Carlos Moedas – Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
Rector, Prime Minister, Minister Pavalkis, Minister Gustas, Director, Mayor, Most Reverend Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, to share in the joyous opening of the Santaka Valley KTU Science and Technology Centre and its new Business Incubator.
Europe, and the world, has changed a great deal since we all admired Lithuania’s courage to fight for freedom: the freedom to conduct your lives in an uninhibited and democratic way.
For many Lithuanians, and for those of us who were watching closely − with care and with interest − one moment, above all, symbolised that struggle. A moment that transcends both time and circumstance.
When in Spain, in 1992, at the Summer Olympics, your new national basketball team − determined to show the world what a small, free Baltic country can do – won against the then Soviet team. A team with infinitely more resources. The moral of the story could not have been more clear.
Simply that − like in the game of basketball − the freedom to use our talent, discipline, teamwork and perseverance is all we need to triumph.
We could invest in all the business and technology infrastructure in the world and it wouldn’t mean a thing without coming together for a common purpose. The purpose of seeing a prosperous Europe reach its full potential. Contributing to the advancement of the whole world.
In our efforts to revitalise European research, science and innovation, there is much more we can learn from Lithuania and from basketball. I am sure most of you were born with a basketball in your hand.
The pursuit of excellence, the willingness to take risks, to learn from failure, to act with integrity, to constantly hone your skillset, to follow your passion, to pursue your dreams. This is what we can learn.
I would like to share with you my own thoughts on how the Santaka Valley Centre can help us reach President Juncker’s objective of a new start for Europe.
The EU is a powerhouse for research and innovation and this Centre is a clear example of the talent, commitment and resourcefulness we share.
But we cannot become complacent. There is still persistent underinvestment in European research. Member states invest and develop at different rates. We have all felt the consequences of the financial crisis.
In answer to these challenges, Europe has to build on concrete investment and structural reform.
Around 62% of the EU’s productivity growth comes from innovation. Countries that invested more in research and innovation before, and during, the crisis have been the most resilient during the economic downturn.
It is crucial to make sure that Europe carries on investing. Investing like you have done here at this Centre.
I would like to congratulate all of you who made this Centre possible. We need to see beacons of innovation like this, flourish across Europe.
I am proud to be part of its opening and wish you all the greatest success in triggering private investment, in nurturing new ideas, in building a community of innovators, in building a community of change makers.
You might ask what the EU is doing to reach these investment goals. Are we cheering you on from the side-lines? Is this a dressing room pep talk? Or are we watching the game from the comfort of our sofa?
I am probably not the first person you’d think of as a basketball player, not many politicians would be, but I am an ardent team player and I want to help Lithuania. I want to help all EU member states reach new heights of excellence in research, science and innovation.
From a European perspective, we are increasing investment and its impact through Horizon 2020, our 80 billion euro framework programme for research and innovation. Despite an overall decrease in EU budget in the run up to 2020, we have still managed to increase EU funds allocated to research and innovation.
In fact this month we have mobilised, together with industry, 280 million euro for the development of new Ebola vaccines and medications in an effort to csave lives around the world.
But Europe still needs further impetus to stay innovative and competitive. We need the full commitment of EU member states. Cohesion policy funds are at your disposal for realising a national Smart Specialisation Strategy. I urge you make good use of them by creating a sound strategy for your country.
I will organise a Stakeholder’s Conference next year to discuss innovation within the renewed jobs and growth strategy, as well as new momentum for innovation-friendly policy development.
As I mentioned before, Europe has to build on both investment and structural reform.
Pumping money into research and innovation will not translate into success, into jobs and growth without something greater behind it. Just like the superior resources of the Soviet basketball team weren’t enough to overcome the solidarity of the Lithuanian team all those years ago.
We see clear evidence that open and attractive research systems are more innovative. I will be working to promote the international excellence of the EU’s research and science: improving research capacities and innovation strategies across all Member States.
Even with further investment and the implementation of structural reform, many disparities in European research and innovation performance remain.
Team Europe must enable each individual player to reach its potential, to reach new heights, to spread excellence.
Excellence is not the reserve of a selected few. The pursuit of excellence is not a means of keeping others on the bench. Excellence can be learned, cultivated, acquired and we must make sure that it is.
We must tap into our unexploited potential. We must enable the involvement of low performing member states, regions and institutions.
Relatively low levels of private investment and insufficient public expenditure are issues in many member states, including here in Lithuania.
Continue with your efforts. Be resolute in reaching new pinnacles of research, business, industry and entrepreneurship.
You can count on our support. We will be watching closely from the bleachers, willing you to succeed. Ever-ready to assist.
Horizon 2020 has a number of specific measures to spread excellence and increase participation including: ERA Chairs who will bring excellence to European universities and research institutions; Teaming low performers with advanced research institutions, introducing new centres of excellence; and improving research in a given field in one institution by Twinning it with others in Europe, other that are world-leading in the same sector. A powerful set of actions indeed.
Each one of these measures is designed to raise the level of research and innovation excellence across Europe. We want as many teams in the big leagues as possible, by increasing their capacities, not by lowering our standards. None of this will lead to the funding of lower quality proposals. It will elevate the next generation of institutions striving for excellence in Europe.
Lithuania is well advanced in its preparations for the next Cohesion programming period. The main programmes have already been submitted, but I cannot encourage you enough to define a robust Smart Specialisation Strategy.
Smart specialisation is a very important part of identifying a region’s competitive advantage − based on a process of ‘entrepreneurial discovery’ with businesses, universities, research institutions, public authorities and wider civil society.
Use it to set strategic priorities and maximise your potential for knowledge-based development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish all of you here an abundance of success in making the Santaka Valley into a model of European excellence, a home to disruptive innovation and a champion of Lithuanian perseverance and ingenuity.