Saturday, 18 September 2010

Is the UK's voice getting stronger?

The car in this photo drives itself - well not quite but it is really cool, hence my laughter. A bit of clever electronics and software stored on a mobile phone had adapted the cruise control. I drove along a twisty country road and through roundabouts in town without touching the brake or accelerator. All I needed to do was steer and over-ride if other cars appeared. The inventors from Ricardo in Cambridge are now working on a project that will allow you to totally hand over the controls of your car to a driver in front. Letting them negotiate the M25 traffic jam for you whilst you check emails or watch a movie. Very cool and fuel efficient too.

Ricardo had asked me to come and hear their experience with research projects funded by the EU. They had some specific suggestions - a less complex process for managing foreign exchange issues (currently they need to reconcile exchange rates daily), for the EU to be able to pay grants directly to junior partners rather than having all money funneled through the lead (with resulting business risk) and for a web based “dating” service to help find research partners.

Last week I went into a negotiation armed with a list of changes I would like to see. I walked out of the meeting with a tick beside every point. A year ago I found it incredibly difficult to get a UK voice heard on anything - in that meeting I found I was at least listened to on everything. Thank you to everyone who has answered my call for advice on the EU research program - PLEASE KEEP THEM COMING. I’m not a researcher/scientist/engineer/innovator but if you are and have experiences or good suggestions then I can at least try get them aired.

OK the arguments we are having on financial services and economic reforms are a LOT more complicated - but even there the attitude towards the UK’s point of view is markedly more friendly than a year ago.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Feedback wanted on Research and Development

It is a little known fact that there are more universities, businesses and other organisations participating in European programs for research and development from the UK than from any other country.
It is also a vast amount of public money – the EU budget for Framework 7 which runs from 2007 to 2013 is €51 billion. Indeed, the amount of money spent in the UK on R&D from EU budgets is roughly equal to the entire amount of support given domestically through R&D tax credits.
The European system of Framework Grants has a reputation for being the most bureaucratic and complex system in the world. Nevertheless, supporting research and development is vital for innovation and fundamental to future economic growth.
In light of this I have volunteered to be one of a small group of MEPs, and the only UK member, on a working group looking at simplification of framework grants and future strategy.
I would be interested the experiences and opinions of readers who have been involved in Framework funding projects in the past. Please email comments to