On 26 May the European Commission launched the European smart specialisation platform on energy, which will support regions and Member States in using Cohesion Policy funding more effectively for promoting sustainable energy. The platform will help regions to share their expertise on sustainable energy investments and especially on the deployment of innovative low-carbon technologies.

By supporting the optimal use of Cohesion Policy funds for sustainable energy projects, the platform will directly contribute to the European Energy Union Strategy. It will also aim to better align innovation activities in the field of energy at national, regional and local level with a view to setting up a joint strategic agenda on energy priorities. The platform, which has been set up by the JRC, will contribute to boosting economic growth in the regions by ensuring sustainable, competitive and secure energy supply.

Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and responsible for the JRC, said: "Building a true Energy Union will require a solid scientific basis, and I am pleased that the Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, plays a vital role in ensuring this. The Smart Specialisation Platform combines scientific expertise and innovative networking tools. It will help regions to access information and to exchange ideas and best practices - generating new expertise and turning them into building blocks of the Energy Union."

Commissioner Corina Creţu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy commented: "For 2014-2020, more than EUR 38 billion of Cohesion Policy funding will be invested in achieving the Energy Union Strategy and boosting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors. This represents more than a doubling of funding compared to the previous period. Cohesion Policy funding offers many opportunities, but it also poses important challenges for the regions in terms of implementing EU co-funded energy projects. That is why I welcome the new platform on energy which will pool joint know-how on sustainable energy and will help regions in making efficient use of the funding available to invest in innovative solutions."

To mark the launch of the platform, a high-level conference organised by the JRC, took place in Brussels in the presence of Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Jerzy Buzek, President of the Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula, and the Heads of Cabinet of Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu, and Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas. The event gathered over 100 policy-makers, public officials, energy experts and researchers to reflect on and discuss a strategic agenda and the next steps in the development of smart specialisation in the energy sector. Two parallel sessions were organised in Andalusia and Scotland.

The project is based on a joint cooperation between DG Regional and Urban Policy, DG Energy and the JRC. It draws from positive experience with the existing Smart Specialisation Platform (S3P) focused on research and innovation strategies. Currently 172 regions or countries accounting for over 80% of the EU regions participate in the activities of this platform. More than two-thirds of these have chosen energy as their area of smart specialisation.

Smart specialisation is an innovative approach developed by the European Commission to foster economic growth and prosperity at regional level. It encourages efficient and targeted use of public investment in research and innovation to create competitive advantages and enable regions to specialise in the field of their relative strengths. It is also a precondition for benefiting from European Structural and Investment Funds.

The new platform on energy will provide information, knowledge and expertise on investing in energy projects, in line with the needs of policy makers, authorities and stakeholders in charge of energy and research. It will also develop ways of matching Member States and regions with similar interests and planned investments in energy innovation.

The EU plans to invest about EUR 38 billion in the period 2014-2020 in the framework of its Cohesion Policy including EUR 2 billion for investments in smart grids. The objective is to facilitate the shift towards a low-carbon economy by supporting projects in energy efficiency, renewables as well as in sustainable urban mobility and research and innovation.

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