Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Science in Europe in October, 08-going crazy!

In today's edition:
  1. Businesses told to turn to 'old knowledge' for innovation
  2. Universities aim to broaden participation in higher education
  3. Financial crisis expected to slow R&D investment
Heh, again the comments are longer than the articles, I hope that I would make this a rule. I mean, you can all click on the links and read the articles on Euraktiv. The point of the blgo is to read my precioussssssssss opinion. Right :)

Businesses told to turn to 'old knowledge' for innovation

29 October 2008

As the credit crisis continues to lower public and private investment in R&D, experts argue that innovation can also be sparked by novel combinations of 'old' knowledge in non-technology intensive companies or sectors that do not undertake much R&D.

The focus should thus not only be on strong scientific orientation and technology intensity, but the definition of 'innovation' should be extended to include "novel combinations of existing knowledge," argued Peltonen. This would be particularly suitable for SMEs, he added, which are "good at combining knowledge to create" new products and services.

For example, novel combinations of exisiting knowledge could lead to innovation in organisational change, he said.

This observation is backed by the OECD's 2008 Outlookexternal , which reviews trends and developments in science, technology and innovation. The report, published on 27 October, states that while most policies remain focused on science and technological innovation, "innovation in firms goes considerably beyond technological innovation and also includes process, organisational and marketing innovation".

Therefore, policies to foster innovation need to be broadened to cover the full range of innovation activities, including sectors that do not undertake much R&D, states OECD. source

My comment: Is he crazy? Yeah, let's extend R&D to good management. In the end, who needs physics when you can research cool new way to order your mail! Ok, if I must be honest, there is a point in that, but it goes in another direction. Business should be stimulated to develop new products from the laboratory to the market. So as part of this, it makes sense to include also software products, or high-end technology products. But to say that R&D should be expanded to include sectores that don't undertake much R&D is ridiculous. Like what sectors! You either invest in research and technology or you don't. What's in the middle! Or more precisely, who's in the middle! Because if this comes from a Finnish director, then in the middle are probably Nokia and Sony Ericson. And that is ugly! Because you cannot give money for research to someone who doesn't research!

Universities aim to broaden participation in higher education

29 October 2008

In an attempt to respond to growing demands to raise people's employability, European universities have committed themselves to broadening access to higher education accross the EU, but highlighted the need to find the best and farest way to fund lifelong learning.

For the EU, lifelong learning (LLL) is "the guiding principle for the development of education and training policy". While promoting social inclusion and personal fulfilment, lifelong learning also develops people's employability and adaptability. It is thus considered a core element of the renewed Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs.

"Widening access to higher education is not about introducing less qualified students, but rather about supporting all learners with the potential to benefit both themselves and society through participating in higher education," states the European University Association's Charter on Lifelong LearningPdf external (LLL), presented on 25 October.

The universities are aiming to reach out to a wide range of learners with different motivations and interests to offer tailor-made programmes to a fast-changing labour market, it adds. But the charter also calls on both universities and the governments to make a number of commitments to boost continuous learning throughout life.

Universities are invited to broaden access to education and learning to a diversified student population, improve recognition of prior learning and adapt study programmes to attract returning adult learners. They are also asked to develop partnerships at local, regional, national and international level to provide attractive and relevant programmes and promote flexible and creative learning.source

My comment: This one was fun, no doubt. So, let's see, people are notoriously runing away from universities but the EU encourage Universities to broaden their admission. To include whom?! I don't think the EC has an idea how serious the problem with students and their motivation is. For example, in my University, the trend for students coming to study physics is exponentially going down. I don't think they could lower the requirements even more. There is another question- what kind of areas do they want universities to cover. A university is supposed to give you deep knowledge on a subject, but also, to give you a degree-a guarantee that you posses certain knowledge. If the university starts offering a degree on "product development" (just example, sorry if it sucks), it's supposed to guarantee certain experts knowledge. That would require certain experts to be invited to lecture, to make a curriculum, to decide what is the essential knowledge. I guess I want to say this is not a piece of cake. It's not easy to create it from scratch. No doubt, that could lead to good results eventually, but even when created, it should attract people. And this is the harderst part-just like traffic generation, students are not so easy to be caught. To be a student is simply no longer that prestigious!

Financial crisis expected to slow R&D investment

28 October 2008

The current global credit crunch could dent invesment in biotech research and seriously delay the discovery of new medicines, a UK scientist warned yesterday at a conference on the future of life sciences.

As the global financial crisis drags on, "investing in biotech companies is now seen as risk taking, and will not be for the timid," said Professor David Wield of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on 27 October.

Even coping with the everyday expense of basic biotech research carried out by biotechnology companies is "increasingly becoming more of a struggle," he noted. SMEs constitute a majority of the 1,600 or so European biotech companies.

Drug development by pharmaceutical companies has also been "hit by the credit crunch," while big companies are laying off staff and closing down research units instead of eyeing biotech start-ups for new ideas, he added. According to EuropaBio, the European bioindustries association, biotech medicines account for some 20% of all marketed medicines and represent 50% of all medicines in the pipeline.

Recent EU statisticsPdf external show that the R&D investment rate of European business has grown for the third year running and last year even surpassed that of the United States. However, the European Commission notes that this positive development could be undermined by the current financial crisis. source

My comment:My heart bleeds for Bayer. But I'm sure that Germany will make sure it won't suffer too much from the crisis-after all such a decent company should be protected and loved. Ok, hatred aside, I agree that precisely now is the time to decide what our future will be-will it be high-technology or agriculture. Because the crisis will be eventually over and the economy will have to be relaunched. What we safeguard now is what will expand later. That's why for me it's essential to bet on science and technology and not on french farmers or even car manifacturers. Of course, my opinion won't count in the case, but still, I believe it's not too late to make that decision. And I'm not saying that would mean to kill all the other sectors-they still should and would get the support the need. The truth will be in the proportions.

And Bayer sucks. Just as much as Monsanto, but people simply don't realise that small fact. Then ask yourself again why France and Germany are sooooooo eager to allow GM crops?

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