Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Youth and Innovation: the new route of europe interview with Marija Gabriel Eu Commissioner for innovation

Vittorio Emanuele Agostinelli

Consulta giovanile del Pontificio Consiglio della Cultura

EU projects on Culture and Education. What are the projects for young Europeans that the Commission is aiming for in the coming years?

We would like to raise awareness of the European Union’s efforts and opportunities for young people. Young people should get a better understanding of what the EU is doing for them, not only in the context of the green and digital transitions, but also in terms of the various opportunities it offers to live, work, learn and thrive.

We would like to encourage young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to acquire relevant knowledge, experience and skills to become active and engaged citizens. We believe that young people must be able to shape Europe’s future because they are Europe’s future.

The Commission currently has several initiatives targeting and involving young people. The most iconic EU programme is Erasmus+. For the current financial period, it has a budget of more than €28 billion. In addition to the well-known mobility, it funds several cooperation projects and activities focussed on social inclusion, the green and digital transitions, and promoting young people’s participation in democratic life. Since its launch almost 35 years ago, 10 million people have participated in the programme. It also includes DiscoverEU a programme offering free rail passes to 18 year-old Europeans every year.

In the same vein, the European Solidarity Corps, with a budget of over €1 billion for 2021-2027, will offer opportunities to some 275,000 young people to help address societal and humanitarian challenges through volunteering or by setting up their own solidarity projects.

Boosting youth employment also stands high on the European Commission’s agenda. In 2020, the Commission called on the Member States to commit to a reinforced Youth Guarantee to ensure that all young people under the age of 30 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education.

The Youth Employment Initiative is one of the main EU financial resources to support the implementation of Youth Guarantee schemes until 2023. The EU launched it in 2012 to provide support to young people living in regions where youth unemployment was higher than 25%. The Youth Employment Initiative exclusively supports young people who are not in education, employment or training, including the long-term unemployed or those not registered as job seekers. It ensures that in parts of Europe where the challenges are most acute, young people can receive targeted support.

The Commission will also launch this year a new initiative called ALMA (Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve) to be implemented. ALMA will help disadvantaged young people not in employment, education or training to get a work placement in another Member State. Participants in the initiative will benefit from individual training and support before and during their stay abroad as well as when they come back in their home country to foster their integration into society and find their place in the job market.

I want to conclude by saying that this European Year of Youth is about bringing a youth perspective into policy-making at all levels and across the whole political agenda. Therefore, initiatives and activities from across the Commission will contribute to the objectives of the Year.

Research, Innovation, Education, Culture and Youth. What are your main priorities in the field of research and innovation, education, culture, youth?

I am delighted that every aspect of my portfolio contributes to making the EU stronger, more resilient and competitive, but also closer to European citizens. It includes many wonderful flagship programmes like Erasmus+, supporting education, training, youth and sport in Europe, as well as Horizon Europe, the EU’s most ambitious funding programme for research and innovation.

The areas and programmes under my responsibility embody both the talent and heart of Europe. Taken together, they can have a real positive impact on the daily lives of citizens. Since the beginning of the mandate, with my team, we are working for a true European Education Area, a renewed European Research Area, an innovative and modern digital education that leaves no one behind, and a stimulating environment in which the cultural and creative sectors can thrive. So, our focus is on developing the synergies that exist between them.

One major asset of having this portfolio is that it brings the policies of the ‘knowledge triangle’ – education, research and innovation – under one portfolio for the first time, and links them to the services for society and benefits for European citizens. This helps us to foster synergies and to make the best investments in our future: through our young people, our innovators and our researchers. Getting this right is key for our competitiveness to lead in the transition to a climate-neutral economy and new digital age.

It is also important to note that the challenges we face today are so complex and multifaceted that we will only be successful in rethinking our future if we adopt a holistic view across disciplines.

Let me provide a concrete example related with the Green Deal ambitious objectives.

How can we meet our targets of carbon neutrality without technological innovation in key strategic economic sectors? How can we stay competitive at global level if we do not invest in fundamental research to ensure the knowledge leadership in areas that go from energy production and storage, to new materials to new circular manufacturing processes?

It is also about investing in people.

How can we accompany the necessary social innovation without joining forces and modernizing our education to prepare the skills and competences for the qualified green jobs? How can we foster radical changes in traditional sectors without linking better the potential of cultural and creative industries with the new spaces we will live in, a greener mobility?

I could ask similar questions on the digital transition, another key challenge for our future.

In setting the priorities, it is important that to each of the above questions we develop focused approaches and concrete roadmaps for action. And we doing this in a dynamic process involving all our stakeholders, at regional, national and European level.

With the Communications on the new European Research Area, the European Education Area and the European Strategy for Universities, we defined a rationalized scope, the governance settings, involving Member States and stakeholders. We are preparing for this spring the Communication on Innovation that will bring clarity to the scope of action of the EU, Member States, regions and stakeholders, public and private.

We have embedded the necessary bridges between these strategic frameworks to be able to address many of the expectation of our stakeholders, social and economic actors and, ultimately our citizens.

And since the EU has the largest programmes, in terms of budget and time duration, like Horizon Europe or Erasmus+, we can turn our objectives into joint actions and deliver with impact.

If we want to fully exploit the potential of net increase in the order of 900 000 green skilled jobs by 2030, we have to start acting now. My goal is to achieve a true European Education Area by 2025, enabling every young person to receive an education that meets their needs, that allows them to obtain skills for quality jobs and to flourish in society, regardless of their background or the level of education of their parents.

I also want to further promote lifelong learning at all ages. It is essential that we succeed in this task because we live today in an ever more complex world. Globalisation, climate change, digitalisation are a few of the multiple challenges that require everyone to develop and update a wide range of skills and competences continually throughout life.

This effort needs to be sustained and even further improved, since so far, the EU has not met its target to reduce underachievement in basic skills to less than 15%. The fact is that little progress has been made over the past decade. Nearly a quarter of our 15 year-olds are functionally illiterate in math, science, and reading comprehension.

Finally, improving basic digital skills is very important. We saw that 2020 was the pivoting year for digital education: when 100 million pupils and students in the EU and over 1.3 billion children around the world were affected by school closures, digital technologies emerged as the most effective means to carry on learning.

From the many initiatives we are advancing with concrete actions, let me give some examples. We need to accelerate in the path to more autonomy on sustainable sources. In that regard, we have a pilot action on Hydrogen within the European Research Area (ERA) that we would like to bring stare of the art technology while developing regional innovative value chain ecosystems.

Another example, quite different, regards the structural transformation of research careers and their assessment. Here, the objective outlined in our initiative on the European Research Area and in the Strategy for Universities is to modernize the career, make them more attractive to younger generations, and provide long-term perspectives. To this end, we should work together with universities and research centres to valorize the research careers with a modern mindset, including by strengthening the share of women in science and technological disciplines.

In the field of innovation, my main priority is to create a true pan-European Innovation Ecosystem to ensure that Europe becomes the global powerhouse for innovation and startups. I want to focus on the new wave of innovation - deep tech innovations. Innovations that target the deep challenges we need to confront as a society: from limitless energy to sustainable construction to efficient agriculture and food production. I want to move from the digital innovation that have made our lives more convenient into innovations with a physical component that will solve our main problems. The means to reach this goal is not more public funding. We should focus on crowding in private investors and on creating networks of networks to build a true pan-european innovation ecosystem where for instance the founder of a startup in the creative sector can easily find investors and customers anywhere in Europe.

As I said, these are just a few examples of the many priorities that we need to put in place that will benefit the research and innovation community and, through the impact on our citizens will raise their trust in science.

As regards the culture and creative sectors, we have been mobilising all possible resources for this sector that is so intertwined with European identity, cohesion, and sustainability. For the first time ever, our new framework programme for research and innovations „Horizon Europe“ has a special cluster focused on culture and creativity. We have launched a call for proposal for creation of a new Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) within the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), dedicated on cultural and creative industries.

We need also to work on mechanisms to enhance collaboration amongst networks, media hubs and creative media clusters. Our ambition is to lay the foundations for a european innovation ecosystem based on culture and creativity. That is why we envisage the creation of a collaborative platform for the cultural and creative sectors under Horizon Europe programme.

Finally, with my team, we place excellence at the centre of our knowledge, with our aspiration to ensure access for all regions and citizens. This is crucial for creating a strong pan-european innovation ecosystem and for making the EU a leader in science and innovation.

The achievement of the SDGs: What is your perspective on the current progress on pursuing the n. 4, Quality Education in Europe?

Experiences during the recent school site closures and restrictions have highlighted both weaknesses and strengths of education systems in a sharp way: on the one hand, there is a lack of collaboration, resources and readiness of stakeholders to fully integrate different learning environments, strategies and tools. But on the other hand, we saw a tremendous capacity to innovate and adopt new approaches. To help Member States address these challenges, the EU has made available significant financial resources, including through the Recovery and Resilience Facility of which some 12%, around EUR 50 billion will be spent on education in the next couple of years. These initiatives will help Member States address important setbacks in the areas of basic and digital skills, school completion and employability. We are continuously giving guidance to Member States on how to make the best use of these unprecedented resources – and as quickly as possible. We focus on making educational achievement less dependent from socioeconomic status and other personal circumstances. It is about putting in place concrete policy levers to remove obstacles for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds or from traditionally marginalised and discriminated groups. I firmly believe this could be a turning point for inclusion and equity in education, perhaps adding a hint of silver lining to a strenuous two years.

At the same time, one of my key priorities is to support teachers and put them at the heart of all our efforts to achieve the European Education Area by 2025. Our goals to improve learning experiences in Europe are linked to our teachers’ abilities, enthusiasm, and satisfaction. The teaching profession can change the world by providing our children with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to succeed in life. Through our new flagship action - the Erasmus+ Teacher Academies – we will strengthen the European dimension and the internationalization of teacher education. We are creating communities of practice that will provide teachers with professional development opportunities, including mobility, learning platforms and sharing of good practices. Teacher Academies will help the profession feel more supported and appreciated, making careers more fulfilling. I am glad that on 21 February, I launched the first 11 Erasmus+ Teacher Academies, benefiting from €15 million from the Erasmus+ budget over three years. The next call for proposals will be launched very soon.

EU young people and COVID-19 pandemic: During the last year, millions of young people in EU lost their jobs, closed their activities, received an online education with difficulties and cut the wings of their dreams in the name of the global emergency COVID-19. What can you tell them for the future?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented – and uneven – impact on education, employment, social inclusion and mental health of young people. The pandemic and related measures have resulted in interruptions in their education and transition to employment, and many young people have experienced feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. Likewise, they have been immensely affected by disruptions of family and social ties, and the economic crisis provoked by lockdowns has hit young Europeans even more.

It is now a key moment to give all the support to youth and the EU is ready to do so. We have chosen 2022 to be the European Year of Youth to boost support for the young generation at the very moment it needs it most. Now is the moment where we have to join forces to support the young generation. It is important that the Year coincides with the full roll-out of the European Commission’s NextGenerationEU initiative. Its uplifting effect and unprecedented push for a transforming recovery are testimony of our dedication to ensure a bright future for our young generation.

I want to invite young people to raise their voices, share their views and get involved in the European Year of Youth. It is about them. We want to hear their ideas and proposals. Europe needs their vision, their motivation and energy as they have the chance to shape the Europe in which they want to live. We also welcome their ideas on the future of Europe via the multilingual digital platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Take advantage of the opportunities offered by the EU, look up the initiatives on the European Youth Portal, choose those that fit your profile and take part in mobility projects, volunteering, apply for the travel passes or participate in the Youth Dialogue. Share your knowledge, your experience and reach out to those who are less active, especially to those who have fewer opportunities, but who deserve to benefit from the EU offer, just like everyone else.

The future implementation of established and new EU programmes. What is your perspective on the future implementation of established programmes as Erasmus+, Horizon Europe and the new Creative Europe Cultural strand?

Ambitions are more likely to be realised if there is a strong budget underpinning them, supporting the main priorities from the outset. With great patience, strong arguments, we managed to defend the strongest budget for science, innovation, education and culture in the history of the EU. We achieved 100% increase of Erasmus+, 30% increase of Horizon Europe programme and 60% increase of Creative Europe programme.

This year, Erasmus+ celebrates 35 years of successfully providing opportunities for people to study, learn and get training experience abroad. All participants say that it is a life-changing experience, one that marked their personal and professional paths and left lasting memories of what it means to live in the European Union. We want to give the opportunity to a greater number of people to take part and benefit from what Erasmus+ has to offer. We have a few novelties that are being implemented as of this year.

The Erasmus+ programme will support priorities and activities set out in my initiatives of the European Education Area and Digital Education Action Plan and will develop the European dimension in sport

First, the new Erasmus+ is above all inclusive. It will focus on people with fewer opportunities, including people with disabilities, and those living in rural and remote areas. It will provide short-term and long-term mobility for pupils, both individually and in whole classes, as well as mobility of adult learners and adult training opportunities

Second, New large-scale projects will support high-quality and inclusive digital education and the adaptation of education and training systems to the green transition. These ambitious projects will benefit from a larger budget and will run for a minimum of three years.

Thanks to funds from EU’s external instruments, non-EU countries will have the possibility to participate in targeted projects and exchanges, especially in the fields of vocational education and training, as well as sport.

Third, another novelty is the blended modular programmes offering the possibility to complement short-term physical mobility abroad with online learning. Collaborative partnerships will be employed, including so-called small partnerships awarded to smaller grassroots organisations, with shorter durations and simplified administrative requirements.

Fourth, the programme places a strong focus on the green and digital transitions, as well as on promoting young people’s participation in democratic life.

It will develop accessible and high-quality digital learning, foster the capacity of teachers, trainers and youth workers to use digital tools and content, test and promote distance, as well as

blended learning. The implementation of the programme will be significantly digitalised and simplified for participants, in particular through the European Student Card initiative and a revamped IT architecture for beneficiaries and implementing bodies.

In line with the European Green Deal, the programme will lead by example, by encouraging participants to use lower carbon transport as an alternative to flying. Erasmus funding will also be channelled into building up knowledge and understanding of sustainability and climate action, so that Europeans acquire the world-leading competences needed to create sustainable societies, lifestyles and economies.

Fifth, Erasmus+ will increase the support for projects that foster cooperation and exchange of practices, allowing key actors to make better use of new technologies, develop innovative teaching, training and learning methods, promote non-formal learning and develop common tools and activities.

Let me give several examples:

We have already launched 11 Erasmus+ Teacher Academies to pool expertise and provide training to teachers and trainers, including on online and distance learning, and ensure the inclusion of pupils and learners with fewer opportunities. We aim at creating 25 Teachers Academies by 2025.

The full roll out of the European Universities initiative will enable in-depth and systemic cooperation between higher education institutions, increasing the quality and the competitiveness of European higher education.

Overall, the key word for this year is ambition. We have great objectives and we gave ourselves the means to achieve them with increased budgets and enlarged projects.

Let me now briefly refer to Horizon Europe, the world’s largest research and innovation programme. Let us be clear. It is a privilege for Europe to have a powerful mechanism, through Horizon Europe, to put our ideas in motion.

From fundamental science, through the European Research Council to support deep-tech startups, through European Innovation Council, we cover the full spectrum of activities to launch game-changer actions and support the green and digital transition of our industry and our society.

In terms of competitiveness, we have partnerships between academia and industry in virtual all key sectors, from health to energy, from transport to digital technologies.

We dedicate more than one third of the programme budget to research and innovation supporting the Green Deal.

We are launching the Horizon Europe Missions with a budget of 507 Million Euro, for the next 3 years. Four of these Missions are pursuing sustainable objectives targeting carbon-neutral cities, restoring our oceans, rivers, lakes and soils and increasing European resilience to Climate change impacts.

A similar investment is done on the digital transition where I can give the example of the new Chips Partnership that will support the European efforts to lead in the strategic area of microelectronics, from new materials to next-generation processors.

Presently, we have entered in the co-creation phase, in consultation with stakeholders and Member States to prepare the work programme for 2023-24, mobilizing other 15 Billion Euro.

Talent, innovation, excellence — all this without culture would lose its driving force and spirit. The Creative Europe programme 2021-2027 offers many opportunities for cultural and creative operators to develop innovative trans-border initiatives, with a view to exchanging, co-producing and distributing European works and making them accessible to wide and diverse audiences.

With the biggest budget ever, it includes in its culture strand a stronger emphasis on European transnational creation, circulation of artists and innovation in the culture and creative sectors, easier access to cooperation funding through higher co-financing rates, a tailor-made scheme for cross-border mobility of artists and professionals. Further to this, it includes actions targeting sector-specific needs in music, books, architecture and cultural heritage, design, fashion and cultural tourism.

Finally, while being the most visible instrument and the only one specifically put in place for culture, Creative Europe is not the only EU instrument that can support the cultural and creative sectors. The sectors shall also be able to use the Digital Europe Programme to face the digital transition challenge or the new Horizon Europe programme with its dedicated thematic cluster on Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society.

To conclude, the key word for this year is ambition. We have great objectives and we gave ourselves the means to achieve them with increased budgets and enlarged projects.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
© 2019 Rivista Microfinanza. All Rights Reserved.