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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

EU Scientists unite against paperwork, 03, 2010

Today:
  1. EU to pump €18m into flu research
  2. EU innovation strategy delayed until 'autumn'
  3. Finance ministers want 3% R&D target ditched
Shorties:
  1. Scientists unite against EU paperwork
  2. EU guide to boost green goods and services
  3. EIB ramping up support for venture capital
Quote of the day: So they first pay billions for vaccines, then they decide to invest little bit more into pharmaceutical companies, just to be on the safe side? I also question the actions of European and national authorities during the epidemic. They made sure to spread the panic and to offer the vaccines instead of making independent scientific assessment of the situation and then making decisions based on that. And the worst is that virus epidemics are really dangerous!

EU to pump €18m into flu research

10 March 2010
The European Commission has unveiled plans to pour €18 million into research projects on influenza. The news comes as MEPs from across the political spectrum call for a European Parliament inquiry into the handling of the swine flu pandemic.

The EU executive has shortlisted four collaborative projects for funding. These involve 52 research institutes and SMEs from 18 European countries and three international partners – Israel, China and the US.

This latest series of projects bring the total Commission funding for flu research to over €100 million since 2001.

EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said EU research to prevent and treat flu has "enormous social and economic value and can contribute significantly to our Europe 2020 goals".

Flu virus genes migrate across continents and between species and seriously threaten both human and animal health, according to the Commission.

Two consortia will focus their research on influenza in pigs while the two others will develop innovative drugs against influenza in humans.

Meanwhile, MEPs are demanding an inquiry into how European public health authorities handled the flu pandemic. In a statement, the parliamentarians said the credibility of the EU institutions had been undermined in the wake of the outbreak.

"The inadequate appraisal of risk in view of the data available and the marketing authorisations granted to various pandemic vaccines, which the European public health authorities declared safe without proper prior investigation, force us, as members of the European Parliament, to ask a number of questions," they said.

During the presentation of the initiative, French Green MEP Michele Rivasi said the crisis was overblown and noted that parliamentary inquiries were established following the BSE crisis.

Bulgarian Liberal MEP Antonyia Parvanova said confidence is crucial in managing serious health crises, and "a lot of answers are missing on the way the alleged H1N1 pandemic has been managed at EU level and by member states". source

My comment: So they first pay billions for vaccines, then they decide to invest little bit more into pharmaceutical companies, just to be on the safe side? I also question the actions of European and national authorities during the epidemic. They made sure to spread the panic and to offer the vaccines instead of making independent scientific assessment of the situation and then making decisions based on that. And the worst is that virus epidemics are really dangerous! Strains can mutate, jump species and/or spread very quickly. We really have to be prepared for such situations and what happened last year wasn't helpful at all. Or maybe it was helpful in that it showed us how incapable we are to handle such situations. I can only hope that the money the EU will invest won't go into companies, but in universities and institutes and better organisation of the response to such crisis. But I doubt it!

EU innovation strategy delayed until 'autumn'

18 March 2010 source

"
He said the new plan would "take the broadest possible approach to innovation in business," and would propose a new generation of financial products designed to get funds flowing to innovative small businesses.

"Innovation is a much broader concept than R&D," Tajani added.

The new figures, which date from 2008, showed steady improvement by most member states but noted that the economic crisis has hampered progress and stalled the EU's efforts to catch up with the US.

As in previous years, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden and the UK were lauded as "innovation leaders," and Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania were at the bottom of the league.

Geoghegan-Quinn said Europe maintained a strong lead over the emerging 'BRIC' economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – but acknowledged that China could close the gap by the end of the decade.

Both commissioners also reaffirmed their support for setting a spending target of 3% of GDP. The target has been the subject of much controversy, with finance ministers yesterday calling for a new "outcome-oriented" measure of success rather than a fixed spending target (EurActiv 17/03/10).

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said it was "no coincidence" that the countries at the top of the innovation scoreboard are those closest to the 3% target" source

My comment: Yes, it is not a coincidence, it's very simply - if you want to profit from science, you'll have to invest in it first. And even that's often not enough. Anyway, I really don't like how the new Commissioner (and the old one actually), keep on emphasizing how innovation is not only R&D. Oh yeah, and what it is then? Finding new and clever ways to classify the folders on your desk. I'm really sick of all this watering of what research is. They call it broadening of the scope of the projects, I call it changing the real beneficiaries of those projects who should be scientists, with people who are not scientist. As simple as this. If you want to have innovation, if you want to have cool new products that will sell like crazy and will bring you profits, you have to invest into people who make them. And not in the people who think they know how to find people that will make products eventually. I don't underestimate the middle men, but without two clearly set sides, you don't have a middle. And it's sad to see how the EU falls for the words and not for the real things. Yes, the world needs lawyers and insurance agents and patents hunters and whatever, but they alone cannot create a product. Scientists and researchers do create! All the other - use. And precisely because of this, scientists and researchers do need support. Because it's easy to be in the middle - if you get tired of it, you change your profession. It's much harder to change your profession when you have dedicated decades to study or acquire skills and then to perfect them.

Finance ministers want 3% R&D target ditched

24 March 2010
EU finance ministers are fighting against the European Commission's target of spending 3% of GDP on research and development (R&D), demanding a new "outcome-oriented" measure of success.

The 3% figure is one of five headline goals of the 'Europe 2020' growth strategy and has been firmly backed by EU Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (EurActiv 09/03/10).

Meeting in Brussels yesterday (16 March), finance ministers called for "urgent consideration" of wider indicators to measure R&D and innovation, putting the European Council on a collision course with the EU executive, which has put its political weight behind the target.

Including spending as an indicator has proven controversial and has exposed differences between ministries of finance and research across Europe. With public budgets under pressure, finance ministers are reluctant to commit to additional spending on R&D.

Geoghegan-Quinn directly referred to the rift between ministers earlier this month when she defended the 3% spending target.

However, she also said she would set up a panel of experts to look at new indicators to measure research and innovation output.

Last week, Gerard de Graaf, a senior Commission official working on the implementation of the 2020 strategy, also acknowledged problems with blanket spending commitments.

He said using "input targets" – like spending – was far from ideal but is still the best option currently available. "We are determined to come up with a better measure of outputs," he said, adding that internationally comparable benchmarks are needed. source

My comment: Oh, yeah, outcome oriented? And what outcome do they have if they don't invest in science? I'm very curious what innovation did they manage to produce without investment, that would be almost economical miracle. Though I can tell you what Bulgarian government would manifest - the glorious achievement of scientists who just like me, work for the science and not for the salary. Because when your salary is barely enough to cover you most basic needs, it's hard to say you're doing it for the money. I'd probably sell shoes for better salary. And anyway - the most ironical thing is that all the member states need R&D like crazy, because that's the only thing that can do miracles on the economy. But who needs a miracle?

Scientists unite against EU paperwork

15 March 2010
Almost 7,000 researchers from 41 countries have signed a petition demanding less red tape for EU-funded scientific cooperation programmes. Olivier Küttel, co-founder of the Trust Researchers campaign, says Europe's funding programmes must be streamlined if they are to be effective.

The group was born out of frustration at the mounting paperwork required of researchers applying EU funds such as the framework programme (FP7).

"The administrative burden in European research funding has constantly increased over the years despite many attempts towards simplification," says Küttel, whose Trust Researchers website calls for a more consistent, research-focused approach to funding.

The declaration, signed by thousands of scientists, will be presented to MEPs and the European Council, urging them to move to a trust-based accountability system.

Küttel rejects concerns that cutting red tape would increase the risk that public money would be unaccounted for, saying smarter ways of ensuring accountability are needed.

"The declaration is not against accounting rules. We need rules. The question is which rules," he says. source

EU guide to boost green goods and services

16 March 2010
A European Commission handbook published on Friday (12 March) hopes to give businesses and politicians the right tools to assess the life cycle of all products and services in order to help boost the green economy.

The handbook will provide "a much-needed reference to support decision-making and ensure better environmental choices when designing goods and services" as Europe strives to become more resource-efficient and less polluting, said Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

The document provides detailed guidance on how to quantify the environmental impact, such as greenhouse-gas emissions and resource use, of a product or service in an attempt to conduct a full life-cycle analysis.

The handbook is actually a series of technical documents that provide detailed practice-oriented guidance on all LCA steps to ensure consistent and quality-assured analysis. The documents are in line with the two international standards on the matter (ISO 14040 and 14044), and are more specific, concrete and quantitative where relevant, the Commission noted. source

EIB ramping up support for venture capital

23 March 2010
The EU has stepped up its investment in the venture capital industry and will make a €1 billion fund available by the end of 2012, European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen told EurActiv in an interview.

Kollatz-Ahnen said the EIB has mandated its long-term investment arm – the European Investment Fund (EIF) – to increase its relative stakes in venture capital funds to ensure that they are large enough to support the development of innovative new technologies. source

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post, kind of drawn out though. Really good subject matter though.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's crazy man. They should really try to do something to fix that.

 

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