A new TIA report by the CoR with the support of ESPON: Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (‘STEP’)

A Territorial Impact Assessment on Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (‘STEP’) was conducted recently by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) with the support of ESPON. The findings were published in a report that you can find at the end of this article.

In June 2023, the European Commission presented a Mid-term revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021 – 2027 to adequately respond to the current crises (like the Covid pandemic and war in Ukraine) and to the new political challenges and priorities faced by the EU. One important aspect of this revision is the proposal to set up a Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform to accelerate investments in key technologies (deep and digital technologies, clean technologies, biotechnologies) and reduce the EU's strategic dependencies and support the EU's competitiveness.

The essence of the STEP is to utilize available funding from existing EU instruments more efficiently and flexibly via a “one-stop-shop”. This approach aims to deliver targeted and timely support in strategic sectors and, when necessary, combine resources from different programs to finance projects that enhance EU sovereignty. The STEP would make use of established programs such as InvestEU, the Innovation Fund, Horizon Europe, EU4Health, the Digital program, the European Defence Fund, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, and Cohesion policy funds.

As a response to these developments, the European Committee of the Regions prepared Opinion “Review and proposal for the revision of the MFF 2021-2027” addressing also the STEP platform. In order to substantiate the Opinion with evidence and inform CoR’s future work on the matter, the CoR carried out ex-ante territorial impact assessment (TIA) with the support of the ESPON 2030 Programme. The findings of the TIA are published in a report.

In the context of the STEP platform, the Committee of the Regions had identified that there is a risk that the chosen objectives and funding reinforcements may tend to encourage investments in certain places/regions at the expense of others. Cohesion in the EU may also be harmed by encouraging the use of cohesion policy funds to support centrally-chosen projects; the proposed mechanisms to select "Sovereignty Seal" projects do not involve local and regional authorities in the selection process, which could lead to a centralisation of power and exacerbate competition between EU regions instead of reinforcing the cohesion of the EU as whole.

Despite these concerns, the ex-ante territorial impact assessment showed in broad terms a positive territorial impact, with  the majority of expected effects concentrated in the economic dimension, underlining the importance of the STEP proposal in these areas. The STEP holds a potential to push the technological frontier and significantly increase the innovation potential of European regions. Assuming effective technology transfer, these effects could in turn lead to increased potential for manufacturing, with spill-over effects across regions in terms of employment and regional income.

Nevertheless, there is still a risk of deepening the innovation gap by supporting already strong regions and concentrating EU funding on their projects. In addition, the territorial impact assessment generated a variety of recommendations on how to improve STEP, for instance, to have more differentiated, region-oriented perspective on what is needed to support high tech development in Europe: there could be built-in flexibility in STEP to review the list of supported technologies in line with regional development strategies.

Documents

TIA - Strategic Technologies for Europe.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 3.55MB