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Needless to say, it is the innovation pipeline — from blue-sky research to entrepreneurial development to the markets — that transforms basic ideas into new economic building blocks safeguarding our prosperity and all that comes with it including the future of the European project.

Now, while in the United States a discussion has been launched to create a cabinet-level Department of Innovation (see this paper on “Building on Success: Reforming the U.S. Innovation System”), it seems that we in Europe have a really good chance to rethink our approach to old industrial policy and ‘walk the talk’ when redesigning our European Commission’s Chief Executives portfolios for the new term.

So why not create a Commissioner for Innovation, a horizontal portfolio pushing for change and innovation in everything we do from agriculture to structural funds and research and enterprise. Of course, Commission President Baroso could do the job, if he stays on, which will depend on the outcome of the European elections and the political realities, but why not design a new portfolio for a Commission Vice-President responsible for Change and Innovation? Not an easy task, since it will involve a lot of toe-stepping on other Commissioner’s portfolios, but badly needed, a bit like the present Communication Commissioner. I would vote for Esko Aho, if I only could, he’s got the clout and the experience for the job.

P.S. UPDATE (2 June 2009): I just read this blogpost by Richard Hudson of Science/Business advocating this as well. He says: “The next Commission should include a Vice President whose title is unambiguous: Innovation Commissioner. And the portfolio should be defined to include all the varied strands of innovation policy and funding.”

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