'Either we innovate or die'
We must support new industries that will promote food security, make us more energy efficient and reduce our reliance on non-fossil fuels so that our climate goal targets can be reached.
Because cyber security is a growing threat for us all we must intensify our research effort so that both the personal computer you use at home and national government databases are fully safe at all times. Tackling all of these global challenges presents major commercial opportunities for innovative Irish companies.
The EU has to introduce a series of changes so that Irish and European companies can bring new ideas to the marketplace. Financial support must be given to “incubator” companies, in essence micro enterprises that are at the initial stage of devising new research.
Venture capital backing is then needed to scale companies up to a level where they can effectively compete for business on both a national and on a cross-border basis.
The public procurement sector represents 17 per cent of our GDP. The US government operates what is known as the small business innovation research (SBIR) scheme which supports innovative SMEs through the public procurement process. Similar SBIR schemes are now operating in Britain and in the Netherlands but this initiative needs to be replicated elsewhere in Europe.
The European Commission will be launching a pilot project in support of SBIR type programmes as part of July’s FP7 call for proposals. We must bring the best innovative practices from the public and private sectors together in pursuit of our policy goals.
Already, in Europe we operate a series of public-private partnerships that are seeking to replace fossil-fuelled cars, build the next generation of cleaner aircraft, expand the range of online services and develop more innovative medicines. Tackling global challenges requires international co-operation.
We also need the best researchers and scientists to work in Ireland and in Europe so that we can develop the innovative products and services of the future. This will help to create and maintain employment, improve people’s quality of life and build a better society for us all.
The European Commission proposed, on June 29th last, that €80 billion be spent on the research, innovation and science sectors between 2014-2020. This is a central component of our Europe 2020 programme.
It is vitally important that both the European Parliament and the 27 EU governments support this budgetary target because it will lead to the EU becoming a real and vibrant innovation union.
Developing an innovative society will not happen in a vacuum but neither did Google, Facebook, Ikea and Ryanair – all great innovators in different ways.
We all must be innovators now.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science