Politics / Law
Messages from the EU's Survey on R&D
Brussels – As this ‘Heard in Brussels’ is being written, the ‘Heard’ element of my column is fairly ironic, as all you can hear in Brussels in August is the sound of tumbleweeds blowing down empty streets as politicians and their minions head off to their châteaux in the south …
Now is the time of year to get all that work done that has piled up in your in-box, and this August is no different. We have Europe’s 2010 Survey on R&D Investment Business Trends just published, and in the midst of an epic global recession, it delivers good reading and key warning points for biotechnology spending in Europe. R&D funding didn't collapse as much as feared in Europe, and cautious increases are forecast for 2011. BUT, the percentage of spending is miniscule compared to the rest of the world. Many new young highly-innovative markets are being fuelled by greater economic growth than in Europe. At the same time, the established giants are having to reorder themselves and squeeze maximum revenue from reduced spend.
Still a long way to go
The perennial issue of access to the right skills has been an important positive aspect for Europe. We have brilliant people in science and in business, and as investors and companies over the years have learned, it is the people that create success – the technology is secondary. Europe needs to continue growing great business managers for science, and get ruthless with those that stifle a technology with their inability to develop it as a business or product. A great technology is not chained to its inventor or the inventing organisation, especially if it's come from publicly-funded research. It belongs to the taxpayer. The issue of IPR was negative for EVERYBODY in the R&D survey, and this is ridiculous – it is so fixable within Europe, and a perfect example of how fragmented the EU chooses to make itself. There is no excuse whatsoever for the continued delay in a European patent. It remains a serious barrier to technology-driven economic growth.
A big ‘well done’ for Germany as well, the only European country to feature in the top three for R&D investment outside a company’s home country. France and the UK in particular should be wondering why they don’t feature more strongly. If Europe is to deliver on its innovation potential, it should be much more attractive to R&D investment from abroad. Finally and very positively, the greatest demand for collaboration was with other companies. B2B research partnerships have featured strongly in the last 12 months for the European Biotechnology Network, and the rewards are being felt in the shape of strong results across all biotech sectors.
Time to return to roaming the empty streets of Brussels. But in just a few more weeks they'll have filled again – and I will have cleared my in-box.