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Sunday, October 31, 2010

European patents - the battle continue, 2010

Today:
  1. Top researchers fear 'radical shift' in EU policy
  2. Governments want research funding at heart of innovation plan
  3. EU unveils multi-billion research fund to boost economy
  4. EU unveils innovation blueprint
  5. Ministers still deadlocked on EU patent

Quote of the day: Maybe I have wrong understanding of what science is, but "innovation in cultural sector"??? What the fuck is this! Seriously, the guys in the EC are all gone crazy.

Top researchers fear 'radical shift' in EU policy

Published: 09 June 2010
Scientists at Europe's leading research universities have expressed concern over the growing trend towards linking EU funding with pre-defined outcomes. Researchers fear political priorities will curb their scope for creativity and free thinking.
EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has pledged to simplify European funding programmes and proposed asking scientists to meet certain goals in return for European support.
However, in a detailed analysis published this week (7 June), the League of European Research Universities (LERU) offered a mixed response to the European Commission's recent efforts to streamline the Framework Programme for science.
Stijn Delauré, EU policy advisor at the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL), cautioned against "a radical shift towards output-based research funding".
"We fear that the relevant administrative burden would just relocate from the institution's administration to the researchers themselves," he said.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn suggested in an interview with EurActiv last month that some researchers could be given lump sums if they deliver results. However, she also noted that scientists could still be paid even if their research does not work as planned, provided that independent experts adjudge their research to be excellent (EurActiv 08/05/10).
She also suggested using prizes more frequently in order to get around the onerous accounting requirements that come with EU grants. This too met with some resistance from universities as it is not seen as a steady source of ongoing funding.
LERU said it strongly supports many of the proposals put forward in the EU's communication on simplification and called for additional resources to be given to the European Research Council (ERC).
The elite university group backs a "trust-based approach" to funding with less reporting back to Brussels. They urged the EU executive to scrap timesheets which currently require some scientists to account for every hour they spend on a particular project.
There was also concern that "directed, top-down research" linked to grand societal challenges could limit the scope for scientist-led initiatives which are "the key to tackling unknown challenges in the future".
Delauré also urged policymakers to maintain the current balance between academia and business, amid ongoing calls for closer university-industry links. He also stressed the need for scientists to be radical.
"There are serious drawbacks to output-based research, depending on how success is defined. What if a project fails because of the inherently risky nature of science? The absence of a result can be a result. Our fear is that this approach could discourage bold research, leading instead to low-risk research because it's more likely to succeed," Delauré said.
 sourceMy comment: As a scientist, I'm also against a firm goal-oriented funding. IT's hard to know what exactly the outcome of a research will be. It might be what you expect, but it also might not. Usually, people write projects when they have an idea for the first year and/or they know they can account for it. But what happens afterwards is kind of hard to predict. Of course, this doesn't mean lack of discipline, it means that funding a project is a bureaucratic endeavor, but working on such project is not. And those two sides should be well balanced in order for the machine to work well. Otherwise, you either get undisciplined scientists who cannot account for the money they spend, or you have too disciplined scientist who cannot do science because they spend all of their time writing reports. Balance is important. And also is stability. The ever-changing Brussels bureaucracy is not helping researchers. Because most of them don't go to annual courses on "how to report our project". They do their work and eventually report. And when the terms are changing from year to year, and also the requirements and the websites and so on, it gets very hard to keep up with them. And eventually, that leads to bad results. 
And yeah, as for science and business, here the balance is even more fragile. Because science means spending, business means profits, it's clear why everyone wants the business on the table. What is not clear, however, is that science cannot always lead to products. Sometimes you need to invest in fundamental science. Because without it, there won't be real innovations. The process is complicated and that should be remembered.

Governments want research funding at heart of innovation plan


28 May 2010
Research ministers from across Europe have urged Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn to make finance a top priority in the EU's forthcoming research and innovation plan.
Ministers gathered in Brussels this week (26 May) to shape the strategy agreed that the combined efforts of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and encouragement for private venture capital funds is fundamental to boosting innovation.
The Council of Ministers wants the research and innovation plan, which the Commission will publish in the autumn, to focus on five major areas: the financial sector, markets, governance, regional priorities and people.
Much of what is proposed is in line with what the Commission has already indicated will feature in the final draft of the plan. The Council and Commission also support refocusing public procurement to support innovative SMEs and developing the market for novel technologies.
In keeping with the Creativity and Innovation Manifesto produced last year as part of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, the value of "non-technological innovation," including design and innovation in the cultural sector, is stressed.
Separately, the Competitiveness Council called on the Commission to prepare Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) on a range of new areas, including water, microbiology, marine science, climate knowledge, urban Europe and the demographic challenge. sourceMy comment: Well, strangely, but I don't get how "the financial sector, markets, governance, regional priorities and people" can be considered Research or Development or how exactly funding the financial sector or the market may lead to innovations and new technology. Maybe I have wrong understanding of what science is, but "innovation in cultural sector"??? What the fuck is this! Seriously, the guys in the EC are all gone crazy. It's very clear what science is and what innovation is - it's the process of accumulation of new knowledge about the Universe. It's something that can be measured. How exactly the culture can lead to new knowledge and/or new technologies for me is a mystery. And all this, while physics and other natural sciences are underfunded and generally ignored by the population. Should all scientists work for corporations? Is this the new ideal of the Commission? If it is, then it is wrong. We need fundamental science, because without it, nothing new will appear, but only variations of the old one. And you cannot compare fundamental science with culture. That's utterly wrong!

EU unveils multi-billion research fund to boost economy

20 July 2010
The EU commissioner for research and innovation, Ireland's Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, announced yesterday (19 July) nearly €6.4 billion of investment in research and development to be spent by the end of 2011.
The package, described as Europe's biggest ever investment drive in the sector, aims to increase European competitiveness and help tackle EU priorities such as climate change, energy, food security, health and the ageing population.
"Investment in research and innovation is the only smart and lasting way out of crisis and towards sustainable and socially equitable growth. This European package will contribute to new and better products and services, a more competitive and greener Europe, and a better society with a higher quality of life," Geoghegan-Quinn said, arguing that the package will create more than 165,000 jobs.
In May, more than 23 million or 9.6% of the working population in the EU were unemployed, according to Eurostat. In the first quarter of 2008, the unemployment rate in the EU was at 6.7%.
The commissioner said it would involve the work of 16,000 researchers, including employees of about 3,000 SMEs.
Covering a range of scientific disciplines, public policy areas and commercial sectors, the package earmarks more than €600 million for the health sector, while €1.2 billion will go towards boosting information and communication technology (ICT) research.More than €1.3 billion will be reserved for the best creative scientists selected by the European Research Council, and SMEs will receive close to €800 million.
Geoghean-Quinn outlined EU efforts to bring research discoveries into mainstream use more quickly. For example, a third of the health allocation would be spent on clinical trials to get new drugs on the market as soon as possible, she said.
As for nanotechnology, €270 million would be spent on research that could lead to patenting and commercialisation opportunities, the commissioner said.
The fund is seen as part of the EU's flagship 'Innovation Union', to be launched this autumn.
 sourceMy comment: Oh well, better with money, than without them, but still, I want to protest for the general use of the word "Research". Because what we're talking is more "Development". In the broad sense of the word. Of course, I don't mind money for health, as long as they go to universities and not to corporations. But I have some doubts about this. And also, I have my doubts about the whole scheme and how it reaches to the average guy in Europe. But then, the EC thinks about the great guys, the big bosses and not about average people.

EU unveils innovation blueprint

Published: 06 October 2010 | Updated: 21 October 2010
Patent reform and new sources of finance are at the heart of the EU's new innovation strategy, published today (6 October) by the European Commission. The EU has also announced the first 'Innovation Partnership', which will begin next year and is dedicated to healthy ageing.
Brussels says too few of Europe's ideas make the journey from "research to retail" and global competition, particularly from Asia, means the EU must up its game or risk falling into unchecked decline.
The EU has now committed to steering structural funds and public procurement towards innovation, as well as removing bottlenecks that make it difficult for Europeans to turn knowledge into marketable products.
A new cross-border venture capital regime and an expansion of the European Investment Bank's Risk-Sharing Finance Facility will be part of a concerted effort to match innovative firms with investors, according to Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU commissioner for research, innovation and science, and Commission Vice- President Antonio Tajani, responsible for industry and entrepreneurship.
The long-awaited plan proposes that governments set aside dedicated budgets for buying innovative products and services, a move that could create a procurement market worth at least €10 billion a year.
The Commission will now review structural funding and state aid frameworks while helping member states to tap into the €86 billion of structural funds earmarked for research and innovation.
One million new researchers needed
In line with the Lisbon Treaty and previous commitments made by the EU executive, the new plan pledges to make it easier for scientists to move within Europe by allowing them to bring their pensions with them when they move jobs.Brussels also wants member states to pool resources to provide Europe with world-class infrastructure, pledging to have "completed or launched the construction of 60% of the priority European research infrastructures currently identified by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).
Brussels is also committing to support the development of an independent ranking system for universities. sourceMy comment:Wow, the idea for the mobility of pensions is quite good. Because many scientists I know spend years in different countries and when they finally come back home, it's difficult to get everything in order. So this is definitely a good thing. But I didn't see anything else that is very innovative or clear. For example the procurement market sounds more like a Xmas wish than something real - how do the EC imagine countries like Bulgaria or Romania to invest millions for something like this? They cannot invest those money even in their own science, what's left for some abstract market which I find hard to understand. So this blueprint is not very surprising actually.

Ministers still deadlocked on EU patent

Published: 12 October 2010 | Updated: 15 October 2010
A final deal on the EU patent was still being held hostage by divergent national interests yesterday (11 October) at a Competitiveness Council held in Luxembourg.

EU ministers remain split between a group of countries led by France and Germany which support a trilingual system for the EU patent as proposed by the European Commission, and another group of states that oppose this solution and alternatively back a monolingual or multilingual regime.
The language used to file, contend and spread information about a patent is a crucial detail for countries' competitiveness. Researchers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) capable of using their mother tongue for patents will have an advantage over competitors that speak different languages.
On the other hand, the current system, which protects all EU languages, has produced legal uncertainty and soaring costs, making patents more difficult and expensive to file in Europe than in other industrialised regions of the world.
At yesterday's Competitiveness Council, Belgium, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, pointed out that under the existing system, a company willing to commercialise the same patent in all 27 countries must pay something like 25,000 EUR in legal and administrative costs.
Some critics argue that this is in fact rather unlikely since most companies only register their patents in specific markets. Only a few multinationals are interested in taking on all the cost of operating their patents in every EU member state. SMEs, on the other hand, tend to use their patents only in bigger EU markets.
The negative consequences of this situation are two-fold, analysts have found. Firstly, the concept of the internal market is undermined at its roots as fragmentation between national markets remains the rule. Secondly, countries where a patent is not registered often become hubs for counterfeit goods, which are then exported to all of Europe.
The language which is "customary in the field of international technological research and publications" is English, but using French and German too increases costs and lays the ground for potential legal uncertainty.Italy is the most vocal country against a trilingual regime.
Spain is also very critical and has proposed a system based on English and a second language, to be chosen at will by applicants.
Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Cyprus are also sceptical about the three-language proposal made by the Commission last July..sourceMy comment: I also agree with the two-language principle - English as official and one other language chosen by applicants. This is fair. Everything else gives advantage to some countries in front of others. So what, everyone in Europe learns English, but some countries cannot do that? I don't see why we should agree. If I am to file a patent, I'll want to do it in English and in Bulgarian. That's fair. Everyone else who's interested will find a way to translate the content or to learn the appropriate language. I'm sick of this favoritism of France or Germany. They might be bigger, they might be better, but they cannot be more important than the rest 25 countries! I hope Spain and Italy hold their position to the end. It's about time Europe becomes Europe for everyone, not just for the ones with the money and the power.



EU countries top world 'green patent' rankings - According to a comprehensive new study by the European Patent Office (EPO), Germany, France and the UK join Japan, the US and South Korea in leading the emerging green tech revolution, filing 80% of all patent applications in the field.

Bulgaria to ask for derogation from R&D target ( 04 June 2010) -  Bulgaria will try to reduce the target of investing 3% of GDP in research and development (R&D) established by the 'Europe 2020' strategy – or at least the impoverished country will aim to sharply reduce its national share, writes Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner publication in Bulgaria. 
At present, just 0.15% of GDP in Bulgaria is spent on R&D.
- I think that happily put us on the bottom of the chart. Oh well.

Romania calls on private sector to help boost R&D (04 June 2010) - Romania has decided that its national target for boosting research and development will be 2% by 2020, but to reach this goal, the private sector would have to increase its financial effort six or seven-fold compared to current levels. EurActiv Romania reports.Predescu also said that in 2008, the resources allocated to R&D in the EU were at the level of 1.9% of GDP, while in 2009 this increased to 2.06%.-

Czechs ready to spend 3% of GDP on R&D (09 June 2010) - Applying the EU's target of raising investment in R&D to 3% of GDP by 2020 is seen in the Czech Republic as attainable, even at national level. Surprisingly, the caretaker government proposed a 2.7% national target, higher than the more modest 2.3% proposed by the European Commission.


Poland questions merits of EU ‘research target’ (04 June 2010) - Polish politicians are questioning the merits of the EU's aim to increase investment in research and development (R&D) to 3% of GDP in the EU as a whole by 2020, but the issue could at least raise awareness of the fact that the country is lagging behind in innovation. EurActiv Poland reports. The country only spent 0.56% of its GDP on R&D in 2006 – a fraction of the EU's 3% goal.

Hungary faces uphill battle to reach EU's 3% R&D target (04 June 2010) - Hungary's expenditure on investing in research and development (R&D) barely amounts to 1% of GDP today. While Brussels sees boosting research and innovation as a way out of the current crisis, it is the economic downturn itself that is making the target seem over-ambitious. -

Slovakia calls for its own R&D target ( 04 June 2010) - The Slovak government has set itself the goal of investing 1.8% of its budget for GDP in research and development (R&D) by 2015. This target, smaller than 3% target for the EU as a whole by 2020, is still to be negotiated.

Research in bad shape in France (01 June 2010) - Investing 3% of GDP in research and development (R&D) – one of the targets of the EU’s 'Europe 2020' strategy – is badly needed in France but there is little chance of this goal being met in the next decade, especially at a time of crisis. EurActiv France reports. French investment was 2.2% in 2001 and has decreased ever since. In 2007, it was 2.08%, around half of which came from the private sector.

China, US 'moving faster than EU' on innovation (27 May 2010 ) - Martin Schuurmans, chairman of the newly-formed European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), says he is "not pessimistic" about Europe's ability to lead on research and innovation. But it needs to speed up if it wants to keep up with global competitors, the EIT chairman told EurActiv in an interview. 


Commission gives €1.4bn to ITER nuclear fusion project - With EU governments unwilling to fill the funding gaps in the multi-billion international nuclear fusion research project ITER, the European Commission is proposing to put an extra 1.4 billion euro on the table to honour the bloc's international commitment.

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