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Monday, June 29, 2009

EU Research and Development, June, 2009

Ok, I totally messed my publication scheme, so I apologise to the people who may have waited for my new post last week. Blame it on Blogger. On on the summer :)

Today:
  1. EU reconsiders green laws to shore up industry
  2. EU research infrastructure offered VAT exemption
  3. EU proposes legal steps towards common patent
  4. Innovation recovery plans in chaos, says report
  5. 'Chemicals Doha' stresses need for global regulation
Quote of the day:But another conference? Like 1000 people participating with public money that don't know what they're talking about would make a difference? Nonsense. And I don't know why they keep messing SMEs and Research-those are two very different entities.

EU reconsiders green laws to shore up industry

28 May 2009

Sectors affected by the ongoing recession – including cars and the chemical industry – will be offered specific treatment under a revised industrial policy to be agreed by EU ministers today (28 May).

EU ministers responsible for industry, trade and research are due to agree a new approach to industrial policy that takes greater care of key sectors such as the chemicals and automotive industries as Europe battles through its worst economic recession since the 1930s.

Germany in particular reckons that all additional environmental legislation should be put on ice until economic conditions return to normal, according to one senior diplomatic source.

The REACH regulation on chemicals and the extension of carbon dioxide emission limits to light duty vehicles in the automotive sector were both cited as areas where industry will be offered special treatment.

The aim is to soften the impact of Europe's strict environmental rules as industries fight their way through the economic recession.

Draft conclusions of the ministerial meeting point to the risk that "regulatory burdens could lead to 'production leakage', notably in the present economic crisis". The term refers to the risk that manufacturing industries might relocate abroad due to strict environmental rules in Europe .

"Compliance with new requirements should not cause excessive costs to businesses in all policy areas," the draft conclusions read.

This sectoral approach to industrial policy seems to find consensus among EU member states. "We need to have concrete measures, sector-by-sector," said a diplomat from one of the larger EU member states. "We will welcome European action along those lines," said another.

BusinessEurope, the EU employers' lobby, insisted that the recession "does not allow for a 'business as usual' attitude to regulatory policy".

The European business organisation singled out the REACH regulation on chemicals in particular for being too costly and difficult to implement. "Companies are still left with legal uncertainties because of inconsistency or lack of coordination between different pieces of legislation," the organisation wrote in an assessment of the chemicals law two years after it was adopted. It called for more consistency and guidance about how the legislation should be implemented in order to provide companies with more legal certainty.

In some areas, initiatives should be reconsidered and alternatives elaborated if required, he said. "The project of establishing an EU-wide emissions trading scheme for NOx and SO2 should be put on hold," the letter adds.

Meanwhile, member states such as France and Germany, which have the largest manufacturing bases in Europe, are hoping to take advantage of the economic recession to revive talks about a more ambitious, EU-wide industrial policy.

According to Le Maire, industrial policy requires a competition policy that will support the establishment of European champions in key industries such as energy and aerospace. It should also encourage the birth of European industrial giants and apply the principle of reciprocity to relations with foreign countries.

However, the mood might be changing. Countries such as the UK, which have traditionally been less enthusiastic about the idea of industrial policy due to their stronger reliance on the services sector, now seem more open to the idea.

In April, Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a "strategic plan" to invest in Britain's economic and industrial future, promising a new era of "activism" in British industrial policy to move the country out of recession. source

My comment: Yeah. Does this sentence "REACH regulation on chemicals in particular for being too costly and difficult to implement" reminds you of an article I posted few weeks ago (or less) about discrimination?! How because it's too difficult and costly to implement anti-discrimination policies, we better drop that requirement? Well, to me, it sounds absolutely the same. And I have absolutely the same conclusion-WTF? What are they talking about? If they have to invest into a new country, would they consider it too costly, if it may open the doors for even greater earning? If they discover that certain product is killing people should they stop its distribution, since it will be too costly to stop it?! What a nonsense! Of course it's costly. The idea of REACH isn't to save them money or to stimulate their businesses, it's done for the sake of safety and transperancy. And probably for many more reasons, but that should be the leading ones. The same goes with climate requirements-especially NOx and SO2. They have to be controlled, because NOx is many times stronger green house gas than CO2!

For the people who like me found their statements for very touching and reasonable, I have to remind you (and me) - climate policies and safety policies are not done for the businesses. They are done for our common home-Europe. For our common future. Because if it's not controlled, it's abused. And you don't have to be a pessimist to see it. That is why, I think it's essential to understand-yes, we have to make consistent and simple policies-easy to implement and easy to control. But that doesn't mean we have to remove them, because this way it's easier. We have to work them out, to perfect them, but they have to be enforced now. Not tomorrow, not when the recession is over. Now is the time. And should we back down from this, we better just admit we can't do it and forget about it. And make sure there are lots of money set aside for disasters, because they are going to come sooner than we expect. I'm no doomsday fan, I'm practical. Yesterday (June 28th, 2009), it was 18C outside during the day. In the city 22-23C. Last year, it was 10 degrees warmer in the same period. Is this normal?No, not at all. What's to come? I don't know. But I know that things are definitely going in the wrong direction. Can we stop it? I don't know. But we have to try really hard.

EU research infrastructure offered VAT exemption

3 June 2009

New pan-European research infrastructure such as CERN, the world's largest nuclear research organisation, is to be granted international organisation status and exempted from excise duty and VAT, EU research ministers decided last week.

After months of deadlock, EU research ministers accepted on 29 May a Czech EU Presidency proposal that European research infrastructure (ERI) projects be treated as international organisations for taxation purposes.

Future ERIs will include any instrument or facility that provides top-class research services to support the work of scientists in a variety of areas, including materials science, astronomy, biomedical applications and the protection of cultural heritage. They can range from icebreaker vessels for marine research to next-generation radio telescopes, and also include social surveys monitoring long-term changes in social values across Europe.

The ministers' political agreement paves the way for an EU legal framework to facilitate the joint establishment and operation of research facilities of European interest, associated countries and inter-governmental organisations.

Current national and EU laws do not meet the needs of complex research infrastructure with partners in many countries.

"The legal framework will significantly cut financial and administrative costs and clarify the legal environment for the functioning of European research infrastructure and at the same time enhance scientific cooperation," stated Miroslava Kopicová, the Czech education minister of education. "In this way it will bring down barriers to investments in science and research," she added.

The European Economic Recovery Plan also urges member states to accelerate national investment in the pan-European research infrastructure. source

My comment: Nice! Obviously, I am not impartial on this, but I have to applaud any effort to stimulate international research. Projects like CERN or MAGIC are so big, the new policy will matter to them. And it's a good sign of political commitment on real research.

EU proposes legal steps towards common patent

27 May 2009

European research ministers are expected to take a significant step towards introducing a Community patent when they meet tomorrow (28 May) in Brussels to discuss ways of improving competitiveness.

The move could finally break a deadlock which has paralysed Europe's ability to make progress on the issue for much of the past decade.

Recent efforts to establish a single legal system, which would have jurisdiction in patent disputes, have been hampered by technical disagreement over whether such a court would be an international body or part of the Community legal infrastructure.

Some member states, including Germany, have favoured establishing an international body to handle Community patent cases, while others preferred a Community system.

A compromise has been reached which would see the establishment of the Unified Patent Litigation System (UPLS), something of a hybrid between a full Community body and an international institution.

Ministers are now expected to ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) whether the proposed compromise is compatible with Community law. This is seen as the final hurdle to establishing the UPLS.

The central issues will be whether it is possible for an international organisation to make decisions on Community issues, and whether the UPLS will be able to refer problematic issues to the ECJ as is currently foreseen.

Ministers will ask the ECJ to consider the matter before the summer, although it may take 18 months to give its opinion. Nonetheless, the compromise is seen as a major milestone on the road to establishing a single legal system for European patents. source

My comment: I don't get that. Really. Why they have to create an international organisation, when all they have to do is to create pan-European organisation. It's nonsense and it reminds of the dream of some genetic giants to patents seeds and cells and then use such organisations to make people pay them. Of course, it's not the idea. Pan-European patent system will dramatically change the way research is done in Europe in a positive way and it will greatly facilitate filing for a patent. Right now people go to USA to patent, because it's easier to respect US patents, than to respect patent filed only in one European country. But still, why it has to be international organisation?

Innovation recovery plans in chaos, says report

4 June 2009

A report to be published in a month's time lambasts national recovery plans for failing to achieve global coordination of innovation policies to combat the recession. It concludes that a massive global conference on innovation is needed to promote cross-border collaboration.

The 'Stimulating Innovation' report, due to be officially launched in July, argues that while G20 governments have set aside more than $200 billion for new innovation programmes, there has been little coordination between them.

The UK, for example, is putting $2.1 billion toward loan guarantees for SMEs, while Germany is extending its write-downs, the study notes.

The report was presented at a high-profile meeting in Brussels this week (2 June), which brought together policymakers, university leaders and innovation experts from both the private and public sectors.

They argued that innovation ideas must be coordinated between countries in order to maximise the value of the many economic recovery packages currently in force.

Without cross-border cooperation, they concluded, industrialised countries including the EU member states would lose out in the long run.

"A relatively easy area in which to start collaborating," says the report, is in "R&D and innovation-incentives intended to solve the grand challenges of our day – including research on climate change, alternative energy and healthcare for an ageing population".

It also identifies scientific visas, intellectual property rules and "other legal regimes that limit mobility of researchers and ideas" as areas where heightened international cooperation is not only desirable but imperative.

However, the speakers were less clear on precisely what measures countries should take, or what new mechanisms they should set up, to achieve these cooperative goals. source

My comment: Verdad? Lol! Is this news for anyone? If research plans were not in mess, we might actually had some real scientific success in major projects. Maybe even LHC would be functioning (speculations, I know, but I have a theory on that). But I don't think we need a conference. I think we need to gather a think tank, not by economist, but by scientists that have experience on international collaborations. Or the managers in CERN or Magic or IceCube. Or the supercomputer network. We need experts in joint-venture projects, in international projects, who know where the major problems are and how to solve them. And when they point out the problems and propose solutions, it will be up to politicians to do what they have to do. But another conference? Like 1000 people participating with public money that don't know what they're talking about would make a difference? Nonsense. And I don't know why they keep messing SMEs and Research-those are two very different entities. Major research projects are not small, they are big, expensive and require very different approach than SMEs. Another nonsense.

'Chemicals Doha' stresses need for global regulation

2 June 2009

More global regulation on chemicals is required, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas agreed at a forum last week, urging action on 'chemical cocktails', endocrine disruptors and nanotechnology.

The first Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF), an annual meeting of stakeholders from industry, research, authorities and NGOs, took place on 27-29 May in Helsinki, where the European Chemicals Agency (ECHAexternal ) is located.

The aim of the meeting was to shape a 'Helsinki Agenda' for safe and sustainable development, manufacture and use of chemicals. The agenda aims to define the topical and critical issues related to chemistry and its interest groups regarding: competitiveness and innovation, industry regulation, safety and sustainability and consumer awareness.

The agenda is currently being drafted and should be made public shortly, but a summary of its key points already notes that "there is a clear need for more global chemical industry regulation".

Ahead of the forum, HCF Secretary-General Kyösti Sysiö told EurActiv that the aim of the organisers was to develop the HCF into an annual 'Chemicals Doha' bringing together stakeholders from all over the world. While this year's forum primarily focused on Europe, the aim is to have a stronger US representation in years to come, Sysiö said.

Klaus Berend from the Commission's chemicals unit said that REACH already "affects global trade policy because the EU is one of the largest importers of chemicals and end products". Even if similar chemical legislation is not applied on other continents, market forces will force countries outside the EU to take into account the requirements set by REACH, the forum noted.

Chemical industry groups argued that while the world's chemical producers have already established a voluntary system for gathering and transmitting the information required by REACH around the world (Global Product Stewardship), new instruments are needed for global information transfer.

They also underlined that "considerable effort must be taken to raise awareness" about all kinds of chemicals and their harmful effects, and to make sure that data about chemical substances generated by the EU's REACH regulation reaches end users.

As for the challenges ahead, Commissioner Dimas stressed the need to close remaining knowledge gaps surrounding 'chemical cocktails'. While REACH considers the effects of single substances, "the fact is that we are most commonly exposed to a cocktail of many different substances," he said.

The commissioner also called for the development of specific criteria and test methods to determine the endocrine disrupting properties of chemicals, which can affect the development of the brain and reproductive organs, for example.

Lastly, Dimas called for more work to consider "whether specific legislation is required to address the risks that may result from the use of nanotechnologies". source

My comment: Yes, this was just for your information and for comparison with the first article. The same participants, more or less, and totally different messages. Go figure! But I agree with mr. Dimas-those are the real priorities and I so hope that they won't stay only in words, while the industry try to remove even REACH. As I said, it might be hard, but it must be done. This is for our common benefit. It might come at cost, but I don't see why my life or health should be considered less costly than implementing a policy by a business.

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