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Gabriel: new instruments needed to support university innovation

Image: Claudio Centonze, European Union 2021

Research and innovation commissioner suggests that current options under Horizon Europe are limited

The EU’s research and innovation commissioner Mariya Gabriel has said that the EU needs new instruments to help universities increase their innovation capacity.

Gabriel (pictured) was speaking at an event held by the European University Association on 10 November to launch a survey that discovered a gap between the high priority many universities place in innovation and their capacity to actually engage in it.

The survey found that universities did not rate the EU’s two dedicated funders for supporting innovation—the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and the European Innovation Council (EIC)—as important as other European and national funding sources for supporting their innovation activities.

‘Need to intervene’

“For me, for the moment, there [are] not so [many] concrete instruments that we have [to support innovation],” Gabriel said, adding that “we have to have some new” instruments.

She said it was “our moment” to “see where there is a need to intervene, to build something that is scalable, something that is more coherent, something that is more impactful”.

The Commissioner added that within the European Innovation Ecosystems component of the EU’s Horizon Europe research and innovation funding programme—which sits alongside the EIT and EIC within the programme—she would like “to see in a more concrete way how universities can be further supported.”

Gabriel said universities could “count on me to give more visibility to what they’re doing” when it comes to innovation, adding that they should be key players in local and regional innovation systems and that “this reinforced role of universities as engines for innovation will be reflected in the future innovation policy and also in the upcoming European strategy for universities”. The universities strategy is expected to be released by the Commission in early 2022.

Gabriel has also been taking suggestions from stakeholders, under her own initiative, on the form that a European Innovation Area policy package could take. This would sit alongside the research and education area policy packages, although some have argued that a single policy package should instead unite the three areas.