Opportunities in a downturn

The economic and financial crisis has taught us that, while we certainly need an economy that grows and provides jobs, that economy must also be resilient. We need an economy that generates sustainable growth, not growth fueled by debt, speculation and greed; an economy that can cope with shocks and challenges.

Resilience and competitiveness now come from generating knowledge and ideas, not from tangible assets. A recent European Commission survey of some of Europe’s companies that invest the most in research and development (R&D) showed that they expect their investment in research and development to grow by an average of 4% annually between 2012 and 2014.

This figure shows the importance that business places on R&D as a key factor for growth and prosperity. In-house R&D is seen as the most relevant driver of innovation by the surveyed companies, followed by market research and related activities for new product introduction. This positive trend is essential for European competitiveness and we need to complement it with robust public investment in innovation.

When asked about the effects of policies and external factors on their innovation activities, surveyed companies highlighted the strong positive effects of fiscal incentives, national grants, EU financial support and public-private partnerships, both at national and EU level. In contrast, the time needed to obtain intellectual property rights protection and the costs of that protection were seen by many companies as key factors impacting negatively on their innovation activities.

The Commission is delivering what it has promised to make life easier for innovative companies, under our Innovation Union banner. This includes progress on the unitary patent, on venture capital, on public procurement and on standards. We have also proposed to increase EU-level funding significantly for researchers and businesses. Horizon 2020, our future research and innovation program, has a proposed budget of €80b over seven years, up from €55b in the current program. This would provide direct research grants for everything from blue-sky research to demonstrator projects.

Article from: European attractiveness survey: 2012 performance and 2013 prospects

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