Simplification: The discussion continues

The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU has committed itself to support simplification measures to FP7. On 14 July the Presidency organized a Simplification Seminar where experts discussed proposals with members of the European Commission (EC) and of the European Parliament (EP). The proposals ranged from short-term changes to grant management processes and procedures; over mid-term measures that involve changes to the financial regulations; to radical changes of the research funding system in place in Europe. In a hearing of the EP on 1 September, the question of simplification was further discussed and the Commission is expected to respond with concrete proposals until the end of the year. The Belgian Presidency wishes to present a set of conclusions on simplification during the Competitiveness Council on 12 October. (Source: SwissCore Synopsis 2010/7).

Third FP7 monitoring report

The European Commission (EC) published its third FP7 Monitoring Report in July 2010. The report covers the period 2007–2009 and shows that participation patterns are stable over the first three years of FP7. So far, there have been:
• 170 concluded calls
• 55’000 proposals received
• More than 9’000 projects involving over 50’000 researchers funded
• €15 billion funds committed by the EC
• An average success rate of 22%

Projects funded under FP7 have included researchers from 162 countries. The most active outside the EU Members States and Associated Countries have been the USA, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Australia and South Africa.

The monitoring report shows that there has been important progress regarding gender equality in the participation in FP7. Women represent 20.5% of individuals characterized as “contact persons for scientific aspects” in signed grant agreements. Also, more than a third (36.1%) of Marie Curie fellows as well as 19.4% of the Principal Investigators in ERC grant agreements were women. Despite the increase in women’s participation, compared to previous Framework Programmes, the set target of 40% for all programmes and projects is still a long way from being reached.

SME participation for the three years since the start of FP7 is at 14.5%. Despite increased rhetoric about including more SMEs in EU research programmes, the rate is actually down since the last monitoring report. The average SME participation for the first two years of FP7 was 15.5%.

In the period 2007- 2009 a total of 771 ethic reviews were carried out. Not a single project was stopped on ethical grounds.

Out of 1’601 requests for redress received only 19 led to a re-evaluation.

While the overall image conveyed by the third monitoring report is a positive one, it should be kept in mind that the report is based on specific indicators that do not include stakeholder’s views on FP7. The strong calls for reform and simplification of FP7 rules and procedures indicate that there is significant room for improvement for the remaining years of the Framework Programme. The upcoming interim evaluation of FP7 should fine-tune the picture given by the monitoring report.

The full third FP7 monitoring report is available <a href="">here</a>.

(Source: SwissCore Synopsis 2010/7).

EU patent

After having had a debate on the issue of a Community patent for almost 40 years without a real result, the EU now wants to speed up the discussion. The Community patent is supposed to become one of the visible cornerstones of the new EU innovation strategy which has to be approved by the Council in autumn.

Upon request of the Council, the European Commission (EC) proposed on 1 July a translation system for the Community patent based on the three principle languages of the European Patent Office (EPO), which are English, French and German. The goal of using only these three languages is to reduce translation costs and to make patenting in Europe more competitive compared to the US and Japan. According to EC estimations the Community patent would cost no more than €6’200 of which only 10% for transla- tion. A European patent validated in 13 countries currently costs up to €20’000, of which nearly €14’000 in translation alone, which makes it ten times more expensive than a US patent.

The language regime for the Community patent will be the main problem the Council has to overcome. For the other pestering issue, the patent litigation system, the Council agreed already on 4 December 2009 on a proposal for a single patent court system.

As the adoption has to be unanimous, it will be crucial that Spain and Italy can be convinced to give up their opposition against the language rules which they consider discriminatory, as Spanish and Italian are not foreseen as official languages. Some other critics say that it is a mistake that the EU patent should exist in parallel to the current national and European patents. They propose that EPO and national patent offices should stop granting patents as soon as the EU patent exists. Some critics also argue that special provisions and reductions in entry fees should be made for young technology based companies applying for an EU patent or for SMEs in general (e.g. by creating special schemes for SMEs like in Japan and the US). (Source: SwissCore Synopsis 2010/7).

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