The European Green Deal: The role of RTOs as synergies builders to the recovery investments

The European Green Deal: The role of RTOs as synergies builders to the recovery investments


Europe is, probably, facing the main challenge after the World War II.

From one side, old and new players are investing very intensively in terms of science and technology to scale their economies to compete in a global ground field. And sadly, not all with the same rules.

By the other side, the human activity is generating high damages to the planet, defining an uncertain future to the next generations.

And third, the world is under a pandemic not seen in the last 100 years. A pandemic that will change forever the landscape about how life, and work is shaped, with a huge digital dimension that can generate new social differences.

Social and demographic needs that are demanding new solutions….

In this situation what I think is that we should go back to the European values. And not because I defend the idea that what we can live just thinking what we were. No, because the only way to improve is developing our strengths. We have to build on those strengths. And our strengths is what brought us here.

¿And which of our strengths? There are many but I will focus in two.

The invention and development of the the welfare in Europe is probably one of the main achievements on history. We can coin a claim, in Europe, “People matters”. Not only the money, the business, matters. The people matter and that idea is in the base of our policies. And when I say; “people matter”, that means that “the planet matters”, the “climate change matters”.

Second, Europe is the cradle of industry. It is where industrial activity has grown and flourished showing to the world how things have to be done. And with its own innovation model, in the last decades real deep tech and breakthrough innovation have been developed. It is true that we don’t have as many unicorns as desired, but do not forget that in Europe we have thousands of midcap hidden champions, that are creating millions of well-paid jobs. So, when you hear about those big companies, always ask yourself if you would like that your children end up working on those companies. And you will see that many times the answer is no. And these industries, with these jobs is the only way to maintain a global welfare that has no comparison in the world.

Europe has to build on these strengths, people, which means sustainability and high added value industry. It is well known that the problems and challenges are also opportunities. And Europe has the skills, the tradition, the political projects, and the society to do so. The European Green Deal is an excellent example of that. No country in the world has the competitive advantage to build a new economy based on this opportunity.

In the same way we do have developed new digital solutions. Probably, other regions have higher pure digital skills than Europe, but no one has the knowledge about the applications of those digital solutions and that it a huge advantage to take benefit of this driver.

So, Europe has the change to build and take advantage of a green, digital and fair world.

Obviously, we have needs and problems to capture these advantages, but we are on the way, we need focus and speed.

The starting point of this strategy is the Recovery Plan which is the real first Europe wide answer to this global challenge. The Commission and the Member States are committed with this idea of transforming Europe’s economy. The combination of the Public and Private approach is another strength in Europe. And it will be really a gamechanger for Europe.

This Plan is the grounded on the idea that future economy will be based on new industrial basis, green and digital, and the idea that for that we need to concentrate and boost all the European capacity for innovation. The recovery Plan, together with the Horizon Europe and its 95,5 billion, Digital Europe programme, Space programme, Defence programme, Structural and Investments Funds especially with INTERREG represent the energy for this change. And I think  that this is the best answer to this colossal challenge.

Now, this represents a new contract with the society. Those involved in the developments of these plans, must be committed with the impact, with the real changes. There is the obligation to give back to society what they are giving.

If we want to maintain our actual welfare, we need competitive companies. And to have competitive companies, we need innovative companies. The existing ones and the new startups.

Words like deployment and delivery become suddenly keywords to achieve this.

The Research and Technological Organizations (RTOs) are the cornerstone in the innovation systems. Now RTOs with our more than 150.000 researchers and businesspeople are focusing all our experience, skills and efforts to this objective. To serve Europe and its industry. And not only RTOS by themselves, we will need RTOs collaborating, giving Europe cohesion.

To develop this, RTOs are deeply involved in the development of National Recovery Plans, each one in its country, rooted nationally but looking to Europe, trying our best to define real transforming initiatives. RTOs are organizations well focused on both green and digital drivers. With a long tradition to build sophisticated and complex initiatives, bringing together very diverse partners from industry, academia and public bodies. Also, we are used to connect complete value chains, as well as regional, national governments, together with the big European programs. We are orchestrating synergies. And this is what the Recovery Plan needs.

As an example, the average industrial participation in H2020 projects increases to 32% when EARTO members are involved in the project from 26% when they are not part of the consortium. This clearly highlights RTOs’ crucial mission to make the link between the different actors in pan-EU cross-border and multidisciplinary collaboration.

What Europe is facing will need all the available power to develop, deploy and scale. And so, get results.  To do so we will need to use the existing RD&I Hubs and RTOs more than ever before. Strengthening Europe’s ability to utilize technology infrastructures is one key remedy to this. And in this purpose also, RTOs have taken the role of managing those complex infrastructures, providing access to a wide variety of public and private users.

Often, scaling-up of technology entails to make the new solutions work effectively in complex contexts’. We have experience about running pilot project which are crucial to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of technological solutions in situ, so that market access will be clearly granted, thus bridging the gap between the application-ready product and its scale implementation.

Europe really needs to adopt an ecosystem approach boosting knowledge co-creation and (large & small) industry’s access to technology, and RTOs can play a key role for that. It is the only way to get the technology soveragnity for a sustainable and inclusive growth.

I will end with a final idea. It is well accepted that Europe’s technological capabilities will be the decisive strategic factor to build Europe’s future. I would like to slightly change this sentence.

What really will be the decisive factor is our ability to exploit, in a competitive way, our technological capabilities. We have more knowledge than the capability to exploit it. That is Europe’s dare.

Sobre Iñaki San Sebastian Arratibel

Natural de Villabona (Gipuzkoa) es licenciado en Ingeniería Industrial por la Universidad de Navarra y cuenta con un Máster en Dirección de Empresas (MBA Executive) por la Universidad de Deusto y el PADE (programa de alta Dirección de Empresas) por el IESE. Tras diecisiete años trabajando en el antiguo Fatronik, en 2008 fue nombrado Director General, y cuando dos años más tarde, nace TECNALIA de la fusión de ocho centros, entre ellos Fatronik, Iñaki San Sebastián es nombrado Director General Adjunto y CEO de TECNALIA.

Su carrera profesional ha estado siempre ligada al ámbito de la investigación y al mundo empresarial, lo que le ha posibilitado conocer de cerca sus necesidades en materia de innovación. Además, su trayectoria le ha permitido estudiar en profundidad los sistemas de Ciencia y Tecnología vascos, estatales y europeos, llegando a participar en el diseño de alguno de ellos.