With the new blueprint, the European Commission shows it is determined to stop Europe from losing out to the US and Asia in both basic and applied research, patents and high-tech products and services, says the EESC in a report adopted at the March plenary.

The key strength of the proposed new European Research Area (ERA) is its focus on rapidly translating R&I results into sustainable business and sustainable jobs, stresses the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

"It's absolutely necessary that the new ERA not be just more of the same," says opinion rapporteur Paul Rübig. "This New Deal will boost the impact of R&I at a time when innovation will be make or break, not only for Europe's COVID-stricken economy, but also for the survival of the planet."

European research has been slower than the US and Asia at converting R&D results into innovative products and services. Europe lags behind Asia in patent performance (Asia submitted 65% of global patent applications in 2019, Europe only 11.3%) and especially in digital service businesses and "technology-push innovations", i.e. new products driven by research and development in new technology. More generally, Asia, especially China and Korea, has massively improved its RTI performance over the past 20 years. The new ERA should help Europe catch up through investment and increased mobility.

While backing the Commission's blueprint, the EESC points to five key sectors which have been left out of its list of strategic technologies, yet are vital for the Europe's prosperity:

  • digital business models;
  • goods and food manufacturing technologies;
  • clinical research and the pharmaceutical and biotechnological sector;
  • space technologies;
  • clean water and sanitation.

One other key point the EESC makes in its opinion is the need to balance excellence with speed in transferring R&D results into innovative products and services. In business, speed is of the essence, while scientists strive for excellence and ask for more time and money for R&I. The Commission's RTI policy should square one with the other. (dm)