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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Innovation and business, May, 2009

First of all, Happy Day of the Slavic Alphabet!
As you probably know, the Cyrillic alphabet is the third official alphabet of the EU, after the latin and the greek ones, so I think this is a wonderful occasion to celebrate both the letters and the Union. I will make a more extensive post on the issue in the After The Pink Goat, when I have time, but for me, this is an extremely important day and I want to share it with you. Because for us in Bulgaria(or България in cyrillic), this is the day of the knowledge and education, so as a scientist, this is my day too. And I'm quite happy that it coincided with a post on the Innovation.

  1. EU budget 2010 counts on innovation for recovery
  2. Patent applications falling across Europe
  3. Music copyright still divisive, despite MEPs’ backing
  4. Layoffs dwarf job creation across Europe
Quote of the day:The true strength of the EU is in its variety. Because when it comes to a crisis, only variety helps (it's an evolutionary principle, actually). That's why, we have to help each other, so that in the end, we can survive any problem with mutual effort.

EU budget 2010 counts on innovation for recovery

30 April 2009

The European Commission yesterday (29 April) proposed a bigger budget for 2010 to lift the bloc's economy out of recession.

The Commission's draft budget, presented yesterday in Brussels, set spending at 122.3 billion euros ($161.4 billion), compared with 116.7 billion euros planned for 2009. Programmes linked to research and energy would see the biggest funding increase, at 12 percent.

"This budget targets measures to help avert an even sharper downturn. Six billion euros will go into research and innovation, while some nine million citizens will receive support through the European Social Fund," European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas told a news conference.

The 12 mostly ex-communist countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007 will receive 52 percent of the bloc's regional development aid, for the first time getting more than the 15 older members of the bloc. It will be the EU's third consecutive annual budget in which spending on measures to boost economic growth and research and development, 62 billion euros, will be higher than farm expenditure, which was traditionally the biggest item.

Still, around 40 percent of the budget will go to the farm sector. The budget also envisages eight billion euros for foreign aid, including 1.6 billion euros for countries hoping to join the EU one day, mainly in the Western Balkans.

The EU is to overhaul its budget from 2014, but the Commission has kept the controversial issue on the backburner for fear, officials say privately, that reform proposals might go down badly in Ireland. Ireland is to hold a referendum, probably in October, on the EU's Lisbon Treaty. The country is among very few countries that have still not ratified the charter on institutional reform. source

My comment:It's good that we start with money since money are the most important factor in research (ironically some might add). Now, if we check the numbers, although we get the biggest increase, we still don't get the most money, so let's not get carried away in the good news. Yes, there will be more money, and no, certainly they won't be enough.

What I would like to point out, however, is the way the article tries to oppose new members to old members, especially mentioning that those are ex-communist countries. To be historically correct, we must say that those countries weren't communists, because they wanted it. They wanted it, in the beginning, but in the end, they had no choice. So, I would please ask my fellows Europeans reading this not to get angry on the new countries. We're no different than you, just little bit less fortunate (and much less disciplined). And note, the new members are quite big and many, so it's normal that they will get more money than the rest. I'd like to check sometimes the shares that each country pay to the EU, but after all, even if they contribute a lot less, the joined effort should be comparable to that of the old members. And thus, those money are deserved. And badly needed!

Also-a little note on why you shouldn't feel angry by this. The true strength of the EU is in its variety. Because when it comes to a crisis, only variety helps (it's an evolutionary principle, actually). That's why, we have to help each other, so that in the end, we can survive any problem with mutual effort. But for this to work, rich members have to help the poorer ones.

Patent applications falling across Europe

30 April 2009

Preliminary figures from the European Patent Office (EPO) reveal that the number of applications for new patents is down 7% in the first two months of 2009. This is the first reduction in patent applications in over a decade, sparking fears that Europe's knowledge economy is under threat.

Applications to the EPO have doubled since 1995, leaving the agency with a backlog of between 400,000 and 500,000 applications. More than half of the applications filed last year were not granted.

However, the advent of the financial crisis has brought a sharp downturn in the exponential growth of new intellectual property filings.

An EPO survey of its clients, published this week (April 27), forecasts a levelling-off of new patent applications in 2009 and 2010, but this study was conducted in mid-2008, and is unlikely to have factored in the recession, which has deepened in the meantime.

Early indications for 2009 suggest applications for this year are likely to be down for the first time since the early 1990s.

The news comes as a major blow to the EU's Year of Innovation and Creativity (see EurActiv LinksDossier) and its much-vaunted Lisbon Strategy, which aims to turn the EU into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. source

My comment: Erm, this is hardly a surprise. European patents are in horrible state and since business and patents are very tightly connected, I think it's obvious that patents application will fall. The way out for me is to think of a way in which patents would protect the rights of inventors for real. Because let's be realistic-inventors never stop inventing. Scientists don't work to make a living (though this is a very important side-effect). We work because we want to. And if our rights are properly and transparently protected, patents would never stop flowing. But that is not the case! I personally have no idea where to file for a patent even if I wanted. I don't know what I can patent and at what cost. What's even worst-the rights over my work belongs to my institution which, however, won't spend an euro to file a patent or to protect my work. Is this fair? No. Does it encourages me to invent? Not at all.

Music copyright still divisive, despite MEPs’ backing

29 April 2009

The European Parliament last week backed an increase in copyright protection for musicians from 50 to 70 years, in a move aimed at ensuring longer royalties for artists and record companies. But the move caused concern among consumer and green groups, who called on member states to reject the proposal.

Voting on 23 April, EU lawmakers backed proposals that would extend protection for artists to 70 years from the date of the first publication or performance of their song.

The draft legislation, which still needs the support of the 27 EU member states before becoming law, is aimed in part at shielding the recording industry from the rise of the Internet, and the piracy that comes with it.

"The extended term would also benefit the record producers," said Crowley. "It would generate additional revenue from the sale of records in shops and on the Internet."

MEPs also proposed introducing a specific fund for session musicians and financed by producers, who would be forced to set aside at least 20% of the revenue gained from the proposed copyright extension on an annual basis. Collecting societies would be entitled to administer the annual supplementary remuneration. source

My comment: See positions in the source. The Greens really surprised me in a very positive way. What they say is very troubling. They tell us that copyrights protect the rights of the musicians, when that's not entirely true. The big winners are actually record labels who earn big time from something they do not produce. Because if in the past, they have spent money to record and distribute the products, now, everything is digital. Their expenses are minimal, while the profit is maximal. And not, they have to set aside only 20%(!!!) for royalties, when they don't produce anything! Is this really aimed to benefit musicians? Well, not really!

Layoffs dwarf job creation across Europe

4 May 2009

The first quarter of 2009 saw announced job losses outnumber job creation by almost three to one, according to the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM), published by Eurofound.

The financial sector, auto industry and retail sector were worst hit by the losses, with new employment recorded in discount stores and fast food outlets.

220,000 job losses were recorded by the ERM – the highest since it began to collect statistics in 2002 – with just 90,000 jobs created.

The UK recorded the highest number of announced job losses (63,314), followed by Poland (38,975), Germany (17,461) and France (11,779). For the third quarter in a row, auto manufacture is the sector with the most reported ERM job losses (23,584 jobs).

Other sectors with large restructuring-related job losses were retail (21,740), financial intermediation (16,778) and machinery manufacture (16,432).

Unemployment has also spiked very sharply in other member states, notably in the three Baltic countries, where the jobless rate has risen by between 6% and 9% over the past 12 months. A similar situation is seen in Ireland, where unemployment has risen to 11.4% from just 6% last year.

The data is less dramatic in other member states, but the ERM confirms that unemployment is rising across all member states, with the exception of Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands, where short-time working, partial unemployment and other forms of worker flexibility have helped keep numbers down. source

My comment: It's interesting how this effect is not so well felt in Bulgaria. Not that we're not hit by the crisis, but when you don't produce, you cannot be affected by the problems of production. Anyway, I don't think anyone finds this surprising, I post it just for your information.

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