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Regions and cities want the New EU Innovation Agenda to tackle persisting innovation divides  

The European Committee of the Regions underlines in its opinion that the EU's ambitious innovation policy goals set in the New Innovation Agenda for Europe can only be achieved by reducing fragmentation among projects and stepping up cooperation in cities and regions between businesses, academia and regional and local authorities. Cities and regions also emphasise the need to set up ERA Hubs, as outlined by the Council of the EU one year ago, in order to speed up the emergence of competitive R&I ecosystems across the EU.

The opinion drafted by Markku Markkula (FI/EPP), Member of Espoo City Council and President of the Helsinki Region, was adopted at the CoR plenary session on 1 December.

"As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, we should discuss the type of innovations needed for a resilient European society", rapporteur Mr Markkula points out. "In this situation, 'creative tension' and 'creative destruction' must be translated into profit: something completely new is needed, with the joint development of potential breakthrough initiatives. The European Commission should take measures, without delay, that draw on and complement the new European Innovation Agenda, and provide new solutions to acute societal challenges."

The opinion calls for clear objectives to close two innovation divides. Europe still lags behind the US and China in funding the whole innovation process, and the best performing regions in the EU are up to nine times more innovative than the least performing regions. The transition to purpose-oriented creativity and an innovation culture, genuinely open innovation ecosystems and the development of an entrepreneurial leadership mindset are mentioned in this context as important tools.

"The Innovation Agenda needs to be a critical signal for the whole EU to take concrete actions – both immediate and long-term – to address the innovation divides and promote place-based innovation ecosystems," Mr Markkula said.

"Europe needs to accelerate the whole innovation process on the ground, based on creative idea screening, experimenting, testing, prototyping, bench-learning, and scaling up. The European Commission should demonstrate its innovativeness by creating new ways of financing local activities that show natural global potential in their initial phase".

The opinion highlights the key role of smart specialisation strategies in strengthening regional innovation ecosystems and the importance of developing effective synergies between the EU structural funds, Horizon Europe and other EU funding instruments, building on initiatives such as regional innovation partnerships. It also urges to step up the establishment of ERA Hubs, which would help create strong links between local innovation ecosystems and the European Research Area (ERA).

Mr Markkula welcomes the European Commission's proposal to set up regional innovation valleys to tackle pressing societal challenges through cooperation among regions with similar specialisations. He believes that regional innovation valleys can, together with leading higher education institutions, act as key catalysts for social and industrial change.

"A change in mindset is needed. The time to act is now. Top universities can lead by example in striving for a society that values entrepreneurship, university-industry cooperation, deep tech and tackling societal challenges. Researchers, students and businesses should get the chance to experiment together and pilot the latest technologies in a new entrepreneurial and innovation culture," Markkula said.

​The opinion also highlights the social acceptability and relevance of innovation and science, their public value and the importance of public support. The results of projects carried out under the Horizon programme should therefore be further highlighted, with a particular focus on their value in improving regional innovation ecosystems and the Knowledge Triangle (research, education and innovation), with a tangible impact on the daily life of cities, regions and citizens.


Lauri Ouvinen

Tel. +32 473536887

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