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Philip Stevens is director of Geneva Network, a UK-based research organisation focusing on innovation, trade and health policy.
The European Commission knows that innovation is a major driver of economic growth, responsible for around 50% of US annual GDP growth, for example.
Accordingly, boosting European innovation has long been a preoccupation of the Commission. First, the 2002 Lisbon Strategy aimed to make the EU the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. More recently, the Innovation Union initiative has attempted to raise R&D spending levels to the highest in the world.
These are laudable efforts. They recognise that Europe will lose its competitive edge and slip down global prosperity rankings if it does not nurture valuable innovative industries – life sciences, biopharmaceuticals, information technology, chemicals and entertainment.
Despite these high profile initiatives, the EU is losing the global innovation race. The Lisbon Strategy target of Europe spending 3% of GDP on R&D by 2010 fell flat; it’s now at 2%, 0.5% less than the US and 1.5% less than Japan.