Research and innovation (R&I) has been placed high in the European Green Deal and most lately as an enabler for EU recovery efforts following the health crisis.
The E3G-Jacques Delors Institute (JDI) online workshop ‘EU Research & Innovation for a speedy Climate Neutral Recovery – Unlocking Transformational change’ held virtually on the 16th of June brought together institutional, industry and civil society stakeholders from the R&I communities to discuss the role of R&I in facilitating a sustainable and speedy recovery. This summary intends to highlight E3G and JDI’s key takeaways from the discussion and does not seek to be an exhaustive analysis of the topics discussed.
This workshop was held at a strategic time for the European Union as the EU had just released its historic – in size and scope – recovery initiative in the form of the €750Bn ‘Next Generation EU’ package. This comes after the recent release of the Green Deal-inspired EU Climate Law proposal and ahead of the launch of a Strategy on the Future of Research and Innovation and the Future of the European Research Area (now postponed).
R&I is central to the delivery of a speedy and climate neutral recovery
- The COVID-19 induced economic fallout led to a huge GDP fall in the EU, with only partial recovery in 2021 expected justifying support and funds to flow to sectors and regions that need this the most. One major difference with the 2008 crisis is that the European Green Deal has been placed at the centre of an EU economic recovery
- The adoption of the European Green Deal agenda represented the moment where ‘climate neutrality by 2050’ became the north star of EU policies. The EU’s unprecedented recovery initiative is strategic to deliver a speedy recovery that also brings Europe one step closer to climate neutrality.
- R&I plays an important and visible role in this crisis, as exemplified by the launching and directing funding for treatment for vaccines and healthcare. It was put centre-stage across ‘Next Generation EU’ and revamped EU budget instruments and funds reflecting R&I’s powerful role in achieving a beneficial and sustainable recovery across Europe
Policies and leadership are needed to ensure R&I drives a climate neutral recovery
- EU R&I can significantly contribute to build a climate neutral economy and support the creation of sustainable jobs and economic activities.
- The European Commission is deploying various tools to support EU R&I in the recovery (Horizon Europe, Just Transition Mechanism, Innovation Fund and more). Now that the focus shifted to developing policies that will deliver the transition, attention should move to making sure policies and tools are part of a larger effort and work together to deliver systemic change.
- The start of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU which aims to deliver the 2021-2027 budget and recovery plan, together with the upcoming release of the European Commission’s Strategy on the future of R&I and ERA, are expected to contribute to this effort.
During the workshop, speakers and participants identified several priorities:
Recovery fund (Next Generation EU and EU budget)
- Operationalise the ‘do no harm’ principle
- Define the scope of national Recovery and Resilience Fund and ensure national spending is in line with climate objectives and effectively support clean economy innovations
- Adopt a mission-driven EU R&I policy towards achieving climate neutrality
- Distinguish between research (serendipity and excellence) and innovation policy to be driven by impact
- Ensure access to financing to develop globally competitive companies
- Develop regulation for both the supply and demand side to support the transition
- Integrate more EU countries in R&I policies to narrow the innovation gap