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European research and innovation in a new geopolitical arena

19 May 2020
Europe Science policy Innovation mission-driven innovation policy

Christening of the TU Delft Solar Boat 2018 - (c) Hollandse Hoogte

Doop van de TU Delft Solar Boat 2018
The Rathenau Instituut takes stock of the European Union's Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) plans. These changes are related to geopolitical, technological, and economic developments. With the new European STI policy, the European Commission shows a growing ambition to use science and innovation for geopolitical and societal goals, such as strengthening the EU's competitive position and combating climate change.




This study identifies recent changes in the European Union's science, technology, and innovation (STI) policies. These changes are linked to geopolitical, technological, and economic developments. With the new European STI policy, the European Commission is showing a growing ambition to mobilise scientists, businesses, and other parties for geopolitical and societal goals. This is evident from the European Commission's proposal for the new framework programme for research and innovation Horizon Europe (2021-2027), the planned Green Deal, and the new European Defence Fund (EDF). To this end, the Commission requires a substantial investment from the European member states.

Negotiations on the Horizon Europe framework programme were difficult. In order to strengthen Member States' support for Horizon Europe, the Commission needs to be able to demonstrate that European STI policies have positive long-term effects for all Member States. In particular, it needs to demonstrate the added value of further European integration of STI efforts. The European Commission is therefore currently refocusing on the European Research Area (ERA) policy.

According to the Rathenau Instituut, this policy review period offers a good opportunity to discover the added value of joint investments in European science, technology and innovation. An important part of the policy review is the question to what extent, and in what way, Horizon Europe should contribute to a more even distribution of research capacity across Member States. The logic of 'global excellence' suggests that concentration of research capacity in centres of excellence (in Western European countries) is necessary to cope with global competition for talent, knowledge and investment. On the other hand, a balanced distribution of research capacity can make European science, technology and innovation more resilient in the long term and contribute to the cohesion of the European Union.

EU policy for science and innovation

European policy science innovation
Illustration: Rathenau Instituut