EU plants green shoots of recovery

I mentioned yesterday about the EU Commission’s plans to radically overhaul its approach to funding research and innovation.  As expected these were launched in the form of a green paper today which is now open for public consultation until 20 May 2011.  Quick summary as follows ( eGov also has quite a good overview).  The aim is for:

- Greater coherence in the funding of EU research and innovation based on a ‘Common Strategic Framework’

- Greater simplication to release researchers and innovators from red tape (but not like balloons I suspect) when they apply and have to account for funding

- Stronger leadership including a strengthening of the role of the European Research Council

- Maximising impact and value for money

You can also read the Commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn’s, speech at this morning’s press conference or her blog here for more details.  In fact one has to applaud the many and varied ways in which one can participate in the consultation process.  The main European Commission Research and Innovation website is also worth a look – it has to be one of the most colourful sites in the sector.

And for all those Euro-skeptics out there, it seems only appropriate to repeat the Wednesday evening TV mantra of ‘You have to be in it to win it.’

Pfizer…and innovation emergencies

The news that Pfizer is to close its R&D facility in Sandwich in Kent has shaken us from our sleepy winter hollows.

I’ve been watching the reactions and comments come over the wires as I am sure you have.  This is clearly a company going through considerable transition as it tries to change with the times – see the Reuters round-up of their results today for a good insight.  And essentially its the sort of hard-headed business decision that US companies seem prone to take about their global operations when restructuring.

So, a comment on Pfizer’s view of the UK as a place to do science?  No.  As a place to do business?  Possibly. 

But perhaps we should treat it as though it were the former.  For, ultimately, the impact is the same.  The loss of a world-class R&D facility in the UK.  As others have said today, it shows we need to up our game in how the Government and those across research work with industry.

Meanwhile…and no link between the stories is intended…I’ve been absorbing today’s report by the European Commission (see also BBC News)  ‘ Innovation Union Scoreboard’  It looks at the research and innovation performance of the 27 member states of the European Union.  The basic story is that the UK is rated an ‘Innovation Follower’ (just outside the ‘Innovation Leader’ category) and is playing catch-up with those ahead of it at a slower rate than its peers in the ‘Follower’ group. 

If you look at the country profile for the UK on page 50 it says some complimentary things about the UK having an ‘open, attractive, research systems’ and the stats show we are above average in the number of non-EU doctorate students (relevant to the immigration debate surely) and public R&D expenditure.  On most of the remaining indicators the story is not so good.

The European Commission, whose way with words is to be eternally admired, says the report is evidence of an ‘Innovation Emergency.’  I am not sure what to do in an ‘Innovation Emergency’ are you?  Other than look for my patent box of course.

Charity donations stutter to life in recession; medical research remains most popular cause

At our AGM last week, I held a workshop with our newly launched small charities network.  When asked their top concern, they almost all pointed to the difficulties of raising funds in the current climate.  Funds and fundraising are always the top headache for charities but in this sort of economy the difficulties are accentuated.

Today the Charities Aid Foundation and NCVO published their annual ‘UK Giving’ Report. It shows an increase in public donations on last year but that the total amount raised remains behind pre-recession levels.

But one bit of good news for AMRC member charities, scientists and patients is that medical research remains the most popular cause for donors, accounting for 32% of all donations and 17% of total value.  The figures also show that the UK is one of the countries with the highest proportion of the population giving to charity – this matches the Eurobarmoter data published earlier in the year and which I posted here.