How successful has the Innovation Union been in encouraging innovation and reducing the gap between countries that are strong in innovation and those that are still lagging behind? That was the focus of the I3U Final Conference on September 25, which discussed the project’s results and asked how future policy can build on the Innovation Union’s successes and address lingering gaps.

The conference took place at the European Commission’s Covent Garden building in Brussels and was attended by 40 experts on research and innovation. Focusing on how successful the Innovation Union’s initiatives have been in supporting research and innovation, it looked at what has worked well and what gaps still remain. Some of the topics discussed included the role of policy in encouraging innovation; the EU’s competitiveness vis-à-vis the US and China and the possibilities for international collaboration; the impact of different types of financing on job creation; and how creative industries become a driver for R&D in other sectors.

Despite there being many differences in innovation – both between Member States and between the public and private sector – the initiatives of the Innovation Union have resulted overall in increased cooperation and funding, which have had positive effects on growth and employment. That said, there remains a gap between countries with strongly developed innovation systems and those that lag behind. Some well-meaning policies – particularly those focusing on actors rather than interactions – can actually end up exacerbating these gaps, while building networks are more likely to reduce them. The important thing is not to apply one-size-fits-all solutions to complex and diverse issues, and to continue to seek ways to turn obstacles into opportunities.

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