example, the National Technical University in Athens is heading a Europe-wide group looking into the stability of very large cruise ships, an important issue not least since the terrible tragedy of the Costa Concordia. Greece's knowledge is also valued highly further afield – as illustrated by Viajeo, an urban traffic management project that is being tested in cities in China and Brazil as well as in Athens.
Greece has excellent scientists, but business innovation needs to be strengthened. Greece's public and private sector investment in research is still behind the EU average. So Greek researchers should see funding under the EU research programme, FP7, as a real opportunity. In July of this year I will announce the final call for projects under FP7, worth around 9 billion euro. Greece has performed quite well so far: 2307 Greek participants in FP7 have received 635 million euro. Greece ranks 9th in the EU in terms of number of participations and 10th in budget share.
The European Commission has even bigger plans for research in the future. We want to create an 'Innovation Union' in Europe. Horizon 2020, the European Union's proposed new research and innovation programme, will help fund this. Running from 2014 to 2020 with a proposed budget of €80 billion, it is a programme to stimulate growth and jobs. Our focus is on supporting the best research ideas that provide major business opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.
We are also working to make it easier for our researchers and in particular European business to innovate and compete. The Commission has for instance put forward proposals on standardisation, to improve access to venture capital, and to create unitary patent protection. Implementing these will mean a step change for innovation in Europe.
The Commission is focused on makingEuropemore competitive, supporting the best research and turning it into growth and jobs. We need the support of policymakers and stakeholders across Europe. Then the best ideas can be used in a way that makes a real difference across our continent. Only then will the European Union become an Innovation Union.
For the Greek version .pdf (2.3 MB)