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Horizon 2020: Innovation for the Future of Europe by the European Commission
In November this year, the European Commission published its Autumn 2017 European Economic Forecast, presenting its findings on the state of the economy across the EU. According to the report, the European economy is enjoying a period of positive momentum with growth spreading across member states, investment picking up and robust private consumption leading to improved balance in domestic demand. Labor markets are feeling the effects too, with the unemployment rate falling to 8.9% in September 2017—the lowest rate in nearly nine years. The picture that emerges is that of a Eurozone economy that is gradually regaining its strength as we continue to see modest growth and a gradual decline in unemployment. Looking to the future, it is essential to remain aware of the risks and the areas where considerable improvement still needs to be seen—such as public investment, underemployment, and wage growth. Boldness and optimism must be balanced with caution, as we move forward with a focus on innovation across the board.
According to the European Commission’s Innovation Scoreboard, the EU’s innovation performance is on an upward trajectory, albeit with markedly uneven progress across member states. Sweden continues to lead innovation, while Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, and the UK are the fastest growing innovators in the bloc. Greece, meanwhile, is categorized as a “moderate” innovator, scoring well below the EU average but faring better than Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Scoreboard showed that regional innovation hubs exist even in such “moderate” innovator countries, but also noted that venture capital investments and the number of SMEs introducing innovations have been declining. Nonetheless, overall innovation performance is expected to increase by 2% over the next two years.
Over the 2010-2016 period, EU performance improved most in the dimensions of human resources, innovation-friendly environment, own-resource investments, and attractive research systems, while it declined most in finance and supports (owing to the decline in venture capital investments), innovation in SMEs, and linkages. At the global level, performance during this period shows that the EU is catching up with Canada and the U.S., while South Korea and Japan are likely to have an increasing lead over the bloc for some time to come.
As innovation is recognized by all stakeholders as a crucial ingredient for productivity, competitiveness and growth, and as it plays a key role in job creation and overcoming social challenges, the European Commission aims to foster it across sectors and policy areas. From speeding up the development of common standards across priority areas (from mobile networks to IoT) to supporting the development of the collaborative economy and from setting up the European Open Science Cloud to making available billions through its Horizon 2020 program, The European Commission is committed to creating the conditions for innovation, entrepreneurship, and SMEs to flourish.
The world’s largest research and innovation program, Horizon 2020 supports the entire innovation chain from frontier research to close-to-market activities. For its last phase, 2018-2020, it will make available €30 billion in investments for research and innovation. The Commission is constantly improving synergies between various EU-led specialization platforms, financial instruments, and institutions, aiming to foster innovation and business and support economic growth, and it continues to facilitate access to private finance for SMEs, startups and young entrepreneurs across the EU.
As of October 2017, Greek participation in Horizon 2020 totaled 1,861 participants receiving €517.58 million.