The CoR and European Commission join their forces to boost research and innovation at local and regional level
Action Plan signed with Commissioner Gabriel’s services (DG EAC, DG RTD and JRC) will also address brain drain and educational inequalities
To strengthen Europe’s knowledge base at local and regional level and to support the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) will step up its cooperation with European Commission’s services in the field of research and innovation, education and culture. A new Action Plan signed between the two institutions aims to provide regions and cities with the latest data and knowledge and to help them tackle innovation divide and brain drain, address educational inequalities and deliver EU’s political priorities, such as the Green Deal.
Speaking at the meeting of the CoR’s SEDEC Commission on 25 November, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Regions and cities play an essential role in achieving our green and digital transitions. The Joint Action Plan and the relaunched Knowledge Exchange Platform work plan that the Committee of the Regions and the Commission are adopting today are the building blocks of our European Knowledge strategy and focus on concrete solutions to improve citizens’ lives.”
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “”Bringing Europe closer to people, building sustainable, resilient, innovative regional and local communities, and striving for our values, by means of education and culture: these are our main priorities. The Action Plan between us and Commissioner Gabriel will support our work in achieving these goals.”
Anne Karjalainen (FI/PES), Chair of the CoR’s SEDEC Commission, said: “Firmly anchoring at local and regional level actions in the field of education, research & innovation and culture is key to Europe’s cohesion, sustainable recovery and smooth transition to a carbon-neutral economy. The Joint Action Plan fully reflects the political will to take forward joined actions on the ground, fostering strong synergies between policies and instruments, so that no person and no place is left behind.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has put to the forefront research efforts and innovative solutions in healthcare, as well as in other sectors of the society. To further boost the development of regional innovation ecosystems, deepening the CoR’s and European Commission’s successful Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) initiative is key part of the Action Plan. It will be upgraded to strategic level and fully aligned with the priorities of the European Research Area (ERA), as announced by the Commission in its recent communication on the new ERA.
The KEP 2.0 aims to assist cities and regions to become active drivers of change and innovation leaders, to valorise new knowledge created through Horizon Europe and to multiply the outreach of the ERA and bring its main concepts and messages closer to citizens. The CoR will participate in the mapping of knowledge ecosystems across the EU to form the ERA Hubs – structures bringing together regional stakeholders.
“The ERA hubs can be an opportunity to give full institutional recognition to regional ecosystems and innovation hubs and fully valorise a place-based approach to science and innovation. However, they must not merely be a tool for reducing the innovation gap; they can become an excellent framework to boost the emergence of collective research and innovation projects, combining several regional ecosystems and innovation hubs in a bottom-up approach”, stressed CoR rapporteur Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), Member of the Pays-de-la-Loire Regional Council. His draft opinion on the new ERA communication was discussed at the SEDEC meeting.
The Action Plan also foresees a prominent role for the CoR in support of the five Horizon Europe missions, for example, by establishing partnerships and networks between regions and cities. Furthermore, it highlights that regions and cities can act as catalysers to promote synergies between Horizon Europe and Cohesion Policy funding.
Likewise, the Science Meets Regions pilot project will be extended to support science-based policy-making at regional and local level, as well as cooperation and exchange of best practices among regions. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre will assist regions and cities by providing them with more subnational data.
In the field of education and culture, the two institutions commit to map educational inequalities in particular regarding access to e-learning. The plan foresees a strong involvement for cities and regions in the Education for Climate Coalition, which has the goal of promoting education for environmental sustainability, and in the rollout of the updated Digital Education Action Plan. It also envisages to promote together European values, identities and citizenship via education and culture at regional and local level.
SEDEC is the CoR’s Commission for Social Policy, Employment, Education, Research and Culture. The meeting on 25 November was fully remote due to the health situation in Europe. In addition to Christophe Clergeau’s opinion on the ERA, following three draft opinions were also presented for adoption:
Rapporteur Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council, said: “Local and regional authorities play a significant role in supporting education, workforce integration and skills related initiatives on local level. But it must be acknowledged that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not sustainable, due to the digital and economic gaps between regions. Therefore, we must cooperate closely with EU institutions, SMEs and all stakeholders, and we need funds to be fast-tracked to LRAs and local actors for successfully adapted local strategies and action plans.”
Rapporteur Romy Karier (LU/EPP), Member of Clervaux municipal council, said: “The proposal on reinforcing the Youth Guarantee is particularly significant in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, which is having a disproportionate effect on young people. Local and regional authorities can act as a bridge between different stakeholders such as educational institutions, youth organisations and public employment services to support the effective implementation of the Youth Guarantee, which should lead to stable and sustainable jobs.”
Rapporteur Giuseppe Varacalli (IT/Renew E.), Member of Gerace Municipal Council, said: “The cultural and creative sectors alone account for 4.2% of European GDP, and with the related activities this percentage rises well over 5%. Despite the use of new technologies, a vast majority of their activities is based on physical presence, so many of them have been unable to continue their activities during the Covid-19 crisis. The opinion asks Europe to act as a leverage for the Member States to use all available funding and measures to support culture, seeking not to leave anyone behind.”
All four opinions will be discussed and adopted at the CoR plenary session in February 2021.
To pave the way for a fair and inclusive recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, regions and cities are also strengthening their cooperation with European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL). Following a debate with DG EMPL Director-General Joost Korte, SEDEC members adopted a plan identifying specific areas of enhanced cooperation around the Porto Social Summit (May 2021), the Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Skills Agenda. The CoR can facilitate exchange of information and best practices, when it comes to funding from REACT-EU and the European Social Fund Plus provided in support of youth employment measures, and promote the dialogue between local and regional authorities in developing concepts to fight youth unemployment in close collaboration with social partners.
The SEDEC meeting took place on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Read the statement from SEDEC chair Anne Karjalainen and CoR rapporteur Concha Andreu here.