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In announcing his new Commission Team President Baroso has walked the talk by setting out a combined Research & Innovation dossier, a clear sign that the future will see more integrated policy-making in view of innovation. In the interest of a broad-based innovation agenda, it is vital that this is a truly cross-cutting competence that works across several departments.

The new Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has served as the justice and tourism minister in Ireland’s government, and has worked at the European Court of Auditors since 1999. The fact that she is from Ireland, which has been quite proactive in developing a knowledge-based society through research, is generally seen as a great asset.

Another lucky choice is the appointment of Austrian Research Minister Hahn for the job as regional policy commissioner, which bodes well for a regional policy post-2013 that does more to invest in the future and help improve the research and innovation ecologies in the regions.

However, one swallow (or in this case two) does not make a summer, as the proverb says. Much will depends on the willingness of the EU Member States to subscribe in theory and practice to Baroso’s vision of integrated policy-making across levels of governance and to find meaningful arrangement for policy-coordination and benchmarking as outlined in his political guidelines and in the consultation paper for the EU vision 2020.

Or as Ann Mettler of the Lisbon Council Think Tank aptly put it, “the EU 2020 agenda needs a much improved governance and ownership structure, as well as a new modus operandi that will credibly embody the innovation and renewal that is the very foundation of this strategy.”

It goes without saying that regions need to be fully integrated into this new ownership structure, since they play a crucial role in making Europe more innovative both through the elaboration of regional innovation strategies, stimulating and supporting triple helix interactions, e.g. through cluster management, and as territorial delivery points for EU policy and funding programmes.

So far regions are not really prominently mentioned in the EU 2020 consultation paper (only in view of the necessary active support of all stakeholders and “take up across all the regions of the EU” but not as key delivery points for the strategy). Also the proposal to effectively abolish the competitiveness objective in the Structural Funds (in the meanwhile withdrawn draft communicationb on the EU budget review) did not help to brighten the regions up …

UPDATE 10 December: I just learned that the European Commission’s research directorate general is to take over the 4-billion-euro Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme in the next Commission, which will be very important, of course, to bring the research and innovation funding streams closer together and streamline research and innovation funding in Europe.

Author :
EurActiv Network