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This page was published on 11/02/2004
Published: 11/02/2004


Published: 11 February 2004  
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European innovation soaring high

The latest edition of the Commission's Innovation and Technology Transfermagazine carries a special dossier on how the European aerospace industry – flying high in the civil aviation innovation stakes – is turning to the new frontiers of space and defence.

Onboard Europe's high-flying aerospace industry © Image: European Commission
Onboard Europe's high-flying aerospace industry

© Image: European Commission

This year's sixth and final issue of Innovation and Technology Transfer – published in print and online formats by the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate-General – joins the high-flyers of the European aerospace industry for its special feature. It traces how Airbus has, over nearly three decades, flown the colours of Europe's successful venture into civilian aviation – including the hundreds of suppliers feeding this giant and the niche markets in which European firms excel.

But to remain at the industry's forefront requires continuous investment in innovation and research – an objective for which industry and policy-makers have joined forces. “Aerospace is a high-tech industry,” the magazine quotes a Commission official as saying. “Once you stop investing in innovation, it becomes very difficult to catch up.”

Towards that end, the Advisory Council on Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) was set up to coordinate research activities between the European Commission, major industry players and their customers. Last year, ACARE published its Strategic Research Agenda.

Although the global aviation industry has been facing some turbulent skies, European aerospace has weathered the storm and remains at the forefront of innovation. However, a recent independent EU-sponsored report, STAR 21, found that space and defence were two areas requiring more attention at the European level.

To address this challenge, the Commission has published a number of Green and White Papers, as well as Communications on the subject. It has also launched a number of high-profile space endeavours, such as probes to the moon and Mars, and has forged closer alliances with Russia and China in the space and telecommunications sectors.

The pulse of European biotech
Innovation and Technology Transfer reported on an EU initiative to gauge the vital signs of the biotechnology sector. By constructing a scoreboard to benchmark the performance of the industry, the Commission was able to shed some light on whether there really was a transatlantic gap in this vital emerging sector and, if so, how big it was.

The Biotechnology Innovation Scoreboard revealed some surprising findings. Among these was the fact that Denmark and Sweden had the best overall performance in the Scoreboard's suite of 12 indicators. Moreover, smaller countries – the two Nordic states and Belgium – dominate and are among the leading countries for nine indicators.

In addition, the EU's heavyweights – Germany, France and the UK – do not come off at all badly, with strong performances in eight indicators. “Yes, Europe does lag behind the US,” admits Lionel Nesta, one of the chart's authors. “[But] the best-performing countries can compare with the United States.”

Although a lack of data and difference in measuring conventions made the comparative exercise trickier, it nevertheless “hints at how Member States could work together to increase the EU's critical mass in biotechnology innovation”, Nesta concludes.

EU and ITT

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