Opening ceremony of Research and Innovation Days 2021, Source: European Commission

Research and Innovation Days 2021 calls for greater citizen involvement

Research and Innovation Days 2021 calls for greater citizen involvement

The European flagship event was inaugurated by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel this morning

On the morning of 23 June, the European Research and Innovation Days 2021 officially kicked off. This two-day flagship event was inaugurated by Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, Youth and Sport, who urged all citizens to take action, join discussions, and share their views: “Citizens must continue to be at the centre of the policy process, from creation to implementation.”

The event’s opening ceremony discussed the importance of research and innovation, reminding the audience of the unprecedented times in which we live, and the crucial role science plays today. More specifically, Commissioner Gabriel highlighted that it is thanks to decades of investments in research and innovation that effective COVID vaccines have successfully been developed.

Now, this momentum must be seized so that investments in research and innovation can continue to grow and ensure that no region or nation is left behind.

Cities and citizens delivering on EU missions

The event’s first plenary session featured Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, Vice President of CoR Markku Markkula, Mayor of Cluj-Napoca Emil Boc, Secretary of State for Brussels Capital Region Barbara Trachte, and Member of the Cities Mission Board Maria Vassilakou. All five speakers stressed the importance of involving citizens and cities in the 5 EU mission areas:

  1. Cancer
  2. Adaptation to climate change
  3. Climate-neutral and smart cities
  4. Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
  5. Soil health and food

Commenting on this, Commissioner Gabriel invited citizens and cities to “be bold, be innovative, and think the unthinkable”. Furthermore, she emphasised that concrete ideas, actions, and joint efforts are required for the accomplishment of EU missions.

While citizens have previously been encouraged to take part in co-designing and co-creating policies, Commissioner Gabriel explains that now is the time to turn words into actions. That is, she explained that we must begin planning the implementation phase of missions with a focus on three key words: impact, synergies, and inclusiveness.

Similarly, Mayor Emil Boc disclosed that Cluj-Napoca has recently worked to bring its community together and witness the power of togetherness. Taking this further, he explained that we must strive to “build up an ecosystem, not an ego system”. In doing so, cities will be able to increase their competitiveness, improve their quality of life, and promote economic growth.

Member of the Cities Mission Board Maria Vassilakou has previously been involved in citizen consultations. Speaking about her experience and findings, she noted that citizens are enthusiastic and ready to participate in delivering on EU mission. However, they require financing that will enable them to do so. As such, Vassilakou shared that financing schemes such as issuing green bonds and launching buyer programmes can facilitate their participation.

Innovation Cohesion

It is important to reiterate that Commissioner Gabriel previously stressed that no region or nation must be left behind. Currently, there is a large research and innovation divide across Europe. Acknowledging and addressing this issue, the European Commission is now working to bridge the divide and achieve cohesion.

Commenting on this, Commissioner Gabriel shared: “Innovation performance has increased by 12.5% for the last 7 years.” With new tools and instruments at their disposal, the European Commission now hopes to increase this percentage even further. Expanding on this, Commissioner Gabriel explained that three things can be done to accelerate this:

  • Mobilising more investments and resources via the Horizon Europe Programme
  • Building strong synergies
  • Assisting, in a concrete way, to prioritise research and innovation investments

Ultimately, the aim is to unlock potential and tap into the talents which will undoubtedly be found in all European countries, cities, and citizens. In this way, Commissioner Gabriel revealed that she seeks to change the narrative and discuss “innovation cohesion” rather than “innovation divide”.     

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