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Puzzles of the State Aid Rules on RDI

DOI https://doi.org/10.21552/estal/2019/4/6

Caroline Buts, Phedon Nicolaides, Hans Pirlet


Despite the improvement of the State aid rules on Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) during the past decade, stakeholders have claimed that the current rules are at points ambiguous, which results in a negative impact on innovation. By means of an exploratory case study and participatory action research, this article aims to identify the ambiguities in the RDI rules. While the rules are detailed and overall well explained, we detect three themes where ambiguities arise, ie non-economic activities, price calculation of goods or services provided by research organisations, and ancillary activities of research organisations together with the 20% threshold. For each of these categories, we discuss what constitutes a ‘safe’ interpretation of the concepts involved. This entails an interpretation that is in line with the case law as well as with the spirit of State aid control. Where appropriate and possible, we provide examples as well as suggestions for their practical implementation. Next to providing guidance regarding the detected ambiguities, this article aspires a contribution to the forthcoming revision of the State aid rules for RDI.
Keywords: State aid policy; Research, Development and Innovation; GBER; RDI Framework.

Caroline Buts is professor at the Department of Applied Economics of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Phedon Nicolaides is professor at Maastricht University and College of Europe. Hans Pirlet is Valorisation and Innovation Department Manager at the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ).

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