Now is the time to rethink our relationship with nature, putting climate, environment and natural resources at the heart of future policies. Protecting and restoring nature is the greatest long-term investment we can make for present and future societies. To create the impact needed, we must develop and deploy innovative solutions resulting in a sustainable and circular economy and society.
Covid-19 is a great wake-up call. Not only does it give us an example of what a health (or climate) emergency can be like. It also shows us it is an opportunity to rethink our way of life and our economic model. Most importantly however, the crisis showed that we can mobilize citizens and resources in an unprecedented way to face a common challenge. The Corona crisis also made clear how obvious the link is between policy and science, research and innovation. No doubt, economic and political strength will depend more than ever from leadership in technology and innovation. The US and China are the benchmarks.
Having organized more than 500 debates around innovation related topics, aiming to make innovation the top priority for Europe and Chefsache, we have seen encouraging developments in recent years, like one pillar in Horizon Europe being entirely dedicated to innovation. While this is a step in the right direction it is not enough. For a long time, we have been thinking of constructs such as a single market for innovation or a European innovation ecosystem, something that we do jointly across Europe and that helps to increase Europe's innovation performance. Now we finally have it: 'A European Innovation Area'. While it is still a nice idea and only put forward very recently by the EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, it has already gained traction. During the 12th European Innovation Summit we identified many barriers and actionable ideas to strengthen the European Innovation Area. And we will continue this conversation for veers to come.
Europe is a knowledge superpower. It has a unique knowledge base developed by almost two million researchers and an annual investment of 200 billion euro that translates very successfully into high numbers of patents and scientific publications. Unfortunately, the great knowledge produced is not sufficiently turned into innovative solutions and fast-growing, world-leading companies.
If we want to overcome Europe's innovation deficit and improve the impact from our wealth of knowledge and ideas, we need to improve our support on the journey from knowledge to innovation and market creation. There are many best practice examples, such as turning campuses into innovation ecosystems, and connecting students and PHDs with entrepreneurship centres. However, if we want to tap into the full potential, we need to do more: we must overcome the innovation divide in Europe which is still very significant.
The other huge potential lies within an increased investment in women- led VC funds, startups and businesses. I am very proud that we could dedicate our EUTOP50 initiative which started a few years ago with a pitching competition in a plenary hall of a Parliament, the Hemicycle of the European Parliament. to demonstrate during a whole dav. the power of women in business.
Together with our Chair, Maria da Graça Carvalho, and our political members, the European Partnerships, EIT KICs, universities and other innovation accelerators, we are Keen to work with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to make the European Innovation Area a success story for the benefit of Europe, our citizens, enterprises and common values.