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17.09.2008 | Official Opening of European Institute for Technology – European Savior or Just More Talk?
The EU is famous for launching new, and usually well-funded, projects aimed at making Europe the most ‘competitive economy in world by 2010’ – more commonly known as the “Lisbon Strategy 2000” or the “Re-launched Lisbon Strategy 2005”. On September 15, another piece of this jigsaw puzzle was officially launched - the new European Institute for Technology (EIT). The EU is financially backing the new EIT to the tune of € 300 million – and I hope these are tax euros well spent.

The EIT’s goal is to bring universities into public-private R&D partnerships called “Knowledge and Innovation Communities” or KICs to create new commercial opportunities. Commission President Barroso himself admits that the EU needs to catch up to the US noting that there is an 85% gap between the US and Europe in business funded R&D. To me, the real question is: why is there still an 85% gap? Let’s face it, business invests in R&D where it can be rewarded for its investment. That means creating the kind of business environment that stimulates ideas for inventors, business opportunities for entrepreneurs, and financial reward for investors – even the risky kind like venture capitalists. An important part of that business environment is protecting the intellectual property that is generated by the investment in R&D. That may seem obvious to some, but there is a lot of talk in some quarters that IP should not be protected and that it, in fact, hinders innovation.

A quick look at some U.S. numbers makes it difficult to overstate the value of IP to the U.S. economy. American intellectual property currently accounts for some one-third of the market value of all U.S. stock – $5 trillion-$5.5 trillion. That total is equivalent to 42% of America’s GDP and greater than the GDP of any other economy in the world. IP-intensive industries including pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and information technology recently accounted for 17.3% of all U.S. economic activity. As information and specialized knowledge become more important to both the European and American economies, IP will take on an even greater role.

I applaud the new EIT but, as the British like to say, “mind the gap”.

KAlley| 17.09.2008


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