In times of iPhones, solar pannels and 3D television everybodyagrees that technology and research are crucial for our well-being.But what would happen to breakthroughs like the iPhone withoutentrepreneurs like Steve Jobs that make them accessible toconsumers? This controversy arose around the new EU 2020 strategythat heavily emphasizes future research rather than strengtheningentrepreneurship.
The 10 year strategy by the European commission, sets out fivemain targets that the EU should reach by 2020. These should beassessed by key parameters relevant to each topic. Regardingresearch, the EU 2020 plan aims at increasing the expenditures onR&D from 1,8 % of GDP in 2006 to 3 % in 2020. This represents asignificant emphasis on research especially given the current debtcrisis pressuring EU governments to save wherever they can.
Former Belgian entrepreneur of the year Bart Van Coppenollecriticized this policy approach stating that in fact ‘innovation isentrepreneurship, not science and research’. Without theimplementation of existing technology by businesses research wouldserve no end in the first place. Instead, entrepreneurs urge the EUto create a proper environment for businesses to operateeffectively.
In a response to EU 2020, the European small businessorganization, UEAPME, underlined the importance of removingexisting internal market barriers and the administrative burden onbusinesses. One exemplary problem is the patent barrier forentrepreneurs. In the EU it is about 20 times more expensive to getone’s product patented than in the US. Furthermore, the EU has beencriticized for rejecting a great number of applications for smalland medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for EU funds during the crisis.Finally, bankruptcy laws should be reformed in order to facilitatethe possibility for SMEs to start up again after their business hasfailed.
This controversy underlines the importance of understandinginnovation not just as a discovery of something new but as aproduct or service that should serve society. The environment inwhich these innovative ideas can be implemented depends heavily onstructural reforms and long-term thinking. This is what governmentshave to keep in mind if they boost investment in R&D but do notprovide proper conditions for businesses that realizetechnology.
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