“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

Pedro Nunes' exclusive interview by Carlo Motta at the Sting’s pavilion during EBS 2014

Pedro Nunes’ exclusive interview by Carlo Motta at the Sting’s pavilion during EBS 2014

This revealing exclusive interview with Pedro Nunes, Head of EUREKA, was conducted by Carlo Motta at the European Sting’s pavilion during European Business Summit 2014. In the following interview Carlo Motta will be signalled as C.M and Mr Nune as P.N.

 

C.M.: I am very please to welcome to our booth Mr Pedro Nunes, Head of EUREKA. So Mr Nunes we would like to start asking you to please tell us a few things about EUREKA and its scope in promotion innovation and research in Europe

P.N.: Well EUREKA is already a long established organisation; it is an inter government organisation. It was developed in 1986 when President Reagan started Start Wars; it is a strategic initiative that makes Europe react, being afraid of the technological divide that could be started because they were putting so much money on their companies to develop new technologies, that Europe thought that the only way to react was to pull in the different national programmes and best technologies together in order to be also able to respond to this technological challenge. So this was done and we are next year commemorating our thirtieth anniversary, that will be after the chairmanship of Switzerland, passing to Sweden, so we have national chairs every year. We will commemorate thirty years of success stories, a lot of projects that started in EUREKA, now they are big commercial successes.

C.M.: How would you judge innovation policy in Europe today? Do you think it encourages innovative minds to step forward or if not how does EUREKA try to cover the gaps of innovation policy?

P.N.: I think that innovation policy in Europe is a challenge because Europe is very good in developing basic knowledge, Science, we are very strong in science; we are as a union number one is publication of scientific articles, very good in filing patents but not so good in transforming all this knowledge into products, processes or services, that represent wealth creation and jobs. So this is what is called a European syndrome or the ‘Valley of the Dead’ and this is exactly what EUREKA tries to address. So our programs are very much industry lead, bottom up, which means that we are not guessing what type of technologies the promotor should do; we accept any good idea that he will bring to us, we have permanent calls with certain cutoffs twice a year and like that we think that also with a variable geometry we accept any proposal with the two partners from two different countries until the 41 or even beyond; with such a flexible approach very easy to accede without red tape we can have very short time contact to the decision ; this is what is really for us the key for success stories in terms of innovation. But I must say that innovation is not the only thing that we are lacking in Europe. We lack also other conditions, as I presented here at the panel I participated at the Business Summit, that are preconditions for competition to exist and to flourish. One is the low price of energy, second is a much simpler regulation – we have a jungle of regulations- without common sense very much on the political correctness; and also we need to have a much more business friendly environment and culture from the side of the administration. So knowing that the companies that produce jobs, that they produce wealth will also pay afterwards the cost of the necessary administration.

C.M.: Last year’s creation of a unitary European patent system is a true accomplishment when it comes to innovation in Europe. You know that there were many concerns about patents in Europe. Do you believe that this is enough and how does EUREKA try to facilitate access to funding for European innovators?

P.N.: What we do is first of all to have very good smooth relations with the other entities that are also ensuring funding, phases of the innovation chain. So innovation chain starts at blue sky research, in fundamental research, in development, and all of that is very well done through the Horizon 2020 or the other research programs on the national levels. We have very good relations with them and we are trying to pick the best ideas and the best consortia, the best companies, the best universities, in order to support if they want to have the jump for the market. So if they will startup or spinoffs or new companies that will try to apply this research to the market. This is where we came and we entered with this large number of tools, like the Eurostarts program that we are doing with the European Commission for very innovative SMEs, or our classical EUREKA projects that are very much designed with the national innovation agencies, which are in network and with a very easy dialogue between themselves in order to sponsor a concrete project; also with our clusters that are the association of the big industry; when we are speaking about clusters we are speaking more about big industry than in SMEs. So we have this full array of possibilities that will try to bring this knowledge in the market place for the creation of jobs and growth in Europe. But also for the market world potential. This is why we are for some years now we are having smart alliances like South Korea, like Canada, like South Africa and others that will really bring as an added value. Either in market penetration or in technology or even in capital.

C.M.: Is Europe innovative enough compared to the rest of the world like the US and China?

P.N.: What we are trying with EUREKA is to give the possibility for our member countries to resist by pulling their national efforts together, to have critical mass to compete with those major economic zones like the United States or China or Japan; and also now we have those new countries that appear at this new class of economy. So these are continent economies, with a huge internal market, with aggressive agenda for technology. So in order to resist we need to be together, because none of our members states has the dimension to compete with China and the US; not even Germany. So that is why we think with this aggregation of efforts we will be able to compete, very often to collaborate, but on the same footing, with this major economic realities. By the way China just overcame the United States in economic dimension.

C.M.: How do you see Europe in ten years from now in terms of technological development and also in terms of social and peoples’ development. Are you optimistic?

P.N.: I think that anybody that will be responsible should have some levels of concern because Europe is let’s say is an old society; we are getting older, we are not having enough wealth with all the difficulties that this brings. This brings a difficulty not only in renewing our human capital basis that was our strength up to now, but also put in question the sustainability of our social security that is the most generous worldwide. So this can create some stresses in terms of being able to compete keeping the same level of quality of life with these new players. So I think that if our politicians are wise enough and our populations will be enough aware, avoiding extremism and populism, they could devise the way to go; it means allowing a certain level of immigration, because we need to replace our vanishing workforce because we are becoming old; and that could be by accepting that we must receive a certain level of immigration that should be qualified and also promote our own human capital even more, giving them a much more theoretical but much more applied education, in order to be able to cope with the needs of the future. But also we need to see these preconditions for competitiveness. Energy is a fundamental weakness of the European society. We don’t have our own natural resources and hence we depend on the external world. We cannot have a high cost energy base. We should have a low cost energy base and for that we must look for smart and intelligent policies, in order to overcome that weakness. We should also try to be much more pragmatic in terms of legislation, much more business friendly, in order to promote the coming up to Europe which is still a lighthouse in terms of fashion; everybody is using and copying the French design for instance. So I think this is on the strength part. Everything together with common sense and a wise policy we will survive and we will survive very well in ten years time. If you persist with the wrong policies, probably we will be no more relevant in the world arena., like yesterday President Barroso said in his opening speech.-

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