My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Baroness Wilcox, has today made the following statement.
The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 9 and 10 March 2011. Andy Lebrecht, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU represented the UK on research issues on 9 March and I represented the UK on internal market and industry issues on 10 March. A summary of those discussions follows.
The main research issues discussed on 9 March were the Commission’s Europe 2020 (long-term EU competitiveness) strategy’s annual growth survey (from the research perspective); the interim evaluation of the seventh EU research framework programme; and the European innovation union flagship initiative. There was also a lunchtime discussion on the Commission’s proposed new “common strategic framework” for future EU research and innovation funding.
On the Commission’s annual growth survey, Ministers debated research and innovation priorities to help Europe recover from the economic crisis. The UK emphasised that it was maintaining its science spending and that there should be increased focus on innovation-oriented EU public procurement and on addressing issues regarding access to finance for innovators. The UK also said it planned to monitor the effectiveness of EU research and innovation reforms.
The Council adopted conclusions on the seventh EU research framework programme in response to the independent interim evaluation. The conclusions called for simplification of funding rules, a greater economic impact from EU research investment and examination of the reasons for low participation in certain member states.
On the European innovation union flagship initiative, the Commission reported plans to develop a new innovation performance indicator, a new EU standardisation policy and to look at how EU-wide procurement schemes and a proposed pan-EU venture capital fund could better support innovation.
In the lunchtime discussion on future EU research and innovation funding, the Commission reported plans to introduce a more co-ordinated approach. Member states generally supported the Commission’s approach and identified the simplification of existing EU funding rules as a priority. The UK emphasised the importance of scientific excellence when allocating EU funding.
The research any other business items discussed were a report on “The knowledge-based bio-economy towards 2020” conference held in September 2010 and proposals for a framework programme for nuclear research and training activities for 2012 to 2013.
The main internal market and industry issues discussed on 10 March were the Commission’s analysis of the results of the public consultation on the Single Market Act; progress on implementation of the EU services directive; the Council authorisation decision on the EU patent enhanced co-operation process; the Europe 2020 strategy’s annual growth survey (from the industry perspective) and the Commission’s raw materials initiative. There was also a lunchtime discussion on the Commission’s mid-term review of the Small Business Act.
On the Single Market Act, the Commission reported that 770 online responses had been received and that it would be difficult to identify priorities that would meet everyone’s concerns. The UK called for an emphasis on growth and that EU single market priorities should be progress on services, on the digital single market and on better regulation. Most member states supported a focus on growth. The Commission concluded that further work was needed to agree priorities with member states.
On the EU patent, the Commission said that it was vital to help EU competitiveness. In discussion, the UK stressed that it saw the EU patent as a package and that it was studying the European Court of Justice opinion on the patent court that had been issued on 8 March. Council legal services confirmed that consideration of the opinion did not prevent agreement on the enhanced co-operation process and 25 member states (including the UK) confirmed their support for the authorisation decision.
In the lunchtime discussion reviewing the Commission’s Small Business Act initiative, the UK highlighted the importance of better regulation. In the annual growth survey discussion, the UK emphasised its support for measures supporting growth. The majority of member states stressed the importance of the EU single market and to improve the EU regulatory framework.
The Council also adopted conclusions on the progress of implementation of the EU services directive and on the Commission’s raw materials initiative.
There were also internal market and industry any other business items discussed on the internal market information system (IMI); the SOLVIT annual report; the fifth consumer scoreboard; public consultations on collective redress and alternative dispute resolution; the benefits of electronic invoicing for Europe; and on the recommendations of the high-level group on the competitiveness of the European chemical industry.