Press Release: How Europe can use R&I to become more resilient in strategic sectors, securing supply and value chains

On June 23, Knowledge4Innovation hosted its 5th virtual debate focused on the role of R&I in building a more resilient and competitive Europe. The COVID-19 revealed a necessity for Europe to become more resilient and bring back value chains, without harming international trade.

We had the pleasure to speak with Mary-Veronica Tovsak-Pleterski, Cabinet Commission President Von der Leyen; Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director of EIT RawMaterials, and Carlos Lee, Director General of the European Photonics Industry Consortium. As co-hosting MEPs we had Maria da Graça Carvalho, chair of the K4I Forum, and Susana Solís, Member of the K4I Forum.

Ms. Tovsak-Pleterski described the current political climate as a historic opportunity for further EU integration. She underlined that the need for massive EU investment is urgent, as governments all over Europe do not enjoy the same financial capabilities. Moreover, she explained how the interconnectivity of the industrial ecosystems has been challenged as a result of the crisis, creating two main priorities for the upcoming years:  the revitalization of the single market and the diversification of the industrial ecosystem in order to have strategic autonomy. She also remarked the important role innovative SMEs play in this regard.

Bern Schäfer elaborated on the challenge of Europe’s dependency on foreign partners, and explained how this is going to represent a problem in the future, with a major increase of demand for raw materials to achieve green deal objectives and mounting international competition. It is in the interest of Europe to repatriate certain elements of the raw materials supply and value chains.

Carlos Lee has presented a clear example of an innovative industry in which Europe is leader, the photonic industry. Europe has the world’s leading photonic association and photonics are a means to increase resilience, as it can be employed in sectors ranging from agriculture to health.

As a whole, the debate evolved around the need for the European Union to decrease its dependency on partner countries and the role of funding in this task. The speakers agreed on the importance of a coherent strategy to strengthen the value chain without disrupting international trade, and emphasized innovation as one of the main drivers of it.