A report released by the European Commission this month and presented at the meeting of the European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) in Saint Julian’s, Malta, reveals that roughly two thirds of economic growth in Europe can be traced back to innovation. It also estimates that the typical returns for private R&I investment range from between 10% and 30%. These returns can be twice or three times higher for the economy in general, thanks to the positive spillover effects that enable other firms to benefit from these investments.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said: “The study demonstrates once again the importance of public investments in research and innovation. Such investments are necessary to boost excellent research and support new forms of radical, market-creating innovation often driven by digitalisation.”

Some interesting facts and figures of Europe’s science, research and innovation performance are contained in the following infograph 

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european-semester-2017The EU’s target for member states to invest 3% of GDP in research is not going to happen by 2020, according to the latest assessment by the European Commission. The European Semester, the EU’s annual analysis of the economic and social situation in Member States, says that on average EU countries are still under-investing in R&D and highlights some familiar shortcomings in member states’ science systems, in an attempt to guide countries towards a stronger performance.

Although member states attach an increasing role to research and innovation (R&I) policy as a competitiveness and growth enabler, more cooperation between science and business, is needed, even in some of the most advanced countries. Progress in improving the business environment and boosting R&D investment in the 28-nation bloc is varied.

Portugal occupies a very low (24th) position in innovation performance, while Austria, which ranks second among member states on public and private R&D spending, does not manage a matching performance in innovation. R&D spending in Austria as a percentage of GDP amounted to just over 3% in 2015, making it one of the few countries to exceed the Commission’s target. Finland, which is traditionally a big investor in research – among the highest in the world in fact – has seen its R&D budget shrink over the last few years, as it grapples with recession.

The legacy of the 2008 financial crisis continues to impede public investment in research in most member states – but particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. Lithuania’s science performance is performing poorly, with the volume of highly cited scientific publications falling during recent years. The majority of its R&D output is produced by public research institutions, with weak capacity to exploit results for economic benefits.

Romania’s science system remains confused, with more than 150 public institutions undertaking R&D; the Commission hopes that the planned creation of a National Council for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy will help to bring some clarity to the situation.

Access to finance for small businesses is identified as the most important challenge in some member states. In Greece, for example,  30% of SMEs point to access to financing as their most serious problem, as do 25% of SMEs in Cyprus.

On a more encouraging note, the Commission finds most European governments are on the way to meeting the EU targets on emission reductions, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The European Semester country reports are available at


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march-for-scienceThe idea for the rally, planned for Washington DC and some 20 European cities including Amsterdam, Brussels, Edinburgh, London and Paris, was sparked on January 20 in response to news that all references to climate change had been deleted from the White House website, hours after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th US president. It is a response to what the organisers view as the anti-scientific attitude of the new US administration under President Trump, who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” – although he said more recently that he would keep an “open mind” about it.

A science movement quickly spawned on a Reddit forum, inspired by the huge turnout for the Women’s March in Washington, DC the day after Trump’s inauguration. It quickly grew online, with over 300,000 people interested or saying they will take part on the event’s Facebook page. The march is now expected to be the biggest public assembly of scientists to date.

Valorie Aquino, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico and one of the original organisers of the event said, “The march is an idea that went viral because so many people are alarmed about the increasing trend to discredit scientific expertise, and recent actions [that] threaten many members in the science community.”

Even EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas is considering taking part in the march. “I think it is great that scientists and researchers will show up and tell the people how important science is, at a time where there are doubts about the [quality and source] of evidence. It is being driven by civil society and not politicians and I think that is right,” he said. Maintaining strong science ties with the US remains a number one issue for the Commissioner. “We have to stay united and maintain our alliance with the US. We recently signed an agreement to do more research together – I want to continue that,” he said.

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European CommissionAttracting more top global companies and boosting investment in defence are among the main avenues the European Commission could investigate as it lays the ground for a successor to Horizon 2020, according to a report which examines ways of maximising the impact of EU research and innovation programmes.

The report, which was written by Commission civil servants and published at the beginning of February, provides a foundation for the Commission’s analysis of the links between EU R&D spending and economic performance, and highlights possible future paths for increasing impact and growth.

While Horizon 2020 is a huge magnet for some of the world’s best universities, there would be a clear benefit in attracting more top companies to the programme, if the EU wants to achieve its goals of  closing the research to innovation gap. There is also “a strong business case for spending money more efficiently” in defence, where a lack of cooperation is estimated to cost Europe between €25 billion and €100 billion annually.

The document will be used by the high level group of 12 experts headed by former director-general of the World Trade Organization and EU trade chief Pascal Lamy, which is charged with drawing up a vision by this June for the 2021-2028 EU research programme. Getting more value for money at EU-level is especially important, the paper suggests, in a world where the EU share of the world gross expenditures in research and innovation has fallen from one quarter in 2000 to one fifth in 2013. In the same period, the EU share of world output of scientific publications dropped from one third to one quarter, and the EU share of the world’s patents has gone from one third to one quarter also.

The report highlights that Europe could do better at breakthrough, market-creating innovation. The last few decades have seen the emergence of major new markets based on ICT, biotech, consumer internet, and most recently the collaborative economy. Despite early technology leads, the EU has created few companies that now dominate these new markets.”

The Commission intends to make changes to the last two years of the Horizon 2020 programme in a bid to attract more top talent. These will include adopting a fully ‘bottom-up’ approach – so innovative projects that cut across sectors and technologies become more eligible for support – and putting more emphasis on financial and technical support for start-ups, in the hopes that they can scale-up quicker.


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forbes-30-under30-europeEighteen entrepreneurs affiliated with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) have been recognised in the second annual Forbes 30 under 30 Europe list, which honours 300 of, “the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents” in 10 different sectors.

The EIT, with its headquarters in Budapest, has innovators represented in five categories – industry, social entrepreneurs, technology, science and healthcare, and e-commerce. Among the innovators that make it onto the Forbes list are Italians Saverio Murgia and Luca Nardelli, who are behind Eyra, a company using artificial intelligence to create wearable devices for people who are blind and visually impaired. The devices are capable of translating visual images, such as a menu, road sign or zebra crossing into audio to inform the wearer of what is in front of them.

Alex Bond was recognised for his company Fresh Check, which has created a simple colour change system for food packaging that can alert a customer when food has spoiled. It received support from the EIT’s climate accelerator in 2015.

Freddy Macnamara’s company, Cuvva, offers a new type of car insurance. People who borrow a car from friends or family can use an app to buy short-term car insurance. This provides users with a number of benefits such as the ability to car share, to reduce their carbon footprint or stamp down on drink driving.

Martin McGloin and Sabine Pole, entrepreneurs from Estonia, are recognised for ‘Sorry as a Service’, which dispatches “physical apologies”, such as a cake or a personalised gift set.

See the full list of winners at

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wim-van-haverbekeWim Vanhaverbeke, Jim Cheng and Henry Chesbrough have just completed a study about the typical profile of an open innovation manager in a large company.

Open innovation is widely used in large companies and we know increasingly more about how to manage this process. In contrast, we know virtually nothing about the managers and practitioners who are driving open innovation in large companies. Who are the managers operating in open innovation teams or units? What is their profile? How long do they stay in an open innovation job, and what is their tenure in the company? Where did they work before their open innovation job, and more interestingly, where do they go afterwards? Do they leave or do they stay in the company? Are they promoted and what is the likelihood of a promotion if they leave the company?

The authors try to answer these questions based on an investigation of open innovation managers on LinkedIn. They traced open innovation managers in leading multinational companies who had been responsible for open innovation in one of the selected companies during the period 2010-2012. (Focusing on a specific period was necessary to obtain a reasonable estimation of the time these managers were responsible for open innovation and to understand what they do after their open innovation job.) This process led to a sample of 158 managers.

You can read more about their conclusions at

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Roger La SalleA new business insight provided by Roger La Salle, innovation thought leader and pioneer of “Matrix Thinking”™, who was our luminary speaker at the TII 2016 conference in Barcelona. 

Distance – curious to say the least!!

A surprise to me… A recent article from a senior CEO for whom I have some respect caught my attention. The nub of the article suggested that one of the main problems for Australians with inspired new innovations was the distance to the world’s largest market, the USA.

Is it really true that it’s further travelling from Australia to the USA than the other way round? Does this strike anybody else as a curious statement? Why would they bother when we won’t?

Whilst it may be true that the USA is far off, I find it interesting that US based companies will spend millions establishing a place in the tiny Australian market (about the population of the great area of just Los Angeles), but we are daunted by the concept of travelling EXACTLY the same distance to explore the USA market, some 13 times the size of Australia.

One commentator on the Australian car industry even went so far as to say that our problem is that we drive on the other side of the road, compared with the USA and most of the EU. Yet, not surprisingly the “other side of the road manufacturers” spend vast fortunes making cars to suit our tiny right hand drive markets and specific local Design Rules.

So what’s the Issue?

It’s not distance that’s the issue but understanding what true innovation is all about, commercialization and having a proper market entry strategy. Indeed in a host of workshops we have conducted in recent months covering more than five countries and some 400 SME’s, the common theme was that less than 10% of SME’s have a team developed and agreed business strategy, much less an innovation plan.

Too often we see inspired entrepreneurs confidently travelling to the USA with their basket of innovation expecting to be welcomed with open arms and having the locals embrace them with great vigor. Nothing could be further from the truth, and with Donald Trump now in the White House this is even more the case.

The issue is in the thinking of management, not the distance. The pity is the solution is not all that difficult if one thinks it through carefully. More about that next article.

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