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Research and innovation in the EU: Evolution, achievements, challenges

Written by Cemal Karakas,

© European Union, 2018

Research and innovation have become indispensable elements in many areas of our daily lives, including health and wellbeing (e.g. radiotherapy, vaccinations), the search for a sustainable environment (e.g. weather forecasts, solar energy), safety and security (e.g. tsunami alerts, biometric border control) and end-user products (e.g. smart phones, e-cars).

Despite the correlation between research, development, innovation and competitiveness, when it comes to international comparisons, most Member States lag behind the ‘Barcelona target’ to invest 3 % of national gross domestic product (GDP) in scientific research and innovation. Better coordination of transnational research activities and the completion of the European Research Area (ERA) could benefit the EU economy by an extra €16 billion per year.

The instruments, governance and scope of the framework programmes (FP) for research have changed dramatically over time. These changes include the development of public-public and public-private partnerships, the establishment of the European Research Council (ERC) and the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), and the introduction of specific instruments for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as individual mobility grants.

To date, the current FP, Horizon 2020, has supported over 18 000 projects with more than €31 billion in funding. Nevertheless, Horizon 2020 has shortcomings, including complex procedures, a high administrative burden, a lack of flexibility when it comes to reacting to unforeseen circumstances, and insufficient synergies with other EU funds and public interventions and/or private finance.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Research and innovation in the EU: Evolution, achievements, challenges‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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