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Align research to EU priorities, regions urged

Regions should align their research and innovation priorities to those of the EU, according to the research commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

“If we really are going to achieve the European Research Area that member states have said must be put in place by 2014, we will need better coherence and synergy from top to bottom,” Geoghegan-Quinn said on 14 July.

“And quid pro quo, at the European level we will do our best to ensure that our policies and programmes are suited to the needs and challenges of the regions,” she added.

She was speaking at the event, “Innovation for stronger regions: opportunities in FP7”, at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels.

Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, vice-president of the Committee of the Regions, commented: “The success of the innovation-research facet of the Europe 2020 strategy will depend on how well the relevant policies, with regional policy and research policy at the forefront, are coordinated and linked together. There would be so much to lose by building walls between these policies.”

The European Commission says it will assist national and regional governments in developing research and innovation strategies through the Smart Specialisation Platform, launched last month.

According to Valcárcel, European regions “welcome the European Commission’s general stance regarding ‘intelligent specialisation’,” but regional responsibility and expertise should remain at the centre of strategy development.

Geoghegan-Quinn also urged regional authorities to make use of help available from the Commission, both in Brussels, in member states and from Framework 7 national contact points, in order to better inform their local research communities about EU funding opportunities.

The commissioner also called on regional authorities to use public procurement to boost innovation.

“In the USA and in some EU member states, including the UK, the Netherlands and in Finland, small business innovation programmes are in operation and these initiatives are supporting innovative small and medium sized companies under the public procurement process,” she explained.