Will innovation take Europe out of the recession? The question was raised in a future-oriented panel discussion arranged by Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm on 14 May. It focused on the links between research, innovation and public policy.
European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou presented the work of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body comprising universities, research centres and companies throughout the European Union, including three from Sweden: Vattenfall, ABB, and Ericsson.
“Their commitment confirms the relevance of the concept. It allows KICs to develop and ensures a long-term perspective,” she said.
KICs for new solutions
Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) are a new instrument in the R&D landscape organised by the EIT to provide new and specific solutions within key technology areas for Europe and, above all, to focus more explicitly on capitalising on the research results. Three KICs are being set up, including KIC InnoEnergy, a results-focused company comprising major European partners in the energy sector: companies, universities and research institutes.
Need for entrepreneurs
Swedish Minister for Enterprise Annie Lööf said she was proud that Swedish companies in the basic industrial sector make investments and take risks to support the development of new ideas for innovation and competitiveness. She emphasised the need for entrepreneurship, especially in education.
“The Swedish system is innovative, but not so entrepreneurial,” she said. “If we are to remain competitive, we cannot rely on the past. We must be innovative. We also must have a less judgemental attitude to risks and failures.”
Minimum of bureaucracy
Karl Bergman, head of Vattenfall’s R&D, noted that Vattenfall had many years of good experience in national cooperation initiatives within communities aiming to promote innovation.
“We now hope that European cooperation will produce more goal-oriented and less bureaucratic results than we have sometimes experienced with the EUs R&D framework programmes,” he said.
Pointing out the difference between inventions and innovation, he noted that innovation in the energy sector often takes decades, due to the capital-intensive scaling-up process, and is more about communities and joint efforts. An important aspect is to get workable regulations in place.
“Deregulation creates a more competitive environment for Europe, compared to the US for instance, where many actors in the energy sector seem stuck in a less market-oriented mindset,” he felt.
The debate pointed out that Europe has been strong in driving joint technologies and creating common standards and regulatory systems.