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European Commission Press Releases

European Institute of Innovation and Technology: Commission proposes strategy for 2021-2027

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: renault.co.in
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Today, the European Commission has proposed an update of the legal base of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) as well as its new Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027.

The EIT is an independent EU body created in 2008 that is strengthening Europe’s ability to innovate. The proposals adopted today will align the EIT with the EU’s next research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027) delivering on the Commission’s commitment to further boost Europe’s innovation potential. With a proposed budget of €3 billion, which represents an increase of €600 million or 25% compared to the current Strategic Innovation Agenda (2014-2020), the EIT will fund activities of existing and new Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and support the innovation capacity of 750 higher education institutions.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the EIT, said: “Since 2008, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology has been nurturing talent and creativity through a unique focus on education and entrepreneurship. The strategy we are now putting in place for 2021-2027 will help ensure that all of Europe’s regions benefit from the Institute’s potential and will further boost the innovation capacity of our higher education sector. And I am particularly proud to announce today the launch of a new Knowledge and Innovation Community to support innovation in the cultural and creative industries, planned for 2022.

The EIT currently supports eight KICs which bring together companies, universities and research centres to form cross-border partnerships. The Strategic Innovation Agenda proposed for 2021-2027 is designed to achieve the following goals:

  1. Increasing the regional impact of Knowledge and Innovation Communities: In the future, the EIT will strengthen its networks, involving more higher education institutions, businesses and research organisations by developing regional outreach strategies. The selection of cooperation partners and the preparation of KIC activities will be more inclusive. KICs will also develop links to Smart Specialisation Strategies, an EU initiative to spur economic growth and job creation by enabling each region to identify and develop its own competitive advantages.
  1. Boosting the innovation capacity of higher education: The EIT will support 750 higher education institutions with funding, expertise and coaching, enabling them to develop economic activities within their area of interest. The Institute will design and launch activities particularly in countries with a lower innovation capacity. In doing so, the EIT will build on successful policy initiatives such as HEInnovate, a free self-assessment tool for all types of higher education institutions, or the Regional Innovation Impact Assessment Framework,which allows universities to assesshow they are fostering innovation in the regions they are based in.
  1. Launch of new KICs: The EIT will launch two new KICs, selected in fields most relevant to Horizon Europe policy priorities. The first new KIC is set to focus on the cultural and creative industries and is planned to start in 2022. This sector has a high growth potential, many local grassroots initiatives and strong citizen appeal and is complementary to the existing eight KICs. The priority field of a second new KIC will be decided at a later stage; it is due to be launched in 2025.

The revised EIT Regulation ensures greater legal clarity and alignment with the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The new legal base also introduces a lean and simplified funding model for the EIT designed to more effectively encourage additional private and public investment. Finally, it reinforces the EIT’s governing structure.

Next steps

Both therevised EIT Regulation and the Commission Decision on the Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027 will be presented to the European Parliament and the Council for discussion and adoption.

Background

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology was established in 2008 by Regulation (EC) No 294/2008 amended by Regulation (EC) No 1292/2013and is based in Budapest. Its purpose is to address major societal challenges by improving the innovation capacity and performance of the EU through the integration of the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation.

The EIT is a central part of the Commission proposal establishing Horizon Europe, the next EU research and innovation programme (2021-2027) with a proposed budget of €100 billion. The EIT is one of the three components of its “Innovative Europe” pillar. The Horizon Europe proposal sets out the funding for the EIT under the next long-term budget as well as its rationale, added value, areas of intervention and broad lines of activity. However, the Horizon Europe proposal itself does not provide the legal basis for continuing the EIT operations as from 2021. The legal base of the EIT remains the EIT Regulation that sets out its mission, its key tasks and the framework for its functioning.

With its proposed budget of €3 billion for 2021-2027 the Institute will boost innovation by supporting more than 10 000 graduates from its KICs’ Master and PhDs, around 600 new start-ups and more than 7000 existing ones.

The proposals presented today build on the external evaluation of the EIT carried out in 2017 which confirmed that the rationale behind the establishment of the EIT is valid.

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European Commission Press Releases

EU-U.S. trade talks: milestone reached in mutual recognition on pharmaceuticals

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: spiegel.de
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Today, the European Union and the United States delivered on a significant element of the Joint Statement agreed by Presidents Juncker and Trump in July 2018. The positive transatlantic trade agenda established in the Joint Statement includes a commitment from both sides to reduce barriers and increase trade in a range of sectors, including pharmaceuticals.

The recognition today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Slovakia, the last outstanding EU Member State, marks the full implementation of the EU-U.S. Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) for inspections of manufacturing sites for human medicines in their respective territories. This can make it faster and less costly for both sides to bring medicines to the market.

Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, in charge of Health and Food Safety said: “The completion of the Mutual Recognition Agreement is not only a step forward in the trade relations between the EU and the U.S., but it will also ensure high quality medicines for the benefit of patients. It means that, on both sides of the Atlantic, the authorities in charge of medicines can now rely on inspections results to replace their own inspections. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed the capability assessments of the 28 EU competent authorities, the result of five years of close transatlantic cooperation”.

This Mutual Recognition Agreement is underpinned by robust evidence that the EU and the U.S. have comparable procedures to carry out good manufacturing practice inspections for human medicines.

Together, Europe and the United States account for more than 80% of global sales of new medicines. As a result of the full implementation of this agreement, both the industry and public authorities on both sides will be able to free resources that could be used to inspect facilities in other large producing countries.

The pharmaceutical industry is a strategic sector in which EU-U.S. regulatory cooperation is much more advanced than in most other sectors. Since May 2014, teams from the European Commission, EU national competent authorities, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been auditing and assessing the respective supervisory systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now assessed positively all national competent authorities of the EU.

From now on, the batch testing waiver will also start to apply. This means that the qualified persons in the EU pharmaceutical company will be relieved of their task for carrying out the quality controls when carried out already in the United States.

The Mutual Recognition Agreement implementation work will continue with view to expanding the operational scope to veterinary medicines, human vaccines and plasma derived medicinal products.

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European Commission Press Releases

EU consumer rules: Airbnb cooperates with European Commission and EU consumer authorities improving the way it presents offers

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: taiwannews.com.tw
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The European Commission announced today that, as a result of negotiations with Airbnb, the platform has improved and fully clarified the way it presents accommodation offers to consumers, which is now in line with the standards set in EU consumer law. This follows the call from the European Commission and EU consumer authorities in July 2018.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “For these summer holidays, Europeans will simply get what they see when they book their holidays. Comparing and booking online hotel or accommodation has made it fast and easy for consumers. Now consumers can also trust that the price they see on the first page will be the price to pay in the end. I am very satisfied that Airbnb stood ready to cooperate with the European Commission and national consumer protection authorities to improve the way its platform works. I expect other platforms to follow suit.”

Airbnb addressed all the demands made by theEuropean Commission and national consumer protection authorities, led by the Norwegian Consumer Authority, to bring their practices and terms fully in line with EU consumer rules.

The main improvements and changes are as follows:

  • In accommodation searches with selected dates, users see the total price in the results page, including all the applicable mandatory charges and fees (such as service, cleaning charges and local taxes). There are now no surprise mandatory fees appearing on later pages;
  • Airbnb clearly distinguishes if an accommodation offer is put on the market by a private host or a professional;
  • Airbnb provides an easily accessible link to the Online Dispute Resolution platform on its website and all the necessary information related to dispute resolution.

Airbnb also revised its terms of service in which it:

  • makes clear that users can bring a case against Airbnb before the courts of their country of residence;
  • respects users’ basic legal rights to sue a host in case of personal harm or other damages;
  • commits not to unilaterally change the terms and conditions without clearly informing users in advance and without giving them the possibility to cancel the contract.
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European Commission Press Releases

Antitrust: Commission fines Sanrio €6.2 million for restricting cross-border sales of merchandising products featuring Hello Kitty characters

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: federal-lawyer.com
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

The European Commission has fined Sanrio €6.2 million for banning traders from selling licensed merchandise to other countries within the EEA. This restriction concerned products featuring Hello Kitty or other characters owned by Sanrio.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said:“Today’s decision confirms that traders who sell licensed products cannot be prevented from selling products in a different country. This leads to less choice and potentially higher prices for consumers and is against EU antitrust rules. Consumers, whether they are buying a Hello Kitty mug or a Chococat toy, can now take full advantage of one of the main benefits of the Single Market: the ability to shop around Europe for the best deals.”

Licensed merchandising products are extremely varied (e.g. mugs, bags, bedsheets, stationery, toys) but all carry one or more logos or images protected by intellectual property rights (IPRs), such as trademarks or copyright. Through a licensing agreement, one party (a licensor) allows another party (a licensee) to use one or more of its IPRs in a certain product. Licensors typically grant non-exclusive licenses to increase the number of merchandising products in the market and their territorial coverage.

Sanrio Company, Ltd. is a Japanese company that designs, licenses, produces and sells products featuring Hello Kitty, an anthropomorphic cat girl also known by her full name Kitty White, and other popular characters such as My Melody, Little Twin Stars, Keroppi or Chococat. Through its subsidiary Mister Men Limited, Sanrio also holds the intellectual property rights to the “Mr. Men” and “Little Miss” series of animated characters.

In June 2017, the Commission opened an antitrust investigation into certain licensing and distribution practices of Sanrio to assess whether it illegally restricted traders from selling licensed merchandise cross-border and online within the EU Single Market.

The Commission investigation has found that Sanrio’s non-exclusive licensing agreements breached EU competition rules:

  • Sanrio imposed a number of direct measures restricting out-of-territory sales by licensees, such as clauses explicitly prohibiting these sales, obligations to refer orders for out-of-territory sales to Sanrio and limitations to the languages used on the merchandising products.
  • Sanrio also implemented a series of measures as an indirect way to encourage compliance with the out-of-territory restrictions. These measures included carrying out audits and the non-renewal of contracts if licensees did not respect the out-of-territory restrictions.

The Commission has concluded that Sanrio’s illegal practices, which were in force for approximately 11 years (from 1 January 2008 until 21 December 2018), partitioned the Single Market and prevented licensees in Europe from selling products cross-border, to the ultimate detriment of European consumers.

 

Sanrio’s cooperation

Sanrio cooperated with the Commission beyond its legal obligation to do so, in particular by providing the Commission with information that allowed it to establish the extended duration of the infringement. The company also provided evidence with significant added value and expressly acknowledged the facts and the infringements of EU competition rules.

Therefore, the Commission granted Sanrio a 40% fine reduction in return for this cooperation. Further information on this type of cooperation can be found on the Competition website.

 

Fines

The fine was set on the basis of the Commission’s 2006 Guidelines on fines (see press release and MEMO). Regarding the level of the fine, the Commission took into account, in particular, the value of sales relating to the infringement, the gravity of the infringement and its duration, as well as the fact that Sanrio cooperated with the Commission during the investigation.

The fine imposed by the Commission on Sanrio amounts to €6 222 000.

Fines imposed on companies found in breach of EU antitrust rules are paid into the general EU budget. This money is not earmarked for particular expenses, but Member States’ contributions to the EU budget for the following year are reduced accordingly. The fines therefore help to finance the EU and reduce the burden for taxpayers.

 

 

Background to the investigation

In June 2017, the Commission opened three separate antitrust investigations to ascertain whether certain licensing and distribution practices of Nike, Sanrio and Universal Studios illegally restricted traders from selling licensed merchandise cross-border and online within the EU Single Market.

In March 2019, the Commission fined Nike €12.5 million for preventing traders from selling licensed merchandise to other countries within the EEA. The investigation against Universal Studios is on-going.

Sanrio’s licensing agreements for merchandising products infringed Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibits agreements between companies that prevent, restrict or distort competition within the EU’s Single Market.

More information on the investigation will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number AT.40432.

 

Action for damages

Any person or company affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages. The case law of the Court and Council Regulation 1/2003 both confirm that in cases before national courts, a Commission decision constitutes binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Even though the Commission has fined the companies concerned, damages may be awarded without being reduced on account of the Commission fine.

The Antitrust Damages Directive, which Member States had to transpose into their legal systems by 27 December 2016, makes it easier for victims of anti-competitive practices to obtain damages. More information on antitrust damages actions, including a practical guide on how to quantify antitrust harm, is available here.

 

Whistleblower tool

The Commission has set up a tool to make it easier for individuals to alert it about anti-competitive behaviour while maintaining their anonymity. The tool protects whistleblowers’ anonymity through a specifically-designed encrypted messaging system that allows two-way communications. The tool is accessible via this link.

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