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If Europe wants to be at the forefront of a global "knowledge-based economy", it needs to seriously up its spending on R&D, according to a report published yesterday. The European Commission warns that unless member states act to increase the proportion of their gross domestic product they invest in basic R&D, the EU will trail …

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Whenever the Commission cries out for "innovation" or "spending on R&D" it usually follows with a plea for stronger patent protection, having wholly swallowed the dogma that people only innovate because they can earn lovely royalties off their "intellectual property".

Not being entrepreneurs, the Commission does not understand what a market is, nor what it means to compete for customers by making products.

Official R&D figures ignore the SME sector, but that accounts for 80% of the economy according to some figures.

However, given the mess that patent thickets have made of many areas where Europe was meant to be dominant - e.g. telecoms - it'd not be surprising that R&D is slowing down. What's the point of making shiny products when you're likely to be sued? It's easier to retire from product development altogether, pump up your patent portfolios, and let the Asians do the hard and suable work of turning "IP" into actual sellable products.

The irony is that large patent holders in cahoots with the patent industry then lobby for more lax patent examination and stricter patent enforcement regimes, and manage to confuse the poor Commission into promoting this vision in the name of "R&D".

Hmm... let me look into my crystal ball... more so-called "R&D" for large firms (hidden subsidies)... a European Bayh-Dole-style act (turn Universities into patent troll incubators)... push for an European patent judiciary (kill those petulant national courts that insist on observing the letter of the law and discarding software patents)... push for specialised patent courts (where patent experts can jack-up their costs)... help "educate SMEs" in the proper use of IPR (nice business you got here, guv, shame if a patent lawsuit were to 'appen)...

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Anonymous Coward

This article says it all really...

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm completely fed up with reading current "reports" and "studies" relating to the state of the EU knowledge economy. I "recently" read another about the lack of spin-off Nanotechnology companies, due to the fact that the US and Japan are far better at turning new ideas into real products. It's clear as crystal the reason why this is the case. They spend less time "discussing" and more time "doing". All Europe does is sit round a table and moan.

Europe should be at least matching the percent of GDP other countries spend on R&D if it hopes to be competitive in the new economy, particularly once india and china really start to flex their muscles. This is not an overly simplistic argument; you cannot achieve anything by doing nothing. This will become even more evident as the advent of molecular scale science takes hold. Then Europe will sleepwalk into economic disaster (if it is not first overwhelmed by mass imigration by by peoples who do not share our values and some of which seek to destroy us). My hopelessness stems from the fact that governments rarely listen to these "reports", or respond with tokenism. If they did listen, then may these reports would be worth the time afterall.

This is all unsurprising since most government leaders are graduates of such ethereal subjects as humanities or law. I wonder whether this is as true in places like Japan? I think I might emigrate.

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