‘A Mandate for Innovation in Europe’ was the topic of this year’s summit summarising a common ambition of making innovation the top strategic priority in the new institutional cycle. The continuing inability of Europe to successfully bring great ideas to the market remained the key issue raised by the summit participants. Better regulation, change in the educational system, risk acceptance and management were discussed as the key steps, necessary for Europe to move forward.
A particular focus was put on the importance of a strong engagement of the member states on the innovation front. There was a broad agreement on the need to clearly assess the potential impact EU legislation has on innovation across all sectors.
On Tuesday morning The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) organised a breakfast debate on "Advanced Manufacturing for a new European Industrial Renaissance." The debate was hosted by Christian Ehler, MEP. Much of the discussion was focused on the ongoing European Commission budget negotiations and the threats to Horizon 2020 funding that could – according to Ehler - lead to a € 10 billion reduction in funds.
Rudolf Strohmeier (above), Deputy Director-General at DG Research and Innovation, European Commission described the proposed budget cuts rather bluntly as “Intellectually incoherent” and joined Ehler’s call for industry and other stakeholders to raise their voices to preserve research and innovation funding.
He stated that the programme itself had got off to a good start in particular praising the success of the new PPP initiatives such as SPIRE. But he said the Commission needed to better understand what is hampering innovation in Europe: what inhibits private investments in Research and Innovation and he called on stakeholders to talk to the Commission about their experience.
Gernot Klotz, Executive Director (above), Cefic talked about the new processes that chemistry could bring to enable a circular economy in particular via the SPIRE and BioBased Industries initiatives. He described Project Phoenix a proposed flagship project of common European interest led by the chemical industry that would work to bring breakthrough innovation to use CO2 to make chemicals and fuels for Europe.
Obstacles to innovation
The debate was continued at the first plenary session on Tuesday that was hosted by Neena Gill, MEP and moderated by Gernot Klotz.
Amongst the speakers Vicky Ford (above), MEP stated that “We must be positive – we can do it” and saw the key as sectors working together for innovation. But she saw a skills shortage as an issue.
Vladimir Sucha (below third from right), Director-General, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre thought that we needed to break things down and understand the building blocks of innovation. In fact a general misunderstanding of innovation was one of our biggest bottle necks to progress.
Joanna Dupont-Inglis (on left above), Director of Industrial Biotechnology at Europabio described initiatives to build a European bioeconomy a development that would “require bold political moves, clarity of long-term strategy as well as legal certainty and stable conditions.”
Klaus Hoffmann, President of Dow Corning Europe (second right above) agreed with the need for stability. He thought that conditions are important. “Make it easy for me to say yes to invest,” he said. An attractive environment that was predictable and flexible was important.
Horizon 2020: First impressions
The budget discussion was revisited in this final session Tuesday morning. Rudolf Strohmeier called for a wider participation for experts – in particular for industry - to evaluate call responses in Horizon 2020. He also said there was a need for “concrete examples of use of structural funds in combination with Horizon 2020 funds – how it is done
And concluded with a warning that if the European Council get the budget they are proposing then the net effect will be to return European research and innovation back to the level of FP6.
Andreas Förster (above), Director, Dechema said his members thought that Horizon 2020 was working well, in particular in the cross sectorial and value chains initiatives such as SPIRE and BBI working well and more could be done in this area.
He thought that more explanations of calls with higher technology readiness level (TRL) would be good especially for academics who rarely operated at this level. He also thought wider adoption of two-stage assessment process would be useful in reducing workload and standardisation is an issue.
Innovation for energy
Prof. Jerzy Buzek, MEP introduced the debate on energy stated that an upgraded European energy community with new technology for low emission fossil fuels as well as renewable sources.
David Salisbury, President of GERG (the European Gas Research Group) said that we need to think differently about the future. Must avoid ruling out the options keep things open. He observed that existing European gas networks deliver much more energy than the electric grids: “[Europe] must use the existing networks better and smarter,” he said.
Gernot Klotz (above, with Jerzy Buzek) talked about the chemical industry’s contribution to innovation in energy as a major users of energy and also a supplier of materials for energy use and production. There was a need for a strategic continuum for energy technology development, he said.
He also described the three areas of the proposed Phoenix project that all impacted on energy: using CO2 to make chemicals; use of CO2 chemistry for large-scale chemical storage of energy; and the longer-term ‘artificial photosynthesis’ conversion of CO2 into chemicals and fuels.
One of the highlight of the event for many people was a visit to the Cefic SusChem stand and our 3D Printing machines in the Exhibition Space on the third floor gallery of the Parliament in Brussels. The Cefic team is pictured below.
K4I President Lambert van Nistelrooij made a particular reference to the SusChem exhibit in the closing press conference stressing the “need for” and the new materials needed for 3D printing. “We need to not only build new industries, but also rejuvenate traditional and existing industries,” he said. He was also scanned for a ‘mini-me’ figurine (see below).
He had been impressed with the 3D Printing demonstration and saw “a real change coming [in manufacturing] and it was imperative that the EU remains at the core of advanced manufacturing.”
The scanning and 3D printing of figurines was a very popular feature with a number of MEPs being scanned (below) and reproduced in plastic.
Also at the press conference Gernot Klotz emphasised the need for clear stability of policies for innovation. Trust is important in attracting innovation. He also said there was a need for structured research and development advice in all European Institutions and he hoped that the recent abandonment of the Chief Scientific Advisor role at the European Commission was not a sign of a future trend to disregard scientific advice in policy-making.
Passion for innovation
At the opening ceremony on the evening of 17 November Commissioners Carlos Moedas (Research, Innovation & Science), Corina Cretu (Regional Policy), Phil Hogan (Agricultural and Rural Development) and Günther Oettinger (Digital Economy & Society) had made their first public appearance.
Observers described Commissioner Moedas’ speech as “impassioned” and showed a very clear understanding of the issues. Here is an excerpt:
"Over the next five years, I know the new Commission will be tireless in its efforts to create the right conditions for European innovation to flourish.
Research, science and innovation are not just the sum of a Commissioner's portfolio. They are not just the domain of multinational corporations or elite academic institutions.
They touch every tiny aspect of our lives. From the way we heat our homes, to the way we run our businesses. From the way we heal our bodies, to the way we construct our buildings.
Nothing has greater power to bring about economic prosperity. Nothing will enable us to contribute more to an increasingly interconnected, global society. Nothing has greater power to secure our place on the world stage, as a continent that leads: that eats, sleeps and breathes excellence.
Nothing has more power than research, science and innovation to change lives, to change the status quo, to wake us up, to disrupt! To unleash an outpouring of transformative energy."You can read the full text of his speech here.
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Knowledge4Innovation is an open, independent, non-profit platform with a wide variety of stakeholders including small and large companies, universities and research centres, regions and cities, trade organisations and think tanks. As such, it is the leading Brussels based innovation platform operating within the environment of the EU Institutions. K4I members are from the private, academic and public sectors and include large networks such as EUREKA, COST, Cefic, ECPA and EFPIA as well as universities, regional development organisations, cities, think tanks and small enterprises.