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21st Jan 2019

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EU innovation efforts unknown

The efforts of the EU to turn the old continent into an “innovation union” are largely unknown to business leaders, according to a survey released on Tuesday (8 May) by global accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Not more than 27 percent of those polled “are aware of the European Commission’s efforts to promote innovation,” it says.

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The survey, conducted by Brussels-based think-tank Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) during the first two months of this year, is based on a sample of 680 "business leaders" from 15 EU member states from all four corners of the Union.

The low result can partly be explained by the fact that “not all respondents are in fact chief executive officer,” says Andrea Renda, researcher at CEPS and author of the report.

“Some are chief financial officer or have another title,” he says. “But even then, it is very low. Even financial officers should know something about where they get their money from.”

Another explanation may be that EU policies are a mystery to many. It is often said that particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, the bulk of Europe’s industry, remain beyond the reach of the Brussels force field.

“There is a lack of outreach [on the part of EU policy-makers],” says Renda. “I think they tried their best but haven’t succeeded. It is definitely alarming.”

The survey, part of a report on EU innovation policies, shows that 82 percent of respondents “believe that access to EU funds should be made easier”.

“Not a surprise,” says Renda. EU innovation funding is notoriously slow and complex. “But still, not a good sign.”

In addition, 82 percent of respondents believe that “EU policy is too fragmented”.

“A lot of innovation is taking place across borders these days,” says Renda. “Innovation clusters are no longer local clusters but regional clusters. So there is a call for further coordination.”

Perhaps more surprising is the share of respondents who “are aware of the work of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT)”: 20 percent.

The EIT was created in 2008 in order to forge relations between the academia and business in Europe.

This is "a bit surprising,” says Renda. “It has been there for a while now and has been praised by the companies who have had the chance to work with it.”

Andrea Renda, researcher at CEPS and author of the report: "The power of simplicity"
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