The European Commission will establish an observatory to map progress and measure the impact of the development of the European Union's bioeconomy, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn announced today. The observatory will gather data to follow the evolution of markets, to map EU, national and regional bioeconomy policies, research and innovation capacities, and the scale of related public and private investments. The observatory will be coordinated by the Joint Research Centre, the Commission's in-house science service.
In the face of the continuing economic and financial crisis, major EU-based firms continue to rely on R&D for their competitive edge. They increased R&D investment by 8.9% in 2011, up from 6.1% in 2010. The increase nearly matches US firms (9%), beats the global average (7.6%) and is far ahead of Japanese companies (1.7%). R&D-intensive sectors tended to show above average employment growth. These are key findings of the European Commission's 2012 "EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard" of the top 1500 global R&D investors. The global top 50 includes 15 EU companies, 18 US firms and 12 from Japan. Japanese car manufacturer Toyota tops the ranking, with Volkswagen the top EU company in third place (€7.2 billion invested). Recently released Eurostat data shows that combined EU public and private research spending increased to 2.03% of GDP in 2011, from 2.01% in 2010. This was mainly due to increased private sector spending.
A new report by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) presents an in-depth review of methods available to measure the size of nanoparticles. Following the adoption of the definition of the term 'nanomaterial' in October 2011, this report identifies relevant measurement methods and key challenges for measuring nanoparticle size in the regulatory context. The report underlines that no single measurement method can be used for all materials to determine if each of them falls within the regulatory definition. Different methods will be required depending on the material under investigation.
Quantifying noise exposure will be significantly easier thanks to a new set of common noise assessment methods published today. Comparable data on noise exposure in Europe is a prerequisite to set up EU policies to reduce noise pollution, a growing health and economic concern all over Europe. The new methods – known as Common Noise Assessment Methods in Europe (CNOSSOS-EU) – were drawn up by the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre. They assess noise from road, rail and air traffic and from industry, and will provide consistent and comparable data on the noise levels to which people are exposed. Member States will have to start using the new methods for the next round of EU-wide strategic noise mapping in 2017.
How many plants can be found in the Alps that are not native to that region? Which animals were deliberately or accidently introduced to the Danube? How big a threat will they become to local wildlife? EASIN, the European Alien Species Information Network, launched today by the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), takes a first step towards answering these and other questions related to 16 000 alien species currently reported all over Europe. This information network – the first of its kind in Europe – is an important step to deal with the threat of alien species that become invasive. Invasive species present a serious threat to biodiversity and natural resources, with an economic impact estimated at around € 12 billion per year.
Top EU businesses expect their investments in research and development to grow by an average of 4% annually over the period 2012 to 2014, according to a Commission survey of some of Europe's companies that invest the most in R&D. The figures show the importance that these companies place on R&D as a key factor for their future growth and prosperity, despite the current economic difficulties. The front runner is the software and computer services sector, which expects R&D investment to grow by 11% per year on average. In-house R&D is seen as the most relevant driver of innovation by the surveyed companies, followed by market research and related activities for new product introduction.
Sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping have sharply decreased in EU ports thanks to an EU policy which limits sulphur content in fuels for ships at berth or at anchor in ports. Scientists at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre measured key air quality parameters in Mediterranean harbours before and after the entry into force of the low-sulphur requirements in January 2010. In European harbours they found an average decrease of 66% i concentrations of sulphur dioxide, a chemical compound that poses risks to health and the environment. Measurements taken in a non-EU port showed that levels of this noxious substance remained the same.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the main cause of global warming - increased by 3% lst year, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes in 2011. In China, the world's most populous country, average emissions of CO2 increased by 9% t 7.2 tonnes per capita. China is now within the range of 6 to 19 tonnes per capita emissions of the major industrialised countries. In the European Union, CO2 emissions dropped by 3% t 7.5 tonnes per capita. The United States remain one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and an increased share of natural gas. These are the main findings of the annual report 'Trends in global CO2 emissions', released today by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
Necessity breeds invention, and the prospect of a complete ban on the use of animal testing in the EU cosmetics sector is a powerful driver for ambitious research and innovation across industry and academia. Methods to trigger cells into reinventing themselves, a prototype bioreactor to engineer living tissue and a computer model to predict the fate of a chemical in your body - these are just some of the recent achievements of SEURAT-1, a major European private-public research consortium that's working towards animal free testing and the highest level of consumer protection. With the European Commission's Joint Research Centre as a key partner, this biggest ever initiative in animal free toxicology is committed to doing things differently. A research strategy formulated around harnessing knowledge rather than simply generating data and an organisational model that marries crowd-sourcing with individual excellence, the proof of the pudding will be in demonstrating the concepts on which SEURAT-1 is built. Results in this field will also be useful in a wide range of other industrial and medical sectors and will have a positive impact on the competitiveness and innovation of EU companies.
An updated edition of the "Karlsruhe nuclide chart" has been published today by the Joint Research Centre's Institute for Transuranium Elements (JRC-ITU). This chart is an extended periodic table of the elements displaying all known atoms of any element and their radioactive data. The 8th edition contains new and updated radioactive decay data on 737 nuclides not available in the previous edition, dating from 2007. In total, nuclear data on 3847 nuclides are presented. An explanatory booklet is available in English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian. This publication supports the JRC's particular focus on the education and training of present and future scientists and engineers in the nuclear domain, as demanded by the Euratom Treaty.