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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Research and development in Europe, January,2009

  • European solar industry going strong, EU research shows
  • Finns plan massive R&D increase to fight crisis

European solar industry going strong, EU research shows

16 December 2008
Half of the world's photovoltaic electricity is currently produced in the EU, but the European solar industry must continue its "impressive growth" to maintain its market position in the years to come, argues a study released by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) last week.

The annual Photovoltaics Status Report demonstrates that solar power production grew at a rapid rate, averaging 40% over five years since 2003 and peaking at 60% in 2007. This means that the European photovoltaic industry is now worth €14 billion a year.

The JRC notes that Europe has increased its production volume significantly, and even reached its 2010 target four years in advance. It estimates that while solar energy still only makes up 0.2% of total electricity consumption in Europe, 0.5% of total electricity production in the EU 27 will be generated through solar power in 2010, the equivalent of the total electricity consumption of Slovenia.

Solar power is already giving a significant boost to electricity production during peak demand times, particularly when heatwaves force nuclear plants to reduce output because of shortages of cooling water, the report claims. It estimates that four million tonnes of CO2 are saved as a result.

More importantly, renewable energies are the only ones that will become cheaper in future as a result of innovation and economies of scale, and therefore help reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels, the report suggests.

Nevertheless, the EU faces tough competition, with China emerging as a major player in the industry, the report warns. It predicts that the bloc will only be able to secure a 25% market share, even if the massive growth rates of recent years are maintained.

What's more, expanding production will only be possible if new solar cell and module design concepts are developed, the researchers warn, as current technology uses limited resources like silver, supplied of which are expected to run out within the next 30 years.

The European Commission funds photovoltaic energy alongside 27 national programmes in multi-annual framework programmes. source
My comment: The one sentence moral of the article is "We are doing great job, we need more money". I totally agree with them, of course. I doubt there is somebody on the Planet who would not. And I think that if Europe is serious about being a big player on the international scene, it must invest the hardest it can in Research and Development, because that is the only think we have in excess-smart and educated people. We can be the best in this, we just need to make scientists more economically justified than farmers.

Finns plan massive R&D increase to fight crisis

16 December 2008

While cuts to both public and private research and development (R&D) budgets are more than likely due to the current economic crisis, the Finnish government has announced plans to increase R&D investment to 4% of the country's GDP in an effort to combat the recession as quickly as it did in the early 1990s.

The Finnish Science and Technology Policy Council, chaired by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, adopted a new strategy review of Finland's education, science, technology and innovation policy in early December.

The review sets out an ambitious goal of increasing the country's R&D funding to 4% of GDP by 2011, with around 1.2% coming from the public sector. In 2007, overall spending reached 3.47% (€6.24 billion), with 30% coming from the public sector.

The overall EU goal is to increase research investment throughout the bloc to 3% of total GDP by 2010, with two-thirds coming from the private and one third from the public sector. But the EU 27 average has been stagnating at around 1.9% since the mid-1990s and has even decreased since 2000.

To pave the way for the 4% target to be achieved, the Finnish strategic review proposes an overall funding hike of €760 million by 2011.

The plan is to increase university funding by €330 million to boost basic funding and support local research infrastructure and researchers' career development.

The country's main funding agency for technology and innovation (Tekes) will also be given an extra €220m to help increase the number of R&D companies, support innovative SMEs and to boost business R&D in general amid economic recession.

The Finnish Academy will get an extra €80m to support its excellence units and, for the first time ever, the development of a horizontal programme for sectoral R&D will be supported by €45m. Another novelty is proposed systemic funding for the development of a true research infrastructure policy in Finland, the lack of which has been identified as a hindrance to research performance.

Finland quickly got out of recession in the 1990s primarily due to heavy support for R&D. source

My comment: Now, this is the right attitude! I mean, it proved it works, they know it works, they do it. I don't understand why the rest of Europe cannot understand it, but in any case, hats down for the Finnish government. As they say "I was smart, I figured it out, I was strong- I calculated it". What it means? That some people have the brains and the balls to follow the direct route to the better world, the other have to suffer trough the longer one.

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