EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel has outlined her ideas for the creation of a European Innovation Area (EIA), saying it should be decentralised and empower all innovators and entrepreneurs to realise their full potential, wherever they are in Europe.
EIA must be based on the five main principles of an effective local innovation system, Gabriel said in a statement read on her behalf at the European Innovation Summit being held online this week.
- It must form networks and facilitate communication between different stakeholders and start-ups.
- The ecosystem must ensure transparent, equal access to funding across Europe, and be designed to increase female participation.
- Start-ups must be able to easily submit tenders to any public authority in the EU. Regulation allowing this is already in place, but there are not see enough examples of entrepreneurs taking advantage of it.
- EIA must enable matchmaking opportunities between start-ups and larger established companies.
- EIA should have strong local innovator associations with connections to other stakeholders and authorities.
These measures need to be adopted on a European level to tackle the fragmentation of existing European start-up ecosystems. Though many of these are vibrant and successful, they are often disconnected from each other. Today, it is easier for an entrepreneur to contact an investor in Silicon Valley, California than another European region, Gabriel said.
The EIA should help change this and would also create stronger links between education and innovation. The path from research to innovation is well-established. Now, the EU should enable students to form and scale start-ups in Europe without passing through a research lab, Gabriel said.
The EU is already laying foundations for an innovation market, with the European Innovation and Technology Institute (EIT) building ecosystems across Europe, while the European Innovation Council (EIC) is funding technology start-ups. To reinforce their efforts, the two EU agencies signed a letter of intent in September, agreeing to streamline services. “The next step is to turn the EIC into a European unicorn factory by working together with the EIT’s new innovation ecosystems,” said Gabriel.