Right goals but not the desired game-changer?The New European Innovation Agenda

27. Juli 2022

Autoren: Dr. Petra Püchner und Sebastian Große-Puppendahl

Lack of investments or lack of policies?

Innovation in and for the EU and its member states will predominantly be successful if political ambitions really translate into concrete actions by more systematically linking investors and entrepreneurs with creative researchers and innovators. Europe’s failure to do so on a larger scale up until now has been a combination of limited access to sufficient funding and lack of policies that better bring innovations onto the (internal) market.

So the question is: has Europe’s innovation slow been a lack of risk capital or a lack of the right policy framework attracting deep tech innovators?

Grand political ambitions meet reality

When Commissioner Mariya Gabriel officially outlined the new European Innovation Agenda, the EU Research and Innovation Chief was hopeful to address those shortcomings by presenting an ambitious five-pillar approach: foster deep tech innovation; create innovator networks across Europe; attract talent; draw in investors; and revamp policies to promote innovation.

With those five cornerstones, the Commission wants to transform Europe into a deep tech start-up leader and make the EU a global innovation leader, currently being outperformed by a number of countries, according to the latest European Innovation Scoreboard 2021.

Current global performance: Coloured columns show performance in 2021 relative to that of the EU in 2014. The horizontal hyphens show performance in 2020, relative to that of the EU in 2014. Grey columns show performance in 2014 relative to that of the EU in 2014. The dashed lines show the threshold values between the performance groups, where the threshold values of 70%, 100%, and 125% have been adjusted upward to reflect the performance increase of the EU between 2014 and 2021. (source: European Commission)


Reality therefore seems to indicate that despite being ahead of Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa, “the EU has seen a worsening of its relative position towards 4 of its global competitors [as] the performance gap with Japan, South Korea and the United States has increased and the performance lead over China has become smaller”. Only with Australia the EU has seen a closure in performance gap recently between 2020 and 2021.

The desired game-changer?

While the global pressure will continue to grow, especially also with the current multi-fold crisis including war that we witness, especially the inner-European dimension will be crucial to turn the EU Innovation Agenda into action and practice. While the five pillars each alone are a task, the most important challenge will be to connect those five pillars and more importantly, connect innovation eco-systems across Europe and its diverse but powerful regions.

Until now we have seen too much fragmentation, too many instruments and programmes, and too much EU and national rather than regional initiatives. All three require doing more cross-border and inter-regional cooperation and investments that connect innovators to the market and entrepreneurs and investors with highly innovative solutions and products. Also, the sheer amount of support measures in place on the European level in terms of partnerships, alliances, networks, instruments etc. lead to a fragmented landscape that investors and innovators find difficult to manage.

At the same time, we need to enable and incentivize innovators by reducing regulation issues, which are no longer matching new technologies and services. Regulatory sandboxes or innovation test beds therefore embrace the chance to connect with regulatory stakeholders understanding and evaluating the regulatory impact on innovations. Obviously, deep tech innovation cannot be compared with standard technology and related regulations. It needs a new and quick approach incentivizing European innovation action.

So what`?

Regions that better connect among themselves across Europe and with national and EU level instruments and programmes should be in the driving seat to promote and support innovations and innovators and it’s also the regions that are best suited to successfully turn ambitions into outcomes, as they are close enough to both entrepreneurs and the innovation eco-system.

Regions and European Stakeholders should therefore work hand in hand, connecting needs of deep tech innovation, such as regulatory requirements, with more (patient) risk capital and a fit-for-purpose policy framework, which provides enough room for all stakeholders and paves the way for innovative solutions.

If we do not harness this in a more systemic manner, the European Innovation Agenda will fall short of its ambitions and ultimately the EU will fall further behind in intensified global competition. The effects of this are difficult to project but the European idea would suffer severely in economic, social, and environmental terms.

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Dr.-Ing. Petra Püchner
Sebastian Große-Puppendahl
Kontaktieren Sie uns

Kontaktieren Sie uns!

Dr.-Ing. Petra Püchner
Sebastian Große-Puppendahl