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Addressing the innovation gap: Lessons from the Stairway to Excellence (S2E) project

This technical report is a part of the Stairway to Excellence (S2E) project, which is implemented as one of the JRC's Smart Specialisation targeted support activities.
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Abstract

There is a considerable territorial disparity in terms of research and innovation (R&I) performance within Europe between EU15 and EU13 Member States (MSs). The two biggest European funds, European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and Horizon 2020 (H2020), aimed at supporting the development of European competitiveness, growth, and knowledge generation, as well as closing the innovation gap and promoting research excellence across Europe.

Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) play a key role in fostering an efficient and inclusive Research and Innovation (R&I) ecosystem by creating the right framework for focused investments based on selected high value added priorities and a shared vision of territorial development. Also, the European Commission's project Stairway to Excellence (S2E) is focussed on the provision of assistance to EU MSs and Regions with an emphasis on promoting R&I excellence and maximising the specific value added of S3 investments such as capacity building to support R&I activities and the exploitation of research results for raising the overall social/economic impact.

This report summarises the main outcomes of the activities undertaken by the S2E team during the initial phase of the project from June 2014 to January 2017. It focuses on the S2E Country Reports – produced by the national independent experts and provided analysis on the optimal use of key European R&I funds – and the Joint Statements of S2E National Events – an outcome of national events covering the issues and main conclusions - as well as the other analytical work of the project. By picking those common issues and actions frequently mentioned by the participants, the main bottlenecks and possible policy actions are summarised within three dimensions; namely, quality of R&I governance, capacity building, and innovation and commercialisation. This analysis and particularly the policy recommendations offer solutions for these issues that can also contribute to closing the innovation gap in Europe, a gap which is demonstrated by the annual European Innovation Scoreboard comparing the performance of the EU MSs.