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Does EU regulation hinder or stimulate innovation?

19 November 2014

Does EU regulation hinder or stimulate innovation?

One frequently hears the question posed in the title to this report, but there is little systematic analytical literature on the issue. Fragmented evidence or anecdotes dominate debates among EU regulatory decision-makers and in European business, insofar as there is a genuine debate at all. This CEPS Special Report focuses on the multi-faceted, ambiguous and complex relationship between (EU) regulation and innovation in the economy, and discusses the innovation-enhancing potential of certain regulatory approaches as well as factors that tend to reduce incentives to innovate. It adopts an 'ecosystem' approach to both regulation and innovation, and study the interactions between the two ecosystems. This general analysis and survey are complemented by seven case studies of EU regulation enabling and disabling innovation, two horizontal and five sectoral ones. The case studies are preceded by a broader contextual analysis of trends in EU regulation over the last three decades. These trends show the significant transformation of the nature as well as improvement of the quality of EU regulation, largely in the deepened internal market, which tend to have a favourable and lasting effect on the rate of innovation in the EU (other things being equal).

Among the findings include the following: Regulation can at times be a powerful stimulus to innovation. EU regulation matters at all stages of the innovation process. Different types of regulation can be identified in terms of innovation impact: general or horizontal, innovation-specific and sector-specific regulation. More prescriptive regulation tends to hamper innovative activity, whereas the more flexible EU regulation is, the better innovation can be stimulated. Lower compliance and red-tape burdens have a positive effect on innovation.

The authors recommend incorporating a specific test on innovation impacts in the ex-ante impact assessment of EU legislation as well as in ex-post evaluation. There is ample potential for fostering innovation by reviewing the EU regulatory acquis.

Jacques Pelkmans is Senior Fellow at CEPS in Brussels and Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. Andrea Renda is Senior Fellow at CEPS and Senior Lecturer at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome. The present CEPS Special Report is an abbreviated version of a larger study commissioned by DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission, which is published on its website.

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Does EU regulation hinder or stimulate innovation?
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