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The European Commission has released its latest report highlighting Europe’s need for research and innovation (R&I) to support sustainable and inclusive growth of companies, regions and countries, in order to lead the green and digital transition.

Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, said: “Research and innovation are at the core of the response to the unprecedented crisis we are facing and can significantly contribute to the economic recovery.”

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Gabriel added: “The 2020 Science, Research and Innovation Performance report shows how research and innovation are central to bring about the ecological and digital transitions Europe needs. Horizon 2020 and the future Horizon Europe programme play a crucial role in this transformation.”

According to a statement by the EU, the EU ranks among the top players in scientific production and excellence, for example accounting worldwide for 25% of top-cited scientific publications on the topic of climate and for 27% in the area of bioeconomy. When it comes to patent applications in these two areas, the EU is also leading the way with 24% in climate and 25% in bioeconomy. Yet, more efforts are needed to turn research results into sustainable marketable solutions as well as to build a strong European Research Area and increase the effectiveness of public research systems.

As digitalisation is transforming R&I, the right policy mix should foster deep-tech and researchers’ digital skills, alongside promoting open science and ensuring sufficient investments in high-quality data infrastructures. 

European Union

Horizon Europe, the EU’s next research and innovation framework programme, will be a key part in stepping up and steering R&I efforts, through its mission-oriented approach and European partnerships.

Building on the EU’s excellence and top performance in science-based research and innovation, the Science, Research and Innovation Performance report presents 11 policy recommendations, grouped around three main pillars:

  • R&I for a safe and just space for humanity;
  • R&I for global leadership;
  • R&I for economic and societal impact.                 

Together, they pave the way towards R&I delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals and mainstreaming them into EU policies and initiatives that will contribute to a fair, climate-neutral and digital Europe, while at the same time boosting the competitiveness of European businesses and regions.

Following the release of this report, the EU pledged 40 billion euros ($43.88 billion), to transition away from fossil fuels. The funds are made up of 30 billion euros from an EU coronavirus recovery fund and 10 billion euros from the bloc’s budget for 2021-27, Reuters reported.

Citing Reuters’ news report, the Commission noted that this is in 2018 prices, and would be worth roughly 44 billion euros in current prices. Its proposal needs approval from member states and EU lawmakers.

Adding that the proposal is more than five times bigger than the 7.5 billion euro just transition fund – in 2018 prices – the EU executive proposed in January before it overhauled its budget proposals amid the pandemic.

When combined with 10 billion in loans from the European Investment Bank, the fund aims to trigger a total of at least 150 billion euros in just transition investments over 2021-27, including private capital, the Commission said.

According to Reuters, the fund aims to convince coal-heavy countries that the Commission’s target to decarbonise the EU economy by 2050 is achievable.

Poland, which employs roughly a third of the 237,000 people working in the EU coal industry, and generates most of its electricity from coal, has not yet committed to the 2050 climate goal.

Access the The 2020 Science, Research and Innovation Performance report