Achieving innovation cohesion in Europe

innovation cohesion
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Open Access Government delves into the innovation cohesion priorities of Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, for 2022 and beyond

Throughout Europe, research and innovation disparities are ever-present, and Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, is bringing this to attention.

Innovation cohesion plays an important role in 1.4%, respectively, compared to northwestern regions, ensuring the long-term convergence of European where it was at an average of 2.7% of GDP in regions. To tackle the divide and ensure convergence, Europe’s ambitious Recovery and Resilience Plans are vital. They are an important opportunity to boost research and innovation expenditure in eastern and southern regions of Europe, where it was 1.3% and 2019.

In the last year, the focus on developing effective synergies between European Programmes has in fact proved effective in working towards this goal of cohesion. According to the eighth Cohesion Forum in March 2022, several European regions have been catching up in terms of economic output in the last year, meaning that achieving cohesion is becoming more and more possible.

At the Forum, Commissioner Gabriel highlighted several ways to maintain this upwards trajectory, one of which is to foster an environment conducive to innovation and people, well equipped with digital skills and knowledge. This “is key for Europe and for its regions to best seize the opportunities offered by the digital transition,” Commissioner Gabriel added.

European Institute of Innovation and Technology

Another step towards innovation cohesion is through the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) which brings together over 3000 partners in areas such as climate, digitisation, efficient and renewable energies, sustainable raw materials, health and food, and focuses particularly on a bottom-up approach. The EIT Regional Innovation Scheme helps support local innovation enablers where they can make the biggest difference in enhancing innovation and cohesion.

Furthermore, the EIT recently published two calls to make the New European Bauhaus (NEB) a reality on the ground. Commissioner Gabriel stated: “Citizens are key drivers of the transition towards more sustainable, inclusive and beautiful places and lifestyles. The two calls published by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology are supporting their full engagement in the development of innovative and collaborative models of local initiatives by offering tailor-made opportunities to them. The New European Bauhaus is made by and for each citizen.”

Addressing the innovation gender gap

Achieving innovation coherency also means creating opportunities for those who are underrepresented in R&I. Deep tech accounts for over a quarter of Europe’s start-up ecosystem, with European deep tech companies valued today at a combined €700 billion. However, women remain largely underrepresented in deep tech. For every woman that does not have the opportunity to launch and lead a tech company, Europe loses out not only on talent and diversity, but also can also result in missed opportunities for economic growth.

Women TechEU is a new initiative of the European Union. The scheme offers grants, worth €75,000 each, to support the initial steps in the innovation process, and the growth of the company. It also offers mentoring and coaching under the European Innovation Council (EIC) Women Leadership Programme, and EU-wide networking opportunities. In March 2022, the Commission announced the results of the first call under the programme.

Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “I am particularly proud of the successful outcome of the first Women TechEU call. The high number of outstanding applications confirms there is a need for women in deep tech to get support for their companies at the early, riskiest stage. We will assist these 50 women-led companies with funding, mentoring and networking opportunities and we will scale up this programme in 2022.”

Projects will start in spring 2022 and are expected to run for six to twelve months. The women leaders will be enrolled in the European Innovation Council’s Women Leadership Programme for tailored coaching and mentoring activities.

Despite the many opportunities emerging to create innovation cohesion, Europe must continue to increase its efforts in ensuring long-term collaboration and convergence between its different regions.


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