Research and innovation in support of the competitiveness of the European regions

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Research and innovation in support of the competitiveness of the European regions

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Research and innovation in support of the competitiveness of the European regions


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > European Strategy for Growth > Growth and jobs

Research and innovation in support of the competitiveness of the European regions

Consistency in the use of the various sources of European funding is a key component of the support given by the European Union (EU) to the social and economic development of its Member States. In this Communication, the Commission formulates a number of guidelines for the national authorities and regions to enable them to combine the cohesion policy programmes more effectively with the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (7th RTD Framework Programme) and the Framework Programme on Competitiveness and Innovation. Furthermore, more effective use of European funds by the Member States and the regions is also advocated.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 16 August 2007 entitled “Competitive European Regions through Research and Innovation – A contribution to more growth and more and better jobs” [COM(2007) 474 final – Not published in the Official Journal]


The development of a knowledge economy is one of the key challenges of the renewed Partnership for Growth and Jobs.

The European Union (EU) possesses three key support instruments to respond to this:

  • cohesion policy via the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund;
  • the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (7th RTD Framework Programme);
  • the Framework Programme on Competitiveness and Innovation (CIP).

The Commission aims through this Communication:

  • to bring out the synergies of design of the European funding instruments dedicated to research, innovation and cohesion;
  • to promote the translation of these synergies of design into synergies of action in relation to national and regional authorities and local actors;
  • to provide an overview of the use made of the research, innovation and cohesion policies and instruments by the Member States and the regions;
  • to open up pathways in order to optimise this use.

Respecting differences while achieving synergies

The European research, innovation and cohesion policies pursue a common goal: to combine growth with more and better jobs.

The means to achieve this are nevertheless different:

  • research policy is centred on promoting excellence internationally;
  • innovation policy promotes turning knowledge into business opportunities and new solutions for societal needs;
  • cohesion policy focuses on promoting regional excellence.

In so doing, the Commission guarantees that, beyond legal differences in approach (geographical scope or thematic scope) and methodological differences (funding through calls for tender or selection by open call for expression of interest, etc.), the various programmes can be used so as to converge towards this common objective.

The measures facilitating interaction between the programmes include harmonisation of the periods of cover (2007-2013).

Towards more synergies between research, innovation and cohesion policies

The Council of the EU (“Competitiveness” Council) and various advisory groups, such as CREST (Scientific and Technical Research Committee of the EU), EURAB (European Research Advisory Board), ESFRI (European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures) and the ITRE committee of the European Parliament, have recently issued recommendations to strengthen the synergies between the research, innovation and cohesion policies:

  • it would be to the advantage of national and regional authorities to develop a specific strategy for coordinated use of the framework programmes and the cohesion policy programmes as part of their research, technological development and innovation (RTDI) strategy;
  • cohesion policy and the framework programmes offer opportunities to strengthen the governance of RTDI strategies through exchange and networking;
  • consideration should be given to effective synergies, including strengthening RTDI capacity, developing excellence, paying due attention to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), building cooperation at European and international level and strengthening the economic exploitation of R&D;
  • optimisation of communication and collaboration between the national and regional actors seems necessary;
  • the complementarity between the “Capacities” specific programme (7th RTD Framework Programme) and the cohesion policy programmes should be given greater prominence;
  • it seems obvious that there is a need for greater synergies between cohesion policy and the 7th RTD Framework Programme on research infrastructures and that it is important to involve the “newer” Member States in the implementation of the European Roadmap for Research Infrastructures in a meaningful way.

Better use of European funding

Several measures are considered by the Commission to achieve better use of European funding by the various actors involved in research, innovation and cohesion:

  • a practical guide to facilitate access by research institutions or companies to EU funding sources;
  • introduction of mechanisms facilitating the sharing of ideas and the exchange of best practice, support and advice;
  • improvement of the exchange of information with national and regional authorities on the organisations which have benefited from grants under the 7th RTD Framework Programme or the CIP, in the event of complementary assistance from national, regional and European funds.

The Commission plans to take stock of the progress made at national and regional level in spring 2009.


Research and innovation offer possibilities both to respond to the many challenges currently facing the EU and to boost economic growth, social responsibility and sustainable development. These two fields are suffering from a shortage of human capital.

Research and innovation are also key instruments for the sustainable management of resources (energy, in particular), to address climate change, and to deal with demographic change. Under globalisation, competitiveness of businesses depends largely on the value added to their goods and services. With this in view, European innovation-based growth has become a top priority under the renewed Lisbon agenda.

Action in favour of innovation is more effective at regional level, as physical proximity fosters the partnerships between actors. The regional clusters play a key role in the promotion of research, technological development and innovation. Regional decision-makers and entrepreneurs are best able to turn knowledge, skills and competencies into sustainable competitive advantage. However, there are significant disparities in means and performance from one region to another. There is therefore a very real risk of a divide.

The common or complementary priorities of the research, innovation and cohesion policies in the context of the Lisbon strategy are:

  • to build a European Research Area (ERA);
  • to improve results in R&D and innovation;
  • to strengthen the competitiveness of European businesses and regions;
  • to strengthen the economic and social cohesion of the enlarged EU;
  • to promote national, regional and interregional innovation strategies;
  • to encourage innovation and innovative clusters.

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