March 17, 2010
The Commissioners for Innovation and Industry have been saying the kindest of things about one another (through gritted teeth)
Was it just me or were Commissioner Maire Geogeghan-Quinn and Antonio Tajani overdoing the mutual appreciation at their joint press conference on Wednesday?
They each seemed at great pains to say how well they get on and how they are cooperating on the drafting of a “harmonious” new innovation plan.
I asked them why the plan had been delayed and why one of them (Tajani) is referring to it as an innovation plan ‘looking at business innovation in the broadest terms’; while the other (MGQ) calls it a ‘Research & Innovation plan’.
Well, it’s certainly not because of internal disagreements said Tajani – perhaps a tad defensively.
The fact is that the plan – once referred to as the European Innovation Act and controlled by DG Enterprise – has been postponed several times and is now a ‘joint effort’ with increasing input from DG Research.
There were other tell-tale signs of deeper disagreement: Tajani noted that innovation is about more than just R&D; while MGQ pointed out that R&D has moved to the heart of EU policy thanks to its prominence in the Europe 2020 strategy.
Tajani went on to say growth is all about getting finance to SMEs; Geoghegan-Quinn said growth comes from innovation and innovation comes from R&D.
Of course, they can both be partly right but it will be interesting to see whose fingerprints are most evident when the innovation plan eventually materialises in the autumn.
Poor old DG Education – which still hosts the European Institute for Innovation & Technology, and ran the European Year of Creativity & Innovation – must be wishing they were on hand to get invovled in this most polite of political scraps.
Ultimately it may come down to who is closer to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Tajani is a second-termer and Vice-President but MGQ has her charms too.
Finding an excuse to give the President flowers is always a nice trick…Gary Finnegan