Europe has a strong potential in technological inventions for societal challenges and new global growth areas, which could be successfully brought to the market by implementing the comprehensive and integrated approach set out in Innovation Union
Major societal challenges require developing innovative solutions which in turn will provide major opportunities in future high-growth markets around the world. The percentage of European citizens that trust science and technology to improve their quality of life decreased over the last five years from 78 % to 66 %. There is, therefore, a genuine expectation for science to reorient its efforts to contribute to addressing the societal challenges of our time.
Amongst the global societal challenges currently addressed, patenting activity shows that the emphasis in the EU has been on climate change mitigation: the number of PCT patent applications filed in the EU relative to GDP has more than doubled between 2000 and 2007 in this area. Europe thus has a strong research and innovation capacity for the development of technologies for climate change mitigation and the environment. As a result of the rapidly increasing European patenting activity in this area, the EU had in 2007 a positive technological specialisation in environmental technologies, whereas it suffered from a negative specialisation in health technologies and other fast-growing technology fields.
In 2007, the EU accounted for 40 % of all patents related to climate change technologies in the world, with Germany, Denmark and Spain accounting for nearly half of world wind energy production in 2009. In contrast, the photovoltaic industry is dominated by Asian and US firms, with only two out of the ten largest companies in the world based in Europe.
In the field of health technologies, Europe is lagging behind the United States, which accounts for almost half of all health-related patents in the world, for both pharmaceutical products and medical technologies. EU patenting in health technologies has fallen slightly since 2000. However, individual Member States such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany are at the forefront of technology in healthrelated technologies.
Targeted research and demonstration Investments in key areas, combined with measures to support market development at EU and national level, can lead to new technologies and innovations capable of addressing major societal challenges. This new, integrated approach which will be supported notably through European Innovation partnerships constitutes a new source for future economic growth in Europe.