Fostering Innovation Cohesion

Data shows that in the EU the capacity for research and innovation differs greatly between Member States. This innovation divide between top performing and underperforming countries poses a threat to the economic efficiency, cohesion and social stability of the EU.

Europe has for a long time focused on science and research resulting in a globally leading knowledge portfolio in the form of scientific publications, patents, and key enabling technologies. A major challenge for the completion of a European Innovation area is to overcome the innovation divide between member states and regions. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel stressed that Europe still has difficulties turning all the good ideas and knowledge into innovations, economic activities, and productivity gains. Big potentials, in particular in new member states remain untapped. At the same time there is a great opportunity through better-linking education and entrepreneurship. There are more and more universities that build innovation ecosystems around their campuses sometimes referred to as “University Valleys”.

Several programmes have been designed to increase the innovation performance of less innovative countries and regions. The Widening Participation and Spreading Excellence actions contribute to building research and innovation capacity specifically for countries lagging behind. With the support of the European Innovation Ecosystems Programme and the synergies with the Structural Funds Programmes, innovation actors will be able to upgrade their research and innovation systems, making them stronger and allowing the EU as a whole to advance together. A particular role is played by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) with links to the Smart Specialisation Strategies and extended Regional Innovation Schemes.

In addition to the MFF instruments, the NGEU funds will finance the transition towards a digital and green future where the development of new technologies and impact innovations are the main drivers.

Improved innovation cohesion is one of the 8 Focus Areas of the European Innovation Area (EIA) initiative that will help connect innovators and ecosystems across Europe and provide great opportunities for cooperation and improved cohesion.

The overall objective of this debate is to provide a platform for policy makers and stakeholders to have an in-depth discussion about shortcomings and actions needed to foster innovation cohesion. What opportunities are presented through the various EU funding instruments (MFF) and what can we expect from the “Next Generation EU” funds to overcome the innovation gap between member states? What can be learned from high performers? What is the role of governance, infrastructure, and innovation support organizations?

Maria da Graça Carvalho


Lambert van Nistelrooij

The Netherlands

Victor Negrescu


Mariya Gabriel

EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
European Commission

Natasha Kapil

Senior Private Sector Specialist in the Finance; Competitiveness; and Innovation Global Practice
Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank Group (WBG)

Bernd Schäfer

EIT RawMaterials

Willem Jonker

EIT Digital

Servaas Duterloo

Head of the EU Research Funding & International Programmes Unit of the Directorate of Strategic Development
Delft university of Technology

Fabrizio Porrino

Head of Secretariat
EU Unicorns Group

Markku Markkula

First Vice - President
European Committee of the Regions

Dimitri Corpakis

Friends of Smart Specialisation
Friends of Smart Specialisation

Krzysztof Gulda

Experienced Innovation Expert; Member of the H2020 Expert Group on support for the strategic coordinating process for partnerships at European Commission; Former Director in the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Science and Higher Education.
H2020 Expert Group on support for the strategic coordinating process for partnerships at European Commission

Anu Manickam

PhD; Researcher
Hanze UAS

Phoebe Koundouri

University Professor; Athens University of Economics and Business; Fellow World Academy of Art and Science ; President-Elect of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists; Co-chair SDSN Europe & SDSN Greece
Athens University

Roland Strauss

Managing Director