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European Voice has recently produced a briefing document about Europe’s innovation policy. Titled “Innovation in Europe“, it really is an excellent beginners guide to what this oh-so-important policy area is all about.

(It was actually released in print several weeks ago, but I have been waiting for it to land on their website before I reviewed it.)

First, a disclaimer. If you currently are, or have recently been, involved in European innovation policy, you probably won’t learn all that much. It is well written and interesting, but it really is aimed as an educational document for the beginner.

That is no bad thing. If Europe is to pull itself out of the economic mire that it currently finds itself in, economic growth is vital. Since much of Europe has lost it’s manufacturing base, that economic growth is going to need to come from somewhere.

Where?

New ideas!

Innovations!

The briefing does a good job of highlighting that this is the other side of the economic crisis coin. It is quite right that policy makers and governments focus on austerity and spending less. It is also important that other policy makers focus hard on finding a way out of this mess through sustained economic growth.

The Economist, for example, has made clear in recent weeks and months that it thinks (hopes!) that European leaders will ‘muddle through’ and somehow the Euro and Europe will survive the current crisis. They also make quite clear, however, that they hold very little hope of the same leaders enabling the policy changes that might make sustained economic growth a reality. Innovation policy really is important then.

Innovation can come in many shapes and sizes. It can be a new invention that obtains a patent, but it can also – and more commonly – be a new marketing or business model. (Honestly, I think lots of businesses would benefit hugely if they started using old and proven marketing and business models rather than the new ones like Facebook and Twitter, but that is for another day…)

This means that innovation is not reliant on university researchers wearing white coats, but can be created and invented by any of us.

But, there clearly is a need for more appropriate guidance and harmonisation across Europe in this area. Access to funding, a common patent, the role of venture capital for good and bad, how we assess and price risk and more, all need to be understood much more at EU level.

Despite all these potential pitfalls, Tim’s report does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for a newcomer to the subject to get a grasp of this important and yet frustrating policy area. If you need to know more about our economic future and what you can and should be doing to help, download it now.

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