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Spreading the benefits of innovation across the Union
Commitment 24-25
Maximising Social and Territorial Cohesion
Innovation Union commitment text

"Commitment 24

Starting in 2010: Member States should considerably improve their use of existing Structural Funds for research & innovation projects, helping people to acquire the necessary skills, improving the performance of national systems and implementing smart specialisation strategies and trans-national projects. This should also apply to the pre-accession funding for EU candidate countries. The Commission stands ready to assist and will use its regional research and cluster initiatives to support this change and establish a "smart specialisation platform" by 2012, including further support for the emergence of world class clusters. Further details are in an accompanying Communication.


Commitment 25

Member States should initiate the preparation of post 2013 Structural Fund programmes with an increased focus on innovation and smart specialisation. Future regulations governing the operation of the European Regional Development Fund should further commit substantial financial resources to support innovation initiatives within the regions of the European Union."

Employment in Knowledge - Intensive Activities (KIA) as % of Total Employment, 2009
  • What is the problem?
  • What is our objective?
  • Implementation
  • Milestones
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The Structural Funds provide substantial investments for research and innovation. Member States have planned to use € 86 billion (25% of their total in the current financing period -2007-2013). From this €65 billion are from the European Regional Development Fund.

About two thirds of these resources are still to be spent and they should be used more effectively for innovation and achieving the Europe 2020 objectives. Additionally innovation performance and take-up of funds varies considerably across the EU-27 member countries and the financial and economic crisis puts increased difficulties to absorption and to keep the focus on innovation.

All regions need to increase their innovation performance. If not increasing social, economic and territorial disparities will undermine the potential of smart growth in the EU leading to increase fragmentation and barriers to the free flow of knowledge and investment on innovation.


EU Regional Policy can address structural bottlenecks to smart growth and contribute to attaining national (and regional) R&I targets according to trajectories laid down in the National Reform Programmes.

Regions have a central role to play as they are the primary institutional partner for SMEs, universities and other research and education institutes, which are key to the process of innovation and smart growth.

Regional policy needs to be directed at facilitating smart growth by supporting efficient national and regional innovation systems throughout the EU that should be built around the design of smart specialisation strategies.

More effective and synergetic use of public funds (ERDF, FP7, CIP, as well as national and regional funds) are needed to bring smart growth to regions; while the learning processes and cooperation among regions have to be increased.


The Communication entitled 'Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020' COM(2010)553, a joint initiative of Commissioners Hahn, Geoghegan-Quinn, Tajani and Vassiliou, calls on Member States and regions to attain smart growth objectives of Europe 2020 through regional policy and its funding.

The Communication provides policy guidance from all relevant community policies to advance investments and actions for:

  • Clusters for regional growth
  • Innovation-friendly business environments for SMEs
  • Stronger focus on financial engineering
  • Lifelong Learning in research and innovation
  • Research infrastructure/centres of competence
  • Creativity and cultural industries
  • Digital agenda
  • Public Procurement for market pull
  • European Innovation Partnerships

Actions for the Member States and regions:

Facilitate the formulation and implementation of smart specialisation strategies by national and regional governments through:

  • Reinforcing ERDF support for education, research and innovation and drawing on complementary support from the EU’s Research Framework Programme (FP7) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP);
  • Making use of the flexibility in the EU Regional Policy programmes to redirect funding to this end.
  • Making more extensive use of financial engineering instruments, i.e. loans, guarantees and venture capital, including from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
  • Increasing the use of the ERDF on inter-regional cooperation in research and innovation to enhance access to international research and innovation networks;
  • Making better use of public-procurement to increase the innovation content of products, processes and services with the public sector taking on the role of lead customer to stimulate research and innovation;
  • Using peer review by independent experts to enhance the effectiveness of R&I support;
  • Using ERDF to fund high quality FP7 and CIP projects that were not financed due to the high number of quality project applications and the shortage of funds;
  • Making better use of the possibilities of policy learning offered by platforms and networks funded through FP7, CIP and INTERREG IVC, including the ‘Regions of Economic Change’ initiative.

Further actions to be undertaken by the Commission:

Facilitate the formulation and implementation of smart specialisation strategies by national and regional governments through:

  • developing a ‘Smart Specialisation Platform’ before 2012, bringing together expertise from universities, research centres, regional authorities, businesses and Commission services so as to help identify needs, strengths and opportunities;
  • data, policy analysis and information on research and innovation performance and specialisation from an EU-wide perspective (in particular the European Cluster Observatory, the Regional Innovation Scoreboard and Monitor and the Sectoral Innovation Watch);
  • platforms for mutual learning on the design and implementation of such strategies (including the CIP-funded “European Cluster Cooperation Forum” and the European Cluster Alliance and the FP7-funded ‘Regions of Knowledge’ and Research Potential projects).

Assist Member States and regions to implement education, research and innovation projects through knowledge transfer and diffusion of good practice, with the help of the 'Regions for Economic Change' initiative (including 'RegioStars') and by providing technical support to innovation-based Fast Track regional networks as well as to inter-regional collaboration supported e.g. under INTERREG IVC, Regions of Knowledge and CIP-funded cluster activities.

Work closely with financial institutions to leverage funding and maximise the use of existing financial instruments, as appropriate, including by possibly establishing a RSFF window/facility dedicated to Convergence Regions, more intensive use of JEREMIE, to provide risk finance and guarantees to stimulate innovation in SMEs and technology-based start ups; as well as by examining ways of extending the scope of existing financial engineering instruments to new research and innovation activities.

Facilitate business opportunities for SMEs through consolidating and reinforcing the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the partners of which should, in turn, help organisations to make better use of ERDF financing for innovation. 

Improve the coherence and complementarity of EU policies for education, research and innovation, with the aim of: identifying and promoting the take-up of examples of good practice for policy-makers and innovation support providers; expanding and upgrading the 'Practical Guide on EU funding opportunities' in this area and establishing a single web-based portal on Commission support for research and innovation, linked to, or included in, the FP7 Participant Portal to facilitate access of innovating bodies to EU funding.

2011 Facilitate business opportunities for SMEs by linking EEN & ERDF
Type: Other
Indicative resources: CIP budget
2011 Legislative proposals for Cohesion Policy after 2013
Type: Legislative
Final deliverable: The proposals would make smart specialisation strategies a requirement for receipt of structural funds
2011 / 2013 S3 Platform activities: Outreach seminars, peer-review workshops and training sessions
Type: Communication activities
Indicative resources: € 3 million
Continuous process from now to the end of the current programming period (2013) Enhance the coherence and complementarity of EU policies for research and innovation
Type: Other
Indicative resources: ERDF allocations, including by using technical assistance resources

Case Studies - Regional&National Show group

Guide to R&I Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) Show group

Reports Show group

EC Documents Related to Innovation and Smart Specialisation Show group

Setting the Scene Show group

Lead Directorate-General/Unit, Head of Unit

Directorate General REGIO, Unit D2, M. Landabaso

Other Directorates-General/Units associated

 JRC-IPTS/J3, A. Rainoldi. See website of the Smart Specialization Platform

DG RTD/C5, D. Corpakis;


DG EAC, X. Troussard;

Key external partners

- national, regional and local policy designers and implementers
- national and regional innovation, research, business and development agencies
- several platforms and Networks

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