Technology and innovation shaping Europe’s competitiveness

25 June 2021

How can Horizon Europe (HE) programme...

How can Horizon Europe (HE) programmes boost innovation and enable Europe to further strengthen its position as a global technology leader? This was the focus of the Sustainable, Long-term Investments & Competitive European Industry Intergroup’s latest event on 25 June that brought together an exceptional line-up of policymakers and industry experts.

Opening the proceedings, MEP Maria da Graça Carvalho (EPP), co-chair of this Intergroup and host of the event, welcomed Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. Commissioner Gabriel pointed to the various HE programmes and how they boost industry and support sustainable development goals and called for greater collaboration between policymakers and industry.

MEP Carvalho and Rada Rodriguez, President of Orgalim and CEO of Signify GmbH, agreed on the central role of innovation in defining Europe’s future success. Ms Rodriguez highlighted the need to simultaneously enact a series of policies and initiatives to remain globally competitive: “We must ensure that innovation will remain at the centre of the updated EU Industrial Strategy. The ability to become an innovation leader will be central to Europe’s future success.” 

  The ability to become an innovation leader will be central to Europe’s future success. 

Rada Rodriguez, Orgalim President

MEP Carvalho added that the implementation of HE will play an essential role in mastering the twin transitions and maintaining the competitiveness of Europe’s technology industries: "Linkages between industrial and innovation policies are vital to achieve the EU's targets. We need to strengthen synergies between industry and policymakers moving forward."

At least 37% of the NextGenerationEU Funds will be allocated to the green transition and an additional 20% will go to the digital transition. However, as the speakers pointed out, this is not enough if we want to reach the target of 3% of GDP by 2025.

The floor was then opened to a group of senior experts from DG GROW, DG RTD and industry who recognised that Europe is at a turning point:

Giving insights into the Commission’s thinking, Peter Dröll, Director for Prosperity DG RTD, European Commission noted that HE is the first European project that calls for direct investments in the twin transitions. Mr Dröll emphasised the need to build on experiences and involve industry in policymaking to allocate funds efficiently: “Vision without action is a daydream, and action without vision can be a nightmare, notably if the necessary research is done inadequately”.

Ulla Engelmann, Acting Director Networks & Governance DG GROW, European Commission added that the EU is establishing inclusive, interactive platforms where industry stakeholders are able share their experiences – notably referring to the Industrial Forum. In addition, Ms Engelmann highlighted that HE investments need to go hand-in-hand with improving skills: “There is a huge need for upskilling, and HE is a good opportunity to address this. This is not only an investment programme, but also a reform programme.”

Representing industry, Thomas Bitter, Senior Vice President Technology, Volvo CE signalled that upskilling is indeed a huge component of re-enforcing Europe’s competitiveness on the global stage: “Talent and competence can make a difference. We need to attract young women and men to join our industry - if we develop skills, we can build competitive advantage.”

Closing the debate, all panellists agreed that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”: the next few months will tell if these measures are having the desired effects. The panel encouraged close cooperation between policymakers and industry to be able to build a sustainable industrial ecosystem moving forward.


In case you missed this debate, you can watch a replay of the session below or by clicking here.

And don’t miss our next event, on the Sustainable Products legislative Initiative and the EU Digital Product Passport – register here.

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