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Thursday, January 28, 2010

R&D in Europe, January, 2010 - China for patent-free technologies

  1. US 'reaping benefits' of EU education spending
  2. EU companies increase R&D investment despite crisis
  3. EU plans to make high-speed Internet compulsory
  4. China, India push for 'patent free' green tech
  5. Web under threat from 'snooping' authorities
  6. EU assembly adopts Internet, phone user rights
Quote of the day:"Europe creates amazing scientists who prefer to work in USA. And obviously, Europe cannot profit from those people once they leave, because they file their patents in USA, they develop their research there and most of them don't consider coming back, unless they don't have other choice. I know also of many people who went working in Asia, where conditions are much better than what most scientific jobs in EU can offer. And the EU must consider very carefully how to deal with this, if we don't want to stay the homeland of angry farmers and car-makers forever."

US 'reaping benefits' of EU education spending

11 November 2009

Europe is failing to capitalise on its investment in education and science because bright young researchers still see the US as the best place to further their career, according to Czech scientist Blanka Říhová, Ambassador of 2009 European Year of Creativity and Innovation.

In an interview with EurActiv Czech Republic, Říhová said Europe needs to reward teachers and scientists better and must boost research spending if it is to keep its top talent.

She said European countries have a “strange inability” to take advantage of educated and creative young people – a problem that continues to benefit transatlantic competitors.

“Europe educates good university students and PhD students. These students study how to work in science, they are in close contact with new ideas and also with modern ways of solving scientific problems. It costs a lot of money but when we need to take advantage of these people, Europe starts to economise,” she said.

Říhová, herself a microbiologist and immunologist, said science graduates need to view Europe as a place where they can better themselves. “There are not enough opportunities or money for them. That's why they leave. And the number one country they leave for is still the US,” she said.

Working in the US provides a major career boost for young scientists and attracts top talent from Europe, Asia and elsewhere. “In this way, the US gets young people who are well prepared without investing a single dollar in their education,” Říhová complained.

She said mobility is a major problem for European researchers, where red tape makes it difficult to move to a new job outside your own member state. Říhová said EU funds should be more flexible and must become pro-mobility in order to help complete the European Research Area.


My comment: Well, at least she's not a philosopher like the previous misunderstanding I commented. But if you read her interview, you'll see that she still thinks mostly in terms of applied science. Not everyone can invent stuff in his or her field. And precisely those people need public support, because no company will ever finance them. Or if not ever, for sure not too often. But the other things she said are very true - Europe creates amazing scientists who prefer to work in USA. And obviously, Europe cannot profit from those people once they leave, because they file their patents in USA, they develop their research there and most of them don't consider coming back, unless they don't have other choice. I know also of many people who went working in Asia, where conditions are much better than what most scientific jobs in EU can offer. And the EU must consider very carefully how to deal with this, if we don't want to stay the homeland of angry farmers and car-makers forever.

EU companies increase R&D investment despite crisis

17 November 2009

European firms increased investment in industrial research and development by more than their US or Japanese competitors last year, despite battling a global economic crisis.

Worldwide spending on corporate R&D increased by 6.9% in 2008, according to the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard published yesterday (16 November).

For companies with their headquarters in the EU, investment growth was 8.1% higher than the previous year. This was a significantly greater increase than the 5.7% growth recorded by US firms and the 4.4% increase recorded in Japan.

Two European companies feature in the top ten for industrial R&D investment, with Volkswagen coming in third place and Nokia coming eighth. Topping the table was Toyota, which spent €7.61 billion.

US firms were, on average, more conservative than their European competitors, but American firms still account for half of the top ten corporations when it comes to R&D investment: namely Microsoft, General Motors, Pfizer, Ford and Johnson & Johnson. Switzerland also had two companies in the top tier – Roche and Novartis.

Companies based in emerging economies continued to show the highest R&D growth, led by China with a 40% increase, India (27.3%), Taiwan (25.1%) and Brazil (18.6%). This is line with expectations that China and India could overtake Europe and the US to become world leaders in research by 2025 (EurActiv 25/09/09).

While R&D spending may have remained robust in 2008, the Scoreboard also provides details of company operating profits, which fell by 30.5% in the EU and 19.1% in the US.

Research growth in the US is dominated by knowledge-intensive sectors, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and IT, while R&D growth in the EU is more evenly spread across all sectors. source

My comment: I don't know about you, but I find it extremely sad that the most invested sectors are pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Especially considering that our quality of life doesn't change significantly because of those investments. Because they invest billions, why then we still have our 1 week long cold, our flues and pneumonia, why our immunity is ridiculously low, why people still die in immense numbers from cancer and HIV, what's even more, why they continue to die for even less severe reasons. Why all those amazing discoveries in the stem cell research don't apply to anything useful?! Sure, they'll say that every such discovery need a long period of clinic trials and so on, but how a vaccine for swine flu comes on the market for 6 months, while everything else has to wait for years. And why nobody cares we eat soy like crazy, which even if it wasn't modified, it would be dangerous, where are the clinic trials for that? And for all the other chemicals in the food industry, that we consume everyday in amazing quantities, and nobody knows exactly how they combine. Ok, I'm very mad on pharmacy and biotechnology, because it's simply not fair. Did you know that after a heart surgery, your bones had to be wired, to heal together? And just now, they started using a glue instead of wires. Glue that decrease the recovery time to days instead of months! And that the pain that people felt after such surgery, because of the wiring is like you are hit by a truck! So, the question is where the hell all those investments go?!

EU plans to make high-speed Internet compulsory

18 December 2009
The incoming Spanish EU Presidency wants to extend universal service requirements to broadband Internet, making it compulsory for member states to make the service available in every corner of their territory. The move is aimed at improving Web access in rural areas but has raised a number of concerns for the telecoms industry.

The European Commission estimates that only 70% of the population of the EU's countryside areas can rely on existing infrastructure to access the Internet via a high-speed connection.

The situation represents a new form of economic and social division between EU citizens as new services are made available on the Web.

To address this 'digital divide', Spain, which assumes the EU's rotating presidency in the first half of 2010, is considering obliging member states to provide nationwide broadband coverage. Its plans are shared by Belgium and Hungary, which take on the EU presidency after Spain. All three countries are pursuing a common 'trio' programme.

However, the industry remains sceptical about using such means to achieve complete coverage of high-speed Internet.

ETNO, the association representing incumbent telecoms operators in the EU, estimates that the cost of current universal service obligations could hit 800 million euros in some Eastern European countries if applied completely.

Industry representatives want to know how the extension of universal service status to broadband will be funded. "Who will pay for ensuring that the most remote areas of Europe are covered?" they ask.


My comment: I don't know about other Eastern European members, but in Bulgaria, the high-speed coverage is pretty good. And it wasn't funded by anyone, people simply want internet and SMEs secured it. But I'm not sure what exactly means to cover every corner of the territory - if there is nobody to use it, why there should be connection?There are many ghost villages in Bulgaria, nobody lives there, who's going to pay for internet connection to there and who's going to benefit from it. From that point of view, it's good to have internet coverage by mobile operators, but then, the price on megabite has to fall, because now, it's absurdly expensive.

China, India push for 'patent free' green tech

23 November 2009

As world leaders prepare for climate talks in Copenhagen next month, developing nations have tabled a controversial proposal which would effectively end patent protection for clean technologies.

China and India have floated the idea of making new green technology subject to 'compulsory licensing', which critics say amounts to waiving intellectual property rights.

The idea of adapting or liberalising patent rules for crucial new inventions which can help reduce carbon emissions is not new, but the EU and US are unhappy with compulsory licensing, fearing it would dramatically reduce the incentive for businesses to innovate and stifle green job creation.

Compulsory licensing has to date only been used in emergency situations where patent-protected pharmaceuticals were seen as prohibitively expensive. The Thai government used the mechanism to allow local medicines factories produce HIV drugs at a fraction of the cost.

Now, the group of 77 developing nations, led de facto by China, wants to apply the same logic to the climate crisis.

The Coalition for Innovation, Employment and Development (CIED), a think-tank strongly in favour of intellectual property rights, has published a report highlighting the threat to European industry posed by ending patent protection on clean technologies.

The report says millions of jobs could be created in Europe through the research and production of innovative green technologies but this opportunity would be jeopardised by weakening intellectual property rights.

It proposes that any political agreement reached in Copenhagen should focus on financial assistance to developing countries, with this funding being used to purchase technologies that reduce emissions. source

My comment: I don't think this is entirely a bad idea. I mean, what green jobs in Europe, because of patents, Europe is like the ultimate patent nightmare. People simply don't use the system, because it's not working. They cannot patent in China, because they leak the technology. So, the only place that actually cares for patents is USA. And inventors there, usually work for big companies and earn nothing trough patents. Those are the facts. So, I don't think that system is working well. Sure, some people profit from it, but they are very very few. Patents work mostly for corporations. I don't mean that inventors shouldn't be paid and paid well - quite on the contrary. But that doesn't happen even now! And what's even more, this doesn't work in any sector of intellectual rights. Did you know that royalties for books paid to the authors are 15% at most?! And then, they come with some famous author or a pop-star and say - you're robbing him/her by downloading from Internet. Not at all, mister, the only person who we're robbing is the publisher. And well, although they are needed, for sure, it's simply not fair to take 75% of something someone else created. So, the same goes for patents. They don't serve inventors, it's time to find a way to pay to inventors, not to corporations.

Web under threat from 'snooping' authorities

4 December 2009

Governments and companies pushing for greater monitoring of Internet activity pose a major threat to freedom and democracy, according to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee, who is credited with developing the Web while working as an engineer at CERN , the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, said the fundamental spirit of freedom and open collaboration that underpins the universality of the Web is under severe pressure.

Delivering the Annual Scientific Technology Options Assessment (STOA ) lecture in the European Parliament, he said law enforcement authorities wanting to monitor the Web to fight serious crime should be required to seek a warrant from an independent body first.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor also expressed grave concern about companies which gather data on Internet traffic in order to build profiles of Web users.

"I don't want any snooping on my Internet traffic. When one looks up something to see if they have cancer, or a teenager wonders if they are homosexual or not and wants to go online to find answers, this should be private. So systems that monitor every click and build a profile of me are very damaging," said Berners-Lee.

He said privacy fears are growing due to the volume and quality of personal data passed over the Web, adding that monitoring an individual's Internet preferences is "more damaging than having a permanent TV camera in my living room".

Berners-Lee has campaigned in the United States for 'net neutrality' – the principle that Internet traffic should be free and unrestricted. The Web "should not discriminate on commercial grounds or party political grounds," he said, before highlighting subtle ways in which vested interests can hijack the Internet.

He said that Internet providers, some of which also sell cable television and movie services, should not be able to restrict access to independent film producers.

He said that if democracy is to become truly participatory, it is crucial that information is delivered over a neutral medium. He was also critical of companies that disconnect Internet services if they suspect customers of illegal file sharing. source

My comment: No comment, really. I completely and absolutely agree with him! I hope the authorities do the same and take measures to protect net neutrality, because it's good for everyone.

EU assembly adopts Internet, phone user rights

November 25, 2009 By ROBERT WIELAARD , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- The European Parliament has endorsed new telecom rules that would give phone and Internet users more rights and allow them to appeal to national courts if they are cut off for illegal file-sharing.

The rules endorsed Tuesday are part of a broad package that also aims to boost competition for Internet and phone services. As a last resort, telecom companies could be required to separate their infrastructure and services businesses, giving other companies a shot at providing rival services on the same networks.

A new EU-wide telecoms authority also would be set up to ensure fair competition.

The EU's 27 nations must now implement the law in their national legislation by June 2011.

For , the most visible part of the law are the new rights they would get to switch or fixed line operators within one working day and to challenge disconnections, even if they are illegally sharing copyright-protected movies or music.

A service provider would have to inform users before cutting off access because of a copyright violation, and those users would be able to appeal to a national court.

still won't have an automatic right to Internet access - as some EU lawmakers had originally intended. The European Parliament dropped that guarantee because of concerns it could hinder French and British efforts to cut off Internet access to persistent file sharers. source


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