With Europe’s biggest-ever research programme, Horizon 2020, now underway, Science|Business gathered several leaders in European research, industry and policy to debate the ethical questions that may arise. Their reflections, gathered here, are part of a Science|Business effort to spotlight the ethical dimensions of this vital new EU initiative.
Dynamic small companies are a key to driving economic growth; that much we all know. But what helps those companies grow? For a technologybased company, one answer is obvious: The ideas on which they found the company. In short, their intellectual property.
Over the past five years, the US shale gas boom has brought about dramatic changes in the North American energy landscape, prompting economic and environmental debate in Europe and other parts of the world. In the US, energy prices have fallen dramatically, helping drive economic recovery from the global recession. But the spread of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – the technology used to drill for shale gas – has raised the ire of environmentalists.
Over the past five years the Science|Business Academic Enterprise Awards have thrown a spotlight on 70 of Europe’s hottest technology spin-outs. The ACES winners are individuals who created companies based on cutting-edge research.
High performance computing now underpins top class science across all disciplines and is an essential tool for industry, shortening development cycles whilst at the same time improving the reliability and quality of products.
Third generation cognitive computing is making sense of data mountains and starting to deliver remarkable improvements in healthcare. Now, sensitively calibrated data protection rules are needed – to reassure patients and protect privacy, whilst allowing progress to continue.
There are no shortage of initiatives throughout the European Union to support green vehicle technologies and sustainable fuels for road transport. But the vision of a market where low-carbon cars and fuels dominate continues to fade into the distant future. Despite more than a decade of support from many EU governments and intensive R&D by industry, “green cars” that significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions represent less than one per cent of total vehicle sales in the EU. The technology race is taking longer than expected, and the policy options are limited.
The EU Energy Roadmap is based on optimistic assumptions. An energy policy for a resilient transition requires an open and transparent reference model that is fed by a fair assessment of the cost and capabilities of (existing and future) technologies.
European researchers working to advance technology frontiers face a dilemma. To keep their academic careers on track they must publish the results of their work as quickly as possible and present scientific breakthroughs at scholarly conferences. But to reap the benefits of possible commercial applications for themselves and their universities, they must remain silent until a patent is filed.