Europe: Catching up or taking the lead?

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Europe: Catching up or taking the lead?

Gist of the opinion

Climate change, demographic changes, globalisation, and commodity and energy scarcity will lead to far-reaching economic and social changes in Europe. The impact on living standards and competitiveness in Europe depends largely on whether the right measures are taken in good time. The need to find innovative responses to new challenges stems from the success of the European catch-up process in many areas.

A sustained increase in resources for the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy is therefore proposed.

Increased cooperation among Member States in devising and implementing measures can also increase effectiveness. In order to support this process, a share of the additional resources should be put aside specifically for the development of cooperation programmes between the European Union and Member States.

Europe is thus faced with a challenge primarily because only a few Member States have laid the foundations for cutting-edge work. Many Member States have still not managed the transition from catch-up phase to cutting-edge production. The transition to a knowledge-based economy leads to increased demand for highly qualified workers. In order to deal with this situation, there is a need for medium to long-term forecasts of the skills required of workers. This will form the basis for the restructuring of the education and training sector.

In order to solve outstanding problems and boost economic efficiency, structures in science and research should be put in place to promote excellence. The European Research Council and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology will accelerate this process of change. Investment in these structures must be further stepped up in future as an incentive for Member States to pursue complementary strategies.

Alongside investment in workers and scientific systems, there is a need for Member States, in their efforts to promote research, to offer much stronger support to risky innovation projects, better protection of property rights (e.g. European patent and measures against product piracy), innovation-friendly regulation of the product and labour markets, risk-appropriate funding possibilities, measures to boost demand for innovation (e.g. internal market, public procurement, lead markets), more mobility at all levels and an appropriate competition and macro-policy.