Last year, the European Commission launched a plan, the Europe 2020 Strategy, to go out of the crisis and prepare EU economy for the coming decade. Concretely, the Union set five ambitious objectives – on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy – to be reached by 2020. In order to meet the targets, the Commission proposed a Europe 2020 agenda consisting of 7 flagship initiatives. One of these initiatives is the Innovation Union, which aims to improve conditions and access to finance for research and innovation in Europe to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.
Under the Innovation Union initiative, the EC launched last week the pilot initiative “Social Innovation Europe” to provide expertise and a networked ‘virtual hub’ for social entrepreneurs and the public and third sectors. In his speech, Durao Barroso expressed his concern on ageing of the population and its associated health and caring costs. He stressed the need “to bring public and private stakeholders together to identify and deploy innovative solutions to address such an issue that is shared throughout the European Union. Together, we need for example to make the most and the best of the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for improving our ability to meet those social needs, such as e-Health in healthcare.”
Telefónica is aware of these needs and provides innovative solutions in the countries where it operates. For example, we contribute to the development of e-Health through technological and communications infrastructures adapted for health services, through Telemedicine (services which directly help both healthcare professionals and patients) and through Tele-assistance (services designed for people with disabilities and the elderly who require special assistance to increase their safety and quality of life). I think that Europe 2020 and the Social Innovation Europe Initiative are not only great news for society but also for the private sector, and in particular for the ICT sector. As our Director of Corporate eHealth, Álvaro Fernández de Araoz, said in Telecomtv, “eHealth is very adjacent to our core business, our mobile, fixed and IT developments that we do for hospitals, and we think that by adding layers of services on top of that we have a very good soil of opportunity.”
With the example of Telefónica, we see that social innovation creates new business opportunities, and companies that focus their CSR policy towards social innovation will benefit from it. If all companies are able to see this I am sure that, all together, will achieve the EU targets by 2020.