Jordan Shapiro. However, Ryanair CEO advises entrepreneurs to 'get the hell out of Brussels'. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso warned that innovation and research funding should be spared from austerity in a speech at the 2011 Innovation Convention, a gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators sponsored by the Commission. The convention also featured workshops, keynote speakers and displays on science and innovation.
Barroso said cuts to research and development could have disastrous consequences for the European economy, despite growing pressure for tough austerity measures throughout the EU.
“We need fiscal consolidation, but smart fiscal consolidation…cutting spending in innovation and education would not be smart,” Barroso said.
Innovation Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn said Europe needed “growth, growth and more growth,” to escape the crisis. Geoghegan-Quinn added that the Commission is on target to have 3% of EU funding dedicated to research and development by 2020.
Barroso reflected concerns that Europe is falling behind in education and in innovation. One area of concern is higher education, where only 26% of the EU workforce has a degree. The Commission estimates that 35% of European jobs in 2020 will require higher education degrees, creating a skilled labor shortage.
Barroso also pointed out that Europe lacks “young” innovators such as those found in the United States. Over half of US entrepreneurs are younger than 30, while in Europe only 20% are younger.
“We need to do more, better and faster,” Barroso said.
Specifically, he called for the completion of the single market and the establishment of a community patent system, which would streamline the patent process for all member states.
“Frankly, after 30 years of discussion it is time to get community patent approved,” Barroso said.
Some however doubt the Commission’s ability to spur growth and innovation. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, Europe’s largest passenger airline, lobbed heavy criticism towards their innovation policy.
O’Leary told a group of entrepreneurs that he was “nervous they were brought to Brussels where the spark of innovation is dulled” and advised them to “get the hell out of Brussels”.
O’Leary pointed to his ongoing battles with the Commission over his low-cost no frills airline as a reason for reduced economic growth, accusing them and national governments of subsidizing higher-cost carriers.
“Low prices beat high prices every time, unless you’re the European Commission,” O’Leary said. He also offered his views on the current Eurozone crisis, saying that the key to solving it lies with innovation not a summit of political leaders in Brussels.