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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Europe's economy in may

In today's post :
  1. EU downbeat on economy amid rising inflation
  2. €2 billion poured into EU pharma innovation
  3. Patents: The next battleground for climate change
  4. European Commission Considers SMS Roaming Price Cap
My comment: The economy might goes down, but people still try to get the most out of it. Which is good. As I said, I truly hope that crisis will be over soon, because I miss the mad investments and innovations.

EU downbeat on economy amid rising inflation

29 April 2008

Slower growth and record-high inflation are the gloomy economic forecasts for the EU's near future, according to Commission estimates presented on 28 April.

Growth in the EU is expected to cool down from 2.8% to 2% this year and to 1.8% in 2009, Commissioner for Economic Affairs Joaquin Almunia announced yesterday. This is half a percentage point lower than predicted in last autumn's forecasts, he added.

Among the reasons for this downturn, Almunia cited an overall "less favourable global environment," with a US recession looming, ongoing financial turmoil and rising commodity prices for oil and energy.

"The financial turmoil is proving deeper, wider and longer-lasting while the downturn in the US looks set to be more pronounced and protracted than assumed in the autumn forecast," Almunia said.

Despite the expected slowdown, prospects for the EU remain much more positive than for the bloc's main competitors, namely the US and Japan, according to the commissioner. Moreover, Almunia expressed his confidence that growth would pick up pace again from the third quarter of this year onwards.

However, Almunia added that the rising inflation, which - fed by rising food and energy prices - is set to to hit 3.6% this year, poses a key problem for future growth. On a more positive note, he said he expected inflation to fall to 2.4% in 2009.

For the eurozone, inflation is expected to hit 3.2% this year, which would be the highest since the euro's launch in 1999.

The Commission's predicted economic slowdown is also set to have a negative impact on some member states' deficit. Within the eurozone, Almunia identified France as the "most worrying" example, with the deficit forecasted to reach 2.9% this year and 3.0% in 2009 - the maximum allowed under the Maastricht criteria for financial stability.

Italy and Portugal also remain countries of concern with their deficits predicted to rise to 2.4% (in Italy) and 2.6% (in Portugal) respectively in 2009.

Outside the eurozone, Hungary, the UK and Romania are likely to perform the worst. In Hungary, the deficit is expected to shrink further but likely to remain clearly above the 3% reference (4% in 2008 and 3.6% in 2009), confirming previous assessments that the county would not be ready to join the eurozone beyond 2012 (see EurActiv Links Dossier on 'Enlargement and the Euro').

The Commission also said it had an eye on Romania where the deficit is expected to rise to 2.9% this year to reach 3.7% in 2009.

In the UK - which has not indicated that would adopt the euro anytime soon, the deficit is set to rise to 3.3% this year and for the year to come, which will lead to the opening of a deficit procedure by the Commission on 11 June, Almunia announced.

Positive news was delivered to Slovakia and Poland, where the Commission announced the closure of deficit procedures on 7 May (Slovakia) and 11 June (Poland). source

My comment:Unfortunately, the crisis is hitting hard. I can't but hope that everything will be back to normal sooner than expected.

€2 billion poured into EU pharma innovation

5 May 2008

A joint Commission-pharma industry research initiative to speed up the development of new drugs and cut down development costs began operating on 30 April 2008.

Announced in the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIsexternal ) are meant to establish long-term, public-private partnerships on specific research areas, combining private-sector investment with national and European public funding.

One of the six areas in which JTIs could be established is innovative medicines. The aim of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is not to produce new drugs, but to conduct research into tools to develop new drugs, overcome bottlenecks in the development of innovative medicines and boost investment in European biopharmaceutical R&D.

It currently takes up to 10-13 years to develop a drug and bring it to the market. Only one potential drug in 10,000 reaches the market and one drug costs up to €800 million to develop.

In addition, according to the Commission, the IMI "is all the more important as Europe was once known as the 'world's pharmacy'". Until 1998, it said, seven out of ten new medicines originated from Europe, whereas today the number is only three out of ten.

In line with the recommendations of the strategic research agendaPdf external for the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a first call for proposalsexternal for research projects in the areas of brain disorders, metabolic and inflammatory diseases was launched on 30 April 2008. Some €123 million will be granted to the most promising research projects in these areas later this year. In the future, IMI calls will also cover cancer and infectious diseases.

The IMI, a public-private partnership between the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), will fund research into these five fields of diseases with some €2 billion over the next five years. The aim is to address current long delays or bottlenecks in the pharmaceutical R&D process.

The identified bottlenecks for which better tools are required to speed up the discovery and development of new drugs are:

  • Safety evaluation: speeding up identification of new products with the best benefit–risk ratios and a greater likelihood of success;
  • Prediction of efficacy: the development of biomarkers that can be used as tools to understand the biology of a disease and the effects of a new pharmaceutical compound;
  • Knowledge management: supporting safety and efficacy of projects as well as information sharing, modelling and simulation tasks, and;
  • Gaps in education and training: supporting the medicine development process.

Projects involving a variety of stakeholders - academia, research centres, SMEs, patient groups, public authorities and competitors in the research-based pharmaceutical industry - will thus be funded on these issues up to 2013 to improve the drug development process for new medicines for cancer and brain disorders and inflammatory, metabolic and infectious diseases.

The initiative also foresees the establishment by 2013 of a European Medicines Research Academy (EMRA), "a pan-European platform for educating and training current and future professionals involved in biomedical R&D, including regulatory officers".

Professor Hans-Georg Eichler, senior medical officer at the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said the current drug development process is indeed inefficient and that the "ongoing paradigm is not sustainable". He said IMI is the EU equivalent of the United States' Critical Path Initiative, which incidentally has received zero funding so far.source

My comment: I find the creation of such institutions somewhat scary, but we all want EU to become a player again. Especially knowing the poor safety-standards in USA's FDA (see After The Pink Goat for frequent bashes of FDA's stupidity and arrogance). Let's hope our version will be at least more health-friendly.

Patents: The next battleground for climate change

7 May 2008
Alison Brimelow, President, European Patents Office (EPO)

Using patents to block competitors must not be allowed to creep into the eco-innovation sector as many believe it has in the area of communication and information technologies, writes Alison Brimelow, the president of the European Patents Office.

The following text was contributed by Alison Brimelow and is reproduced below in its entirety.

"Climate change, though much debated, remains a disputed subject. A steady stream of headlines warning of worsening impacts of climate change is putting all of our societies under pressure to speed up efforts to reduce mankind's contribution to this looming crisis, yet serious minds differ on the subject. But the existence of a possible threat in itself acts as a stimulus to innovators, and eco-innovation may prove the next battle ground for the reputation of patents.

Against this background the EPO, with the European Commission and the Slovenian EU Presidency, have made patents and eco-technology the focus of the European Patent Forum, which takes place in Ljubljana in early May. The EPF is the first major conference ever to tackle the question of how the patent system needs to be adapted to foster innovation in the climate sector.

At the heart of the debate are the questions of cost and access to new technologies. The former is a huge concern for the developing world countries whose ability to contribute to combating global warming is obviously constrained by the cost and availability of green technologies.

We can all agree that the patent system must not become an obstacle to the development of green technologies in Europe. In other words, the practice of using patents to handicap or block the efforts of competitors must not be allowed to creep into this sector as many believe it has in the area of communication and information technologies. Here, multiple patents owned by different patentees cover individual products and can serve as real obstacles to moving the technologies forward. Supporters of a "soft IP regime" are likely to advocate the introduction of the price mechanism to save clean technologies from the affliction of these so-called "patent thickets". In other words, patent owners can ask to be paid for the use of patented know-how but they cannot block it.

Initiatives such as Eco-Patent Commons managed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have already been launched to boost the spread of clean technologies. Companies participating in this project are making available patents on clean technologies free of charge. A slightly different approach is planned for the "Green Intellectual Property Project," which will pay a proportion of patent-derived income into a trust fund for supporting the development of patent-protected green technologies.

At the very least, the European Patent Forum does much to put the spotlight on a vital aspect of Europe’s bid to lead the world towards effective actions to mitigate the perils of climate change. It should also demonstrate the EPO's determination to lead thought and debate on this mission while underlining the indispensable contribution that invention has made and will continue to make.source

My comment: No comment, really. I think a patent should give rights but also responsibility-you obtain the right to be paid for your invention, but also, you share your invention with the world. All of it.

European Commission Considers SMS Roaming Price Cap

May 7, 2008

Caps on the price of sending an SMS from a mobile phone while abroad came a step closer Wednesday, when the European Commission launched a two-month public consultation into its rules on mobile phone roaming charges.

Mobile phone manufacturers, network operators and consumer groups have been invited to submit comments about the effectiveness of the regulation on roaming charges for voice calls that came into force last year.

As well as seeking general feedback on the impact of the European Union law, the Commission also asked stakeholders whether regulation is necessary for data roaming services and SMS in light of current retail prices and market developments.

The results of the consultation will influence the Commission's decision whether or not to extend the existing roaming law to include data and SMS roaming charges.

A report published by the European Regulators Group in January showed that on average across the E.U., users had to pay €5.24 per megabyte of data and €0.29 for an SMS sent while roaming in the third quarter of 2007. The Commission suspects that this is disproportionately high compared to data and SMS prices when sent from a person's home country.

The existing roaming law requires operators to offer customers a "Eurotariff" for voice calls when roaming in other E.U. member states, and introduced ceilings of €0.49 per minute for making calls and €0.24 per minute for receiving calls. These will decrease to €0.46 and €0.22 respectively on Aug. 30, and to €0.43 and €0.19 on Aug. 30, 2009.

The roaming regulation is limited to voice calls and expires on June 30, 2010 unless the European Parliament and the Council decide, on the basis of a proposal from the European Commission, to extend it beyond this date.source

My comment:As someone who uses the Eurotariff I can't express my gratitude for it. And I can't say operators lost from it-last year, I made a 35euros bill on roaming. Not much, but it is for me and I wouldn't do it, if I didn't know I speak cheaply with home. If it was still like 2 euros a minute, I'd simply have turned off my phone. Which would actually do me lots of good but that's another story. I hope the same is passed for sms and data. So that we can be really free!

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