06 Jan 2011   |   Viewpoint

A new Web site, for a new R&D climate

Science|Business launches its revamped online portal for European research and innovation.

Since Science|Business launched five years ago, the climate for research and innovation has changed: Rapid growth and optimism has yielded to patchy, stop-start funding and political uncertainty. That makes it all the more important to pursue our mission: To catalyse progress in European R&D by bringing together the disparate worlds of researchers, industrialists and policy makers. The new Web site reflects that mission.

To explain: Look back at the past few years of research investment and policy. In 2005, the technology world was emerging from its Internet-bubble recession, and budgets and optimism seemed limitless. Then came the 2008 crash and a sudden divergence of paths. In the public sector, governments tipped buckets of cash into innovation as part of their economic stimulus packages – we counted more than $210 billion in new pledges around the world, equivalent to a fifth of industrialised-world R&D spending. But in the private sector, companies retrenched – by 1.9% on average 2009 R&D budgets, according to the European Commission.

Now, of course, the divergence is even greater. As suggested in a series of articles we have been publishing since Autumn, the picture is wildly different from one country, industry and type of institution to another. In the US, showcase technology legislation got through the lame-duck Congress in December – but all bets are off for what 2011 will bring. In Germany R&D grew in some sectors. In Britain, direct research funding was capped rather than cut, but university funding overall was bludgeoned. The confusion is also mirrored in the private sector: While some companies expand or grow their labs, others cut or outsource.

In such an uncertain climate, intelligence and contacts matter. If you’re a researcher, you need to know which government programmes and corporate labs are still spending – and you need to meet potential funders outside your home country and personal network. If you’re a corporate R&D manager, you need to know where the hottest new academic researchers are, how to gain from synergies with what governments are doing – and how to communicate effectively with these groups. And if you’re in the policy world, you need to devise effective new policies for this difficult environment – and you need to communicate them well.

Science|Business is here to help all three groups at once – to knit together more effectively the European innovation community. We do it through our news, our conferences, and our communications consulting. We do it also through a non-profit think tank we incorporated in Belgium last year, the Science|Business Innovation Board AISBL, to stimulate and promote new thinking in research and innovation policy.

And we’re doing it in this new Web site, which links together all of these activities. The site states our mission – to bring together the three communities of research, industry and policy. It showcases the tools we use for that – news, events, research reports, consulting and the Board. And it encourages new members to join. We are, ultimately, a membership organisation. We now have 24 university members, from Trondheim to Thessaloniki, from Warsaw to Barcelona. They are joined by a wide range of corporate backers in diverse sectors – including Microsoft, BP, GE and Pfizer. And we thank our many public-sector clients and supporters – in Brussels, London, Stockholm, Madrid and elsewhere.

In coming months, there will be more changes and new services introduced. We welcome your comments and suggestions, and wish you good fortune.

Comments are welcome at: richard.hudson@sciencebusiness.net

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