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Research & Technology in the EU

Latest news about research and innovation policy in the European Union.

Space surveillance and tracking proposal
The European Commission has proposed measures to keep Europe's space industry competitive and to set up a European satellite collision avoidance system. While the EU is seen as a strong player in the global market for commercial launchers and telecommunication satellites and services, it faces increasing competition from emerging industrial actors in countries such as China and India - competition posing a challenge to the further development of the EU's industry. To address this issue, the Commission is proposing what it calls a new industrial policy for the European space sector, with a number of targets: to increase industry skill levels, to make finance and investment more readily available, to ensure the EU's independence in space and also to reshape the EU's legislative framework to make it a driver for industry - for example with legislation to promote the production and dissemination of data from satellites for commercial purposes. These initiatives will be complemented by a surveillance and tracking system to protect satellites from collisions in space. There are around 16,000 objects orbiting the Earth larger than 10 cm, a collision with any of whom would destroy a satellite. The proposed support programme would allow EU Member States that monitor satellites and space debris to pool their capacities and establish, for the first time, a European monitoring system.

EU health research on rare diseases
In the European Union, a disease is considered rare when it affects not more than 1 person in 2 000. This low prevalence is the common feature shared by all rare diseases, which altogether affect all biological systems. This nevertheless means that between 6 000 and 8 000 different rare diseases affect or will affect an estimated 29 million people in the European Union. The focus of rare diseases research in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7; 2007-2013) is on Europe-wide studies of natural history, pathophysiology and on the development of preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

New research on rare diseases
The European Commission has, on Rare Disease Day 2013, announced EUR 144 million of new funding for 26 research projects on rare diseases. The projects will help improve the lives of some of the 30 million Europeans suffering from a rare disease. The selected projects bring together over 300 participants from 29 countries in Europe and beyond, including teams from leading academic institutions, SMEs and patients' groups. The goal is to pool resources and work beyond borders, to get a better understanding of rare diseases and find adequate treatments.

Digital Agenda Review - new digital priorities for 2013-2014
The European Commission has adopted seven new priorities for the digital economy and society. The digital economy is growing at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy, but the Commission says this potential is currently held back by a patchy pan-European policy framework. Today's priorities follow a comprehensive policy review and place new emphasis on the most transformative elements of the original 2010 Digital Agenda for Europe.

GMES/Copernicus - European Earth Observation Programme
Copernicus is the new name of the European Commission’s Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The new name was announced today by Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani during the Competitiveness Council. In a world facing an increased risk of natural and other disasters Copernicus aims to monitor the state of the environment on land, at sea and in the atmosphere and also to improve citizens' security. At the same time, Copernicus is a driver for economic growth and employment, with the potential to create up to 85 000 new jobs over the period 2015-2030, according to a recent study.

EU patent: SMEs welcome unitary system, urge Italy and Spain to join
UEAPME, the European craft and SME employers' organisation, warmly welcomed the votes at the Competitiveness Council yesterday (Monday) and at the European Parliament today (Tuesday) paving the way to a unitary patent system in the EU.

Single European Patent
EU inventors will soon be able to get a unitary patent at last. After over 30 years of talks, the European Parliament put its stamp to a new regime which will cut the cost of an EU patent by up to 80%, making it more competitive vis-à-vis the US and Japan. In the compromise deal with the Council endorsed by Parliament on 11 December 2012, MEPs cut costs for small firms and tailored the regime better to their needs.

EU cloud computing board begins work
The Steering Board of the new European Cloud Partnership (ECP) met for the first time in Brussels on 19 November, kicking-off a process where public authorities and industry work together to help building the EU Digital Single Market for cloud computing pursuant to the European Cloud Computing Strategy. Specifically, the ECP aims at leveraging the public sector's buying power to shape the growing and maturing market for cloud computing services. Chaired by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, the board brings together tech Chief Executive Officers and government representatives with responsibility for IT procurement. The board will deliver strategic advice to Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes.

Opposition filed against patent on chimpanzees
Patent violates ethical boundaries of European patent law

Checklist for EU innovation and research funding
In order to determine which programme or funding source is the most relevant to support your idea, Cordis has identified 6 key questions that will guide you to the relevant funding opportunities: Am I eligible for a given programme or funding source? Is my type of research, innovation or enterprise development activity eligible? What about my timeframe? What type of financial support can I obtain? Who else is involved in the project? Can I apply for funding in my location?

Marie Curie Prize 2012
The first winners of the European Commission's new Marie Curie Prize for outstanding achievement in research were announced on 5 November at a ceremony in Nicosia, Cyprus. The three winners are Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis from Greece, in the 'Promising Research Talent' category, Dr Claire Belcher from the United Kingdom, for 'Communicating Science', and Dr Sarit Sivan from Israel, for 'Innovation and Entrepreneurship'. Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, presented each scientist with a trophy at the ceremony. This is taking place in the context of a conference focused on the future of the Marie Curie Actions and Horizon 2020, the Commission's proposed €80 billion programme for investment in research and innovation. Under the proposal, over €5.75 billion would be allocated to the Marie Curie Actions in 2014-2020. The scheme has supported the training, mobility and skills development of more than 65 000 researchers since its launch in 1996.

European Patent Office issues patents on chimpanzees
In 2012 the European Patent Office (EPO) has granted three patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees as recent research carried out by No Patents On Life shows.

EC measures to tackle biopiracy and facilitate nature-based research
Researchers and companies in the EU received a boost today with a new proposal that should provide reliable access to genetic resources from outside the Union. The proposal – a draft Regulation that would implement the 'Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit-sharing' – is designed to protect the rights of countries and of indigenous and local communities that allow their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge to be used, while also giving researchers in Europe improved, reliable access to quality samples of genetic resources at low cost with high legal certainty.

EU nanotechnology plan: tiny focus on consumer protection
Everyday products from clothes to children’s toys contain nanomaterials. Regrettably, the European Commission today disregarded calls from the European Parliament, consumer groups and environmental NGOs to force nanomaterial producers to be transparent about the substances they use and improve pre-market testing.

Safe use of nanomaterials: a case by case approach
Nanotechnology is delivering major advances today and also has the potential to allow “game changing” technological breakthroughs and rekindle economic growth. In recognition of this fact, the European Commission on 3 October adopted a Communication on the Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials, which also includes the Commission’s plans to improve EU law to ensure the safe use of nanomaterials. The Communication underlines nanomaterials' diverse nature and types, ranging from everyday materials that have been used safely for decades (e.g., in tyres or as anticoagulants in food) to highly sophisticated industrial materials and tumour therapies. There is an increasing body of information on the hazard properties of nanomaterials, which are difficult to generalize and justify specific risk assessments. Therefore, rather than putting all nanomaterials in one basket, a case-by-case approach to risk assessment should be applied, using strategies based on indications of potential risks, either in terms of exposure or hazard.

Cloud computing: new strategy to drive European business and government productivity
The European Commission's new strategy for "Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe" outlines actions to deliver a net gain of 2.5 million new European jobs, and an annual boost of EUR 160 billion to EU GDP (around 1%), by 2020. The strategy is designed to speed up and increase the use of cloud computing across the economy. 'Cloud computing' refers to the storage of data (such as text files, pictures and video) and software on remote computers, which users access over the internet on the device of their choice. This is faster, cheaper, more flexible and potentially more secure than on-site IT solutions. Many popular services such as Facebook, Spotify and web-based email use cloud computing technologies but the real economic benefits come through widespread use of cloud solutions by businesses and the public sector.

Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: A strategic approach
The European Commission has set out a new strategy for developing international cooperation in research and innovation. The strategy proposes to further focus cooperation on EU strategic priorities while maintaining the tradition of openness to third country participation in EU research.

Galileo Satellite Navigation Agency now based in Prague
The European GNSS Agency (GSA) inaugurated its new premises in Prague on 6 September. Previously headquartered provisionally in Brussels, the GSA moved its seat to Prague over this summer, as had been agreed by the EU Heads of State and Government on 10 December 2010.

Promoting the shared use of radio spectrum resources in the internal market
In its Communication on "Promoting the shared use of radio spectrum resources in the internal market", published on 3 September, the European Commission pushes and supports EU Member States to move to an enhanced innovation-friendly internal market framework for the shared use of spectrum. Meeting the growing spectrum needs resulting from the exponential growth in wireless data traffic and the increasing importance of wireless connectivity in the economy, is limited by the absence of vacant spectrum. However, says the Commission, the radio spectrum is a unique resource that can be re-used more efficiently with advances in technologies. This makes additional spectrum resources available and lowers the spectrum access hurdles for new users. To cope with the demand and to attract investments into new technologies, the EU needs a supportive regulatory framework that enables legally binding spectrum sharing contracts between users to encourage wireless innovation in the internal market.

Marine Knowledge: digital seabed map of European waters
The oceans and seas that surround Europe offer new opportunities for growth and jobs to meet the Europe 2020 goals. To best tap this potential, there is a need to know more about what is happening under the sea. The European Commission is proposing to create a digital seabed map of European waters by 2020 by collecting all existing data into one coherent database accessible to everyone. In a Green Paper on "Marine Knowledge" adopted today the Commission launches a consultation as to how this could be achieved. It poses a number of questions such as "how can ongoing efforts in Member States be incorporated into a common EU effort?", "how can new cheaper observation technologies be developed?" and "how can the private sector contribute?"

Marine knowledge 2020
Marine Knowledge 2020 brings together marine data from different sources with the aim of: Helping industry, public authorities and researchers find the data and make more effective use of them to develop new products and services. Improving our understanding of how the seas behave.

The 2012 EU SURVEY on R&D Investment Business Trends
The report contains the main findings of the seventh survey on R&D investment business trends based on 187 responses of mainly large companies from the 1000 EU-based companies in the 2011 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard. These 187 companies are responsible for R&D investment worth almost €56 billion, constituting around 40% of the total R&D investment of the 1000 EU Scoreboard companies.

Central and Eastern Europe Beyond Transition: Convergence and Divergence in Europe
The focus of the Forward Look project is on Central and Eastern Europe ‘beyond transition’: the objective being to define the extent to which social science research agendas need to address issues that are specific to this region, and the extent to which pan-European research agendas need to pay more attention to the specific dynamics of change in this region. The last 25 years have witnessed some of the most profound political, social and economic changes in Europe’s history. The fall of communism at the end of the 1980s not only reshaped relationships within the continent against a background of rapidly increasing globalisation, but also provided fascinating insights into the potential for, and limitations of, the large-scale reshaping of society. The Forward Look ‘Central and Eastern Europe Beyond Transition: Convergence and Divergence in Europe’ aimed both to identify the developments in CEE which would, could or should become hot research topics in the study of CEE as a part of European society and as such be promoted and endorsed by national and European grant institutions; and to outline ways in which foresight on CEE can contribute to the development of the social sciences in general and input important topics into transnational research.

European Research Area - guide
The European Commission has today set out concrete steps Member States should take to achieve the European Research Area (ERA), a Single Market for research and innovation in Europe. The goal is to enable researchers, research institutions and businesses to better move, compete and co-operate across borders. This will strengthen Member States' research bases, increase their competitiveness and allow them to work together more effectively to tackle major societal challenges, such as climate change, food and energy security and public health. To help achieve the European Research Area, the Commission has also today signed a Joint Statement and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with organisations representing key research organisations and research funding bodies. The proposals are a response to the deadline set by EU leaders to make the European Research Area a reality by 2014.

Communication from the Commission "Smart Cities and Communities - European Innovation Partnership" [COM(2012)4701]
On 10 July 2012, the European Commission launched the Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership. The partnership proposes to pool resources to support the demonstration of energy, transport and information and communication technologies (ICT) in urban areas. The energy, transport and ICT industries are invited to work together with cities to combine their technologies to address cities' needs. This will enable innovative, integrated and efficient technologies to roll out and enter the market more easily, while placing cities at the centre of innovation. The funding will be awarded through yearly calls for proposals: €365 million for 2013.