Unexpectedly they’re upping the research budget in the European Union. According to the item online at BBC News,
The EU has announced 6.4bn euros (£5.4bn) of funding for scientific research and innovation next year – a 12% increase on this year’s allocation.
The programme is aimed at creating more than 165,000 jobs and developing “a more competitive and greener Europe”, the European Commission says.
The focus is on tackling climate change, energy projects, food security, health and Europe’s ageing population.
Grants will be awarded to about 16,000 research bodies and businesses.
“Research and innovation are the only smart and lasting route out of crisis and towards sustainable and socially equitable growth,” said the EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.
“There is no other way of creating good and well-paid jobs that will withstand the pressures of globalisation.”
EU-funded research currently accounts for about 5% of the total public funding for research in the EU, she said.
The investment includes more than 600m euros for health research, about 206m euros of which will go into clinical trials for new drugs.
Nanotechnologies will get 270m euros, while about 600m euros is earmarked for advanced computer technologies. [emphasis mine]
Another 400m euros is to be spent on computer applications that address the challenges of building a low-carbon economy and managing ageing populations.
I was inclined to view it as a piece of delightful news without really analyzing it, then David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis) made a salient comment,
I suspect that the European spending will be insufficient even if individual nations hold the line on their own science funding. Because even those nations are looking at significant cuts to their universities, which affect both the training of the next generation of researchers and a certain amount of research. At best the funding boosts and cuts will be a wash, but the future doesn’t look like the best. What might happen is a greater shift in attention to European Union level research compared to country level research.
David also provides a brief description of the ‘framework programme’ that the European Union uses to fund science research so that readers (such as me) have a better understanding of the bigger picture. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, do check out his posting.
David’s commentary was particularly timely as, this morning, I came across an article about the French government funding nanotechnology research in Canada (Sherbrooke, Québec to be precise). Since the article is in French, I’m going to be relying on my translation skills (Note: I will reproduce at least some of the French, so do let me know if you spot any errors.)
There is an abbreviated version of the article (Nanotechnologies: un petit bout de France à L’UdeS) by Jonathan Custeau for the Sherbrooke Tribune here (fyi, somebody sent me a copy of the full article).
The University of Sherbrooke’s current nanotechnology laboratory (Laboratoire international associé en nanotechnologies et nanosystèmes [LIA-LN2]) is about to receiving funding to the tune of ! million Euros over three years from France’s CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) putting it in a category occupied by only eight other labs in the world.
I gather the lab’s current LIA-LN2 status is a consequence of previous French funding since the university’s vice-president of research describes the current bonanza as ‘jumping to a new level’, i.e. jumping to Unité mixte international (UMI) status,
“Nous étions tellement en avance que nous sautons à un autre niveau”, fait valoir Jacques Beauvais, vice-recteur à la recherche de l’Université de Sherbrooke.
L’autre niveau, c’est l’Unité mixte internationale, un laboratoire financé par le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS français. Il n’en existe que huit à travers le monde.
“Une UMI coûte très cher, parce que c’est un vrai laboratoire, avec des chercheurs financés par le CNRS, des fonds de recherches français et européens. C’est comme s’il y avait un bout de France sur le campus de l’Université de Sherbrooke”, fait valoir Vincent Aimez, codirecteur du LIA-LN2.
The nanotechnology researchers at the University of Sherbrooke (L’UdeS) have been liaising and collaborating with researchers in Varennes, Lyon, and Grenoble, France for over two years, so this new funding is an acknowledgment of the quality of their work.
Bravo—the award is all the more extraordinary given the concerns about science and university funding in Europe.
January 2012 is the launch date for the University of Sherbrooke’s UMI which will have a focus on bringing at least some of the academic research to the market. Miniaturized integrated circuit boards are mentioned specifically and my translation skills failed a bit here,
Les applications des recherches pourraient notamment permettre de relever le défi de la miniaturisation des puces électroniques [integrated circuit boards?]. “Nous cherchons à faire des puces avec plus de fonctions, mais qui consomment moins d’énergie, pour qu’elles restent efficaces pendant un mois par exemple. Nous voulons aussi développer des biocapteurs [?] pour des contrôles environnementaux [?] ou des analyses médicales [medical diagnostics?]“, précise Abdelkader Souifi, également codirecteur du LIA-LN2.
I found the comments regarding products quite interesting in light of the Québec government’s recent moves to improve innovation in that province as per the article (June 30, 2010) by Peter Hadekel in the Montréal Gazette. (Idle thought: This casts a new light on the recent Domtar-FPInnovations collaboration on nanocrystalline cellulose (my July 16, 2010 posting).