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Friday, January 30, 2009

Education and research, 01. 2009

  1. Low R&D budgets 'threaten EU competitiveness'
  2. Czechs look to private sector to fund education
  3. Creating effective cluster-building policies

Low R&D budgets 'threaten EU competitiveness'

23 January 2009

An EU initiative to create a common research area has helped to make the Union more attractive for foreign scientists, but spending on science and research is still far too low for the bloc to catch up with the US or Japan, according to a new study.

Seventeen member states, mainly those which lag behind in R&D spending, increased their research budgets between 2000 and 2006, the study showed. But the other ten reduced theirs, leaving the Union's overall spending stuck at 1.84% of GDP since 2005, far below the US (2.6% of GDP), Japan and South Korea, EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik remarked.

"At a time of crisis, it is not the moment to take a break from investing in research and innovation. They are vital if Europe want to address the challenges of climate change and globalisation," Potočnik said.

As part of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, EU leaders set themselves the goal of boosting R&D spending to 3% of GDP, which they agreed was necessary to keep Europe competitive and make the notion of a knowledge-based society a reality.

According to the commissioner, the gloomy picture is a result of lower private sector investment in the EU at a time that it increased substantially in the US, Japan and China. The latter, especially, is emerging as a new science and technology actor, with an R&D growth rate of 50% between 2000 and 2006, Potočnik stated.

Potočnik called for higher business investment and more involvement of the high-tech industry in the European economy. At present, the high-tech sector accounts for 12% of EU GDP, compared to 18% in the US. Governments must create favourable conditions for fast-growing and innovation-friendly markets and enable cheaper access to an EU-wide patent system, he said.

A recent survey showed citizens are in favour of increasing R&D budgets amid fears that the ongoing economic crisis may lead to cuts in national budgets.

Figures show that the number of researchers has been growing twice as fast in the EU than in the US and Japan since 2000, even if the share of researchers in the bloc's labour force is still lower compared to its main competitors. source

My comment: Hehe, my field :) I think the said above is a very soft version of the reality. The science in the whole world is lagging behind what it could be, because of many factors but mainly the popularism and the lack of proper funding in fundamental science. And the scientific mob that is and absolute burden for everyone in the gild. But that's another story. For me, not only should the GDP investment be increased to the US level (if not higher) but also, the working conditions should be drastically improved. For example, women scientists should be stimulated to become mothers in their early years (yeah, that's my age, and no, it's not my case)-later pregnancy are more dangerous and harder to manage. Sure, there are many ways to handle the situation-many women do it and they are doing well, but why should it be so hard? Science is about devotion- if you want devoted people, you should make the life easy. That's the case in many member states, but not in all of them. Not to mention the ever decreasing number of students in science. That's very unpleasant trend, especially now, when there are so many opportunities and possibilities. What I say in my other blog, I mean it. We could easily be the last people to die or the first to live forever. But this research should be done by people. And there are simply not enough people in the field. Not enough interest by big investors. Not the right intellectual property rights. It's not that bad, but it's pretty annoying. Think big!

Czechs look to private sector to fund education

21 January 2009

Current EU presidency holder the Czech Republic wants to establish a "strategic framework" for European cooperation on education and training issues to help boost the Union's competitiveness, sustainable growth and employment strategies, according to the country's education minister, Ondrej Liska.

Further cooperation on education will be achieved by promoting partnerships between educational institutions and business, the minister said. He stressed that his government wants to improve both the quality of and access to universities, particularly in the context of the Bologna process to establish a European Area of Higher Education by 2010 (LinksDossier).

Welcoming the announcement, Greek Socialist MEP Katerina Batzeli, who chairs the European Parliament's culture committee, said the economic crisis had highlighted the need for "good education systems".

Meanwhile, Czech Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlicka told MEPs that more funding should be made available for art education to help boost innovation and creativity. "Together with science and research, art can be an inspiration in times of crisis," he said. source

My comment: Sure, art can build you a rocket. It can teach you how to build a plane. HELLO! Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who think that art is useless, it's not. But can't we please live art to Russian oligarches?! I mean artists are pretty, sexy, artistic, exotic, hot. They get enough funding trough testosteron. Not that physicists, we're not sexy. We're just not so exotic. Or we're too exotic :) Seriously, I'm against US model and I don't want the business to tell me what I shoult research. Yes, they have their place, but it's limited. And actually it's not the business involvment that's inadequate, it's the lack of middle-men (though in other cases I hate them). Those people that smell the good inventions or research and sell them to the big fishes. That's what we, in Europe, don't have. If we populate with enough such companies, it would get very obvious that our research is good enough, we simply don't know how to sell it.

Creating effective cluster-building policies

23 January 2009

"Clusters built around knowledge hubs are becoming increasingly important in driving innovation," argue members of the Science-Business Innovation Board (SBIB), which gathers leading experts from industry and academia, in a January paper.

Clusters are groups of firms and institutions that are located close to one another and have grown to a scale sufficient for developing specialised expertise, services, resources, suppliers and skills.

To achieve this, "EU cluster policies need to recognise that innovation can happen in all sectors," the experts say, citing the fact that innovation can happen in high-tech as well as the food processing, agriculture and footwear sectors as an example.

Nevertheless, the SBIB underlines that clusters must driven by markets and retain the capacity to change as markets change if they are to grow and innovate.

For EU cluster policy to be successful, therefore, it "must be framed to support local action that is attuned to the specific needs and available resources of particular regions," the experts argue.

Furthermore, the SBIB claims that the EU and national governments should work together to "reform higher education" and "remove regulatory barriers" to cooperation between universities and companies.

"Most successful clusters have universities at their heart," the paper argues. source
My comment: Sure...It's not very informative and it's rather abstract, but it's another way of looking into the issue.

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