The European Research Area (ERA) was created at the EU Council, held in Lisbon in 2000 in the context of the Lisbon Strategy, also known as the Lisbon Agenda or Lisbon Process. It’s aim is (or, better, was) to make the EU "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment by 2010". What have become of these ambitions? Europe’s knowledge based economies still lag behind the US and Japan. It is two years left until 2010. EU has not even left the starting point. It is not much of an overstatement to say that the Lisbon Agenda is largely a failure. Still the European Commission is not short on initiatives. Whether it helps?
In 2007 the Commission published a “Green Paper on ERA” to review “progress” and raise questions for debate. The Green Paper set out six “axes”:
- high mobility of researchers between institutions and countries
- world class research infrastructures
- effective public-private co-operation and partnerships
- knowledge-sharing between public research and industry, as well as with the public at large
- coordination of research programs and definition of common priorities
- opening of ERA to the world to address global challenges.
Time for us to have a look what is being said about intellectual property in general and specifically on patents.
Do the results of the debate last year show a different approach towards IP? Or maybe a more common view on IP? Not quite. After all this is Europe. The result is as disappointing as the results of the Lisbon Agenda itself. See ipeg’s summary of IP positions in the ERA Green Paper, and the results of the “debate”. Not really surprising for those in the IP profession: IP raises eyebrows, concerns, question marks and no solutions or stimulus. It remains the EU stepchild of politicians and technology transfer professionals alike. Unlike the US where the Bay-Dohle Act made a huge difference in the way universities and publicly funded R&D institutions relate to intellectual property and patents, Europe lags behind in providing IP leadership and IP innovative thinking.
So we fund research institutions, we reach political agreement on a European Institute of Technology (EIT) to educate young scientists so as to compete with the US and Asia, but yet we fail to think about what the role of IP is in those initiatives? What do politicians expect when those young doctors, receiving their PhD’s at EIT and leave Europe to use their newly gained knowledge for the US anyway, or even China? Have we thought of maintaining access to the knowledge generated in Europe? Or are we waiting for the New Asian Tigers to let us pay for the intellectual property that we failed to secure, more interested in “sharing the knowledge to the public” than enjoying the fruits of our own knowledge society?
May we give the European Commission one advise? You recently decided to set up a “European Research Area Board” consisting of 22 members, “representing the scientific community, industry and civil society”, to advise on the progress on ERA. Would it not be a good idea to add an intellectual property thinker to contribute to this Board and promulgate the very important intellectual property aspects of knowledge dissemination? Someone who could liaise with IP professionals in the many EU institutions who do developed IP methodologies that mediate between a too “open source” type of knowledge management and proprietary models?
We have two years left to achieve some Lisbon goals. It’s time for real IP action now.