'Either we innovate or die'
The EU does not have enough entrepreneurs turning scientific breakthroughs into new products and services, writes MAIRE GEOGHEGAN-QUINN
IN JULY, I will be announcing the last call for proposals worth €8 billion under the 7th EU Research and Technological Framework Programme 2007-2013: more commonly known by the acronym FP7. This is the largest publicly funded research programme in the world.
It financially supports research activities in a range of economic sectors, for example, in the fields of information and communications technology, energy, health, transport, agriculture and food, environmental services, advanced materials, industrial initiatives, nano-technology, bio-technology, security and space.
Organisations from the academic, public, private and research communities can participate in FP7 projects. Irish participants have drawn down €384 million under FP7 to date. While third-level colleges are the largest beneficiaries of this EU research funding, private sector companies in Ireland have secured €96 million. So far, 200 small and medium-sized Irish companies have accounted for 75 per cent of all participants from Irish businesses that have successfully secured financial backing under FP7.
Enterprise Ireland is the national contact point for FP7 in this country. It advises prospective applicants on how our EU research programmes operate, the nature of our annual calls for proposals and on how to put an FP7 consortium together. The criteria for drawing down funding under FP7 is excellence in research. FP7 applications can include partners from other EU member states and from non EU countries. So if you are involved in a company that has a research component, I would urge you to look carefully at future funding opportunities under the next FP7 call for proposals in July this year.
However, supporting research activity is only one side of the coin. Putting in the necessary regulatory and legal environment in Europe to enable innovative goods and services to be developed is the other side of this coin. Europe has great scientists, and 31 per cent of all patents in the world comes from the EU, but what we do not have is follow-through.
We do not have enough entrepreneurs turning scientific breakthroughs into new products and services. We have an innovation gap and we must close it.
Supporting innovation in Ireland and in Europe can and must be a driver for growth and jobs. Skype and the MP3 music format are just two examples of inventions, built on the back of EU research, but commercialised and brought to the marketplace by American companies.
From a European perspective this is just not good enough. Jobs are being created elsewhere on the back of EU knowledge. This affects the competitive position of Europe at a time when China and India are also breathing down our necks.
Either we innovate or die. A crisis drives new thinking. But challenges for society bring economic opportunities too. Some of the best companies in the world have been built during recessionary times.