On 7 April 2017 the European Commission published the final report on the study on "State aid support schemes for RDI in the EU's international competitors in the fields of Science, Research and Innovation".
The study, which was commissioned by the Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation and conducted by Bird & Bird, is the most comprehensive analysis of the EU state aid rules on research, development and innovation (RDI) support ever undertaken by the European Commission. It was triggered by concerns that these rules may be hampering the competitiveness of European industry.
Bird & Bird's Of Counsel Serge Durande, formerly a high-ranking official in the Commission's Directorate-General for Competition, acted as project leader. During his time in DG Competition, Serge headed the unit in charge of state aid for research, development and innovation (RDI) for many years.
Bird & Bird was supported by the Spanish consultancy F. Iniciativas (a specialist in the area of innovation funding), Professor Michele Cincera of the Solvay School of Economics and Arthur D. Little. In addition, a high-level expert group, which included representatives of major companies, universities and industry associations with a focus on RDI, provided input at various stages of the project.
The study, which ran over two years, involved in particular a comparison of public RDI support in the EU and in 9 non-EU countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and US), a detailed analysis of real-life cases regarding RDI investments of European companies outside the EU and of non-European companies in the EU as well as a comprehensive review of the EU state aid rules and their application in the period 2008 to 2015.
The study concludes that the existing EU state aid rules on RDI support are overly restrictive and do not take sufficient account of the particular nature of RDI activities. In particular the study finds that:
Based on these findings, the report makes a number of policy proposals, which include:
When Bird & Bird presented the report to the Council of Ministers in March 2017, the report's conclusions generated significant interest. It will be very interesting to see to what extent the Commission will follow these proposals.
Any opinions expressed above are those of Bird & Bird and do not represent the official position of the European Commission.