For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

2020 foresight, or time for some Union-bashing?

The IPKat's sage old friend Richard Gallafent (Gallafents) has drawn his attention to some curious European Commission web pages relating to the Innovation Union. The first, headed "Why do we need an Innovation Union?", reads as follows:

"Boosting our research and innovation performance is the only way for Europe to create good and well-paid jobs that will withstand the pressures of globalization and support sustainable growth [This is a change: Merpel thought the best way to create such jobs was to increase the number of EU civil servants].

Currently Europe has many strengths but is in danger of lagging behind the US, while other countries are catching up fast.

We are spending every year 0.8% of GDP less than the US and 1.5% less than Japan in Research & Development (R&D). We have not yet achieved our target of investing 3% of GDP in research and innovation: instead the current rate is under 2%. Private sector R&D is increasingly outsourced to emerging economies and thousands of our best researchers and innovators have moved to countries where conditions are more favourable [Within the EU, competition is supposed to be a good thing in itself -- but as between economies is it something to be avoided? If we Europeans treasure our social legislation, should we not acknowledge that this comes at a price since investors will go where they get more R&D output per unit invested?]. Although the EU market is the largest in the world, it remains fragmented and insufficiently innovation-friendly. Too few of our innovative SMEs grow into large companies ["Too few" suggests that the Commission has a number in mind.  And are we not consistently told that SMEs are proportionately more generative of innovations? This suggests that we should encourage them to remain small -- that way they won't lose sleep over the EU's monumentally complex competition law regulations].

The main obstacles to innovation in Europe are:

* unfavorable framework conditions: private investment in research and innovation is being held back and ideas prevented from reaching the market by poor availability of finance [this seems to be a current consideration globally, not just in the EU though], costly patenting [though is it not proportionately much cheaper than it was 30 years ago -- and does this not equally affect non-EU businesses, just as cheaper patenting in the US and elsewhere benefits EU businesses too], market fragmentation, outdated regulations [competition law? health and safety?] and procedures, slow standard-setting [Is this not a global issue? And standards are always going to be slow to set if they depend on (i) establishing consensus and (ii) being competition-compliant] and the failure to use public procurement strategically [but the conditions that have to be fulfilled both by the public bodies putting contracts out to tender and by those who seek to be awarded are so tiresome and complex that they act as a deterrent].

* fragmentation of effort: national and regional research and innovation systems are still working along separate tracks, which leads to costly duplication [Costly duplication is a by-product of any non-monopolistic system. Even presumably harmless innovation competitions foster it]. By better pooling our efforts [does the IPKat hear "cartels?"] and focusing on excellence, and by creating a true European Research Area [this sounds like a slogan rather than a meaningful concept], the EU can enhance the quality of research and Europe's potential for major breakthroughs. And through Innovation Partnerships [see below] and other measures, the EU can rebuild broken links in the chain between research and bringing innovations to the market".
If you are wondering what an Innovation Partnership is, the IPKat can tell you that it's part of the dream vision that constitutes Europe 2020 -- the ten-year strategy launched in March for reviving the economy of the Old World. More specifically, in the Commision's own words (cliches, tired old aspirations and popular buzz-words are depicted in blue):

"Innovation Partnerships are a new approach to EU research and innovation. They will mobilise stakeholders - European and national, public and private - behind well-defined goals in policy areas which combine tackling societal challenges with potential for Europe to become a world leader".
The IPKat is not afraid of R&D cash being invested in developing economies. If we in the EU are happy to exploit their cheap labour, lack of European-style employment protection etc for the sake of the cheap goods we enjoy in the shops and the cheap call-centre services we endure at the hands of our major service-providers, why should we be unhappy to give their skilled, enterprising brains a chance to prove themselves -- especially since we have educated so many of them in our own universities and created in them many of our own material and intellectual expectations? 

2020 visions here
2020 hindsight here
2525 here

No comments:

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':