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Informal Competitiveness Council

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

I attended the informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council on 10 to 11 July, hosted by the Finnish presidency in Jyväskylä. The meeting focused on innovation policy, with discussion of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development over lunch on the first day.

On the morning of 10 July, a number of speakers gave presentations on their views of the challenges for European innovation policy. Presentations were given by:

Jorma Ollila, chairman of the board of Nokia;

Michael Worley, president of the GEEF, a group representing family-run businesses in Europe;

Juliana Garaizar, managing director of IFEX;

Gordon Murray, professor at the School of Business and Economics, University of Exeter; and

Esko Aho, former Finnish Prime Minister and president of the Finnish National Fund for Research and Development.

Commissioners McCreevy and Verheugen both welcomed the presidency's focus on innovation policy, and stressed the importance of better regulation, an effective intellectual property regime, public procurement, R&D, structural funds, cluster policy, dialogue with industry, and modern financing instruments in promoting innovation.

Over lunch, Commissioner Potocnic updated Ministers on the current state of play of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development. An additional Competitiveness Council has been called on 24 July, at which it is hoped that political agreement on a common position can be reached.

In the afternoon, Ministers split into breakout groups to discuss a number of questions about innovation policy posed by the Finnish presidency. I chaired one of the groups. We reported back on our discussions in a plenary session on Tuesday morning.

All Ministers supported the presidency's paper on a broad-based innovation strategy and its focus on demand-side policies. I emphasised the need for development of the intellectual property and state-aid regimes, outcome-focused regulation, innovation oriented public services and public procurement, and support for research and entrepreneurship. There was scope for EU action in some areas, but member states must take the lead in others, with the EU ensuring that it did not discourage national or private initiatives.

The Commission welcomed member states' comments and the presidency's work, and confirmed its intention to produce a communication on innovation policy in September, in advance of the Informal Summit in Lahti in October.