Unico Response to the European Commission European Research Area
Below is Unico's response submitted to the European Commission regarding the Green Paper, European Research Area. For more information about the Green Paper or the consultation process, go to http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/consultation-
Unico welcomes the European Research Area (ERA). In an era of global competition in research, a European strategy can provide unique advantages in research commercialisation and research consultancy for industry throughout the EU.
In response to the European Commission Green Paper "European Research Area: New Perspectives", Unico supports the introduction of a "grace period" into the European patent system and would welcome a European patent system that would permit faster, less complex, and less expensive patenting. These changes would benefit universities throughout the ERA and the knowledge economy in general. Unico also welcomes the harmonisation of Intellectual Property (IP) rules throughout the ERA.
The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), the permanent "third" stream of UK government funding for UK universities, has provided universities more stable resources to maximise the economic and social impact from research discoveries and better facilitated university-industry engagement. HEIs not only support quality spin-out companies but also offer a range of services that can be utilised by industry and other partners such as licensing, consultancy, business skills training, contract research and problem solving. With just one per cent of the world's population, the UK produces nine per cent of all scientific papers and receives 12 per cent of all citations, including 13 per cent of the most highly cited ones. The UK is also ranked first in terms of papers and citations per head in the G7. Spin-out companies, licensing and other research-related business have accounted for over half of the UK's job growth in the past two decades. In the past three years alone, 25 university spin-out companies have floated on the stock market at a value of £1.5 billion. (Unico, 2007) Unico would be supportive of further funding from the European Union similar to the UK's HEIF programme that would support the objectives of research commericialisation and industry collaboration.
KT expertise is widely variable across EU countries with some EU countries home to significant KT world leaders. The European Commission should recognise further the current centres of excellence in KT and provide better support to them to assist others. Additionally, existing KT networks, such as Unico and the Association of European Science and Technology Professionals, and the KT training organisations, such as Praxis Courses Ltd, should be encouraged to share best practice more widely and efficiently throughout the EU.