This paper presents Almega´s views on Swedish priorities for the EU support to research, development and innovation (RDI) during the next multiannual financial framework of the EU. It also constitutes Almegas contribution to the public consultation on the “Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation Funding” (CSFRI).
As pointed out by the Europe 2020 Strategy, RDI is a key tool to sustain economic growth and employment in Europe. The Communication on the Innovation Union flagship from October 2010 sets an appropriate basis for future EU action in the area, but it stops short of stressing the need for increased financial public support. The role of the CSFRI in the overall context of EU policy is therefore crucial.
We support the Commission’s ambition to strive for improvements in the following areas:
- Clarifying objectives and how they are implemented
- Reducing complexity
- Increasing added value and leverage and avoiding duplication and fragmentation
- Simplifying participation
- Broadening participation in EU programmes
- Increasing the competitiveness and societal impact from EU support
- Focusing on societal challenges, a stronger focus on RDI
The ultimate goal of EU RDI policy must be to create sustainable growth in Europe and thereby maintain competitiveness, wealth and employment for individuals in Europe. To get there a business-oriented RDI policy is needed.
To gear the focus of the EU budget towards Europe’s future as a knowledge-based economy and to leverage private investment, we favour a general shift of financial resources to activities directly targeting Europe’s competitiveness and economic growth. We also strongly encourage a substantial shift towards RDI in the implementation of other EU policies as all EU funds must be used as to enhance competitiveness.
- A broadened and holistic approach to RDI
The scope of activities currently eligible for EU support under FP7 must be broadened to cover innovation in the broader sense, including service- and social innovation. There is also need for demonstration projects, large-scale trials, test beds, proof of concept and measures to stimulate market uptake. Moreover, the role of education in securing the supply of talented and skilled researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs must be fully acknowledged by the CFRI.
- Involve business more in setting the agenda
An important part of the European RDI efforts are presently carried out by the private sector and its contribution to and involvement in EU-funded projects will continue to be crucial for the overall success. Moreover, business is responsible for bridging the gap between RDI and the commercialisation of results that will foster growth. Business involvement in setting the agenda for publicly (co-)funded RDI must be extended to strengthen the focus upon economic growth across all phases of the research and innovation chain.
We believe that the existing European Technology Plattforms can help in achieving greater involvement, but we see the need of complementing them with social science oriented programs which include the service oriented research and innovation. More cross-disciplinary research and innovation is needed to tackle the grand societal challenges.
Moreover, a broader focus on innovation in a broad sense as a driver for growth and as a solution to societal challenges calls for more weight to impact and less to scientific excellence when proposals are evaluated, depending on the support area.
Specific questions in the green paper on CSFRI
4.2.9 How should a stronger focus on societal challenges affect the balance between curiosity-driven research and agenda-driven activities?
A stronger focus on societal challenges should primarily affect the balance between technologies and applications/services. Today most activities like FP7 themes and Joint Technology Initiatives are primarily technology-oriented, but most of them are at the same time also addressing societal applications albeit in an uncoordinated way. In the future CSFRI, we would like to see more focus on the societal applications/services which most likely will result in more agenda-driven activities.
4.3.14 How should EU funding best take account of the broad nature of innovation, including non technological innovation, eco-innovation and social innovation?
The CSFRI must focus on RDI relating to service development in the broader sense.
Services and non-technological innovation are fundamental for Europe’s economy, accounting for 75% of EU GDP and around 70% of total employment. But services not only comprise a large part of the economy, they are also a main engine for growth within advanced economies. Nine out of ten new jobs in Europe are created in the services sectors.
As services drive competitiveness and growth and offer wide scope for the creation of jobs, new sectors and markets, innovation in services is of great importance. Yet, policy formulation and in particular innovation in this sector is trailing compared with other parts of the economy. Commission documents such as the Communication on the Europe 2020 Flagship initiative “Innovation Union” show that policy making is still predominantly biased towards technological innovation. Products and services are mostly mentioned jointly, without underlining the specific considerations for fostering innovation in services. Although specific considerations in Commission documents are lacking, it is encouraging to see that the interest towards services innovation has been increasing. The Commission - and DG Enterprise and Industry in particular - has shown an increased interest in the topic and several expert groups have been set up under the Europe INNOVA flag to point to the power of service innovation. Recently, the Commission’s expert panel on service innovation published its report: “The transformative power of service innovation”, which rightly underlines the need for and potential of promoting innovation in services as a tool to achieve the Europe 2020 objectives.
Because of the immaterial nature of services it is difficult to reach the same research depth as other traditional technological disciplines. Therefore the Commission should not use the same criteria in judging service RDI projects as technological projects. Service projects might be more application-orientated and to a larger extent contain incremental improvements and a mix between technological and non-technological disciplines.
Specificities of service innovation that will have to be considered in the CSFRI include:
- Innovation in services is usually centered on non-technological, disembodied forms of innovation: not only in service concepts as such (new or improved service products) but also as service process, service infrastructure, customer process, business model, commercialization (sales, marketing, and delivery), service productivity innovation. As a consequence, the value created relies more in the improvement or creation of processes than in the improvement or creation of the final product.
- A growing interaction can be observed between technological and non-technological innovation. For this reason it is wrong to assume that services innovation is merely non-technological. What matters is not only the technology but how it is used to better address customers’ needs.
- Services innovation is cross-disciplinary and multidimensional. This kind of innovation is in deep synergies with other intangible assets (human capital, information system, clients, stakeholders, brand and reputation). Services innovation can be considered as the most prominent “user-driven” innovation (instead of research-driven innovation).
- There is a shift away from pure technological and product innovation, which is largely dependent upon R&D, towards user-centric and network models of innovation. The future of service business points towards a more holistic view of the business itself. This means that we will see a shift from developing individual products and services towards providing solutions and experiences.
- Services are increasingly becoming part of tangible and intangible products. This leads us to an economy where frontiers between industry and services are decreasing and, at a certain point, perhaps fading.
Almega supports the forming of public-private-partnerships (PPP) and believes that this is an innovation friendly model and a promising way of increasing the relevance for companies to participate. Special efforts should be made to involve SMEs in and PPP could be of mayor use in the coming Innovation Partnerships within the Innovation Union.
Ulf Lindberg Teresa Jonek
Director Public Affairs Senior advisor Research and innovation