"We will soon find it hard to accept that there was once a time when to be a researcher and a woman was considered an exceptional performance."
- Edith Cresson at the Women and Science Conference.
Keen not to miss "the Fifth Framework Programme's rendezvous with equal opportunities", Edith Cresson, Member of the European Commission responsible for research, education and innovation, invited scientists to debate the issue at the Women and Science Conference in Brussels on 28-29 April.
Lack of reliable data was the first deficiency, said Mary Osborn, lecturer at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen. "In order to learn the exact position of women scientists, to compare progress on equal opportunities in different countries, and to assess the impact of European programmes, there is an urgent need to compile statistics on a pan-European basis."
"In the United Kingdom, the number of women S&T graduates increased from 6% to 14% between 1980 and 1993," says sociologist Judith Glover of the Roehampton Institute in London. "But we have seen scarcely any increase in the proportion of women who find employment in their specialist field - just 13% in 1979, and still only 17% in 1996. While most men secure management posts, most women join the teaching profession."
Those who do go on to undertake R&D projects are severely tested. As Christine Wenneras and Agnes Wold, researchers at Gothenburg University, have shown in a celebrated study in Nature magazine, members of the Swedish Medical Research Council displayed a clear preference for men when assessing post-doctorate projects. Among 114 cases examined in the study, the best marks awarded to women rarely exceeded the poorest marks awarded to men. Women also had to publish 2.6 times as much work as their male colleagues in order to be credited with an equivalent 'scientific ability'.
This view was supported by Rosanna D'Amorio, Liaison Officer with the Italian Institut Mario Negri. "Our organisation has consciously chosen a balanced mix of the sexes," she explained. "We are convinced that women researchers have a specific contribution to make." The Institute employs 117 men and 123 women, two women and one man fill management posts, and 48% of funded research projects are led by women.
N. Dewandre, DGXII
Fx. +32 2 296 4299
Equal Opportunities in 5FPThe European Commission proposes a range of measures to promote equal opportunities in the forthcoming Fifth Research Framework Programme (5FP):
Venture capitalists mingled with biotechnology entrepreneurs at the Kredietbank headquarters in Brussels on 12-14 May. The 300 delegates met to get to know each other, and if possible to do business. This was the first conference of the Biotechnology and Finance Forum (1), a joint creation of the European Commission's Directorate-General for research (DG XII) and EASD, the European Association of Securities Dealers. Its aim was to stimulate understanding, dialogue and networking between two very different worlds.
To the public, biotechnology is a mixed blessing. It leads to improvements in areas such as health and food, but raises fears of genetic manipulation. The confused legal situation over the patenting of genes (2) has reflected this ambivalence. Yet the sector is the darling of the stock markets. Already, one third of the value of the French Nouveau Marché is in biotech stocks. "Biotechnology will definitely be the sector of the next century," says Didier Duhem, EASD's Chairman. Why is it, then, that so many ambitious researchers say 'there's no money', while so many investment banks say 'there are no projects to invest in'?
(1) See edition 1/98.
(2) A Directive on the legal protection of intellectual property rights in biotechnological inventions, approved by the European Parliament on 11 May and now awaiting final adoption by the Council, will greatly clarify the situation. See also 'Biotechnology' Dossier, edition 3/98.
(3) See 'Financing Innovation in Europe' Dossier, edition 6/97.
S. Hogan, DG XII-E-1
Tl. +32 2 296 2965
Fx. +32 2 299 1860
Conference report: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg12/biotech/finance.html
Tl. +32 2 227 6565
Fx. +32 2 227 6524
In addition to the Commission's own materials, AMUE, the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe, has published several preparation guides for businesses, which include easy-to-follow checklists.
For the 11 countries which will join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in the first wave, the changeover period begins on 1 January 1999. Euro coins and notes will be introduced on 1 January 2002, with national ones remaining in circulation until 1 July at the latest. But many companies' invoices will be denominated in euros much sooner than that.
By the beginning of 1998, however, it was estimated that fewer than one SME in four had started to consider how they would be affected by the introduction of the euro (1).
The European Commission's Expert Group on Small Businesses and the Euro emphasises that it will not be in every company's best interests to make an early transition to the euro. Optimum timing will depend in particular on the attitudes of customers and suppliers. But the longer preparation is delayed, the greater the transitional costs are likely to be. This applies to all European enterprises - including those not based in one of the participating countries, but likely to trade with those which are.
Robert Verrue, Director-General responsible for the Innovation programme, recently co-chaired a special IT Forum, designed to assess progress in the area of company information systems, and believes that larger companies may be at greatest risk. "Companies of up to 500 employees will usually be able to buy cost-effective off-the-shelf products," he says. "The main problem is with those of between 500 and 5,000 employees, many of which have tailor-made systems which will require adaptation. These companies seem to have been especially slow to recognise the need to prepare." (2)
Finally, essential organisational tasks include comprehensive impact assessment, developing a budgeted plan for the changeover, and appointing a team to manage it.
A dedicated web site has been established (http://www.europa.eu.int/euro/), and provides links to many resources. The magazine Infuro, produced in all 11 official languages, has a circulation of 300,000. An information programme aimed at the business community has been launched, and includes practical tools for managers. Additional planning tools specifically for SMEs will be available from DG XXIII (on paper or CD-ROM) at the end of the year.
(1) Euro Paper: Report by the Expert Working Group "Small Businesses and the Euro".
(2) Quoted in Infuro magazine Number 6, December 1997
D. Costello, DG II
Fx. +32 2 299 3505
E. Berck, DG XXIII
Fx. +32 2 295 9784
Fx. +33 1 45 22 33 77
Fédération des Experts Comptables Européens (FEE)
Fx. +32 2 231 1112
The computer modelling needed to design AVL List's new direct-injection engine would not have been possible without the help of researchers at universities around the world.
The innovation climate in Europe is changing fast, though we still have a long way to go. We have the brains, the people and even the money," says Member of the European Commission Edith Cresson. Under the EU's Fifth Research Framework Programme, currently in preparation, an important component of this change will be to stimulate job creation and growth by capitalising on Europe's academic research.
Mme Cresson was addressing a conference in Coventry, United Kingdom, on improving links between industrialists and academics. Organised on behalf of the UK Presidency of the European Union by Coventry University Enterprises, the event took place on 14-15 May and attracted more than 100 delegates from 27 countries.
Trinity's innovation drive began at a bleak time for the Irish economy, when academics needed to find new ways to survive. Now the economy is booming, and everyone wants more research space. Industrial research labs are already an important part of the Trinity formula, but the Innovation Centre wants to grow ten-fold, while preserving the qualities which have made it successful. "Informal contacts are essential, so it is important that everyone remains within walking distance of each other," says Hegarty.
When it comes to publication, academics and industrialists can have different priorities, he admits - but insists that the issue of publications has not been a problem. "Intellectual property rights are certainly a big issue, which it is important to get sorted out on day one," he says.
One of AVL's big successes, the direct gasoline injection (DGI) engine, has involved the company in collaboration with 35 research institutions all over the world, says List. DGI engines, which offer fuel savings of up to 20%, were first tried over a century ago, but the development of a practical engine has had to wait for computer programs powerful enough to model accurately what goes on inside the engine's cylinders. Academic support has been essential.
As well as being a good source of science, universities can offer a wider range of disciplines than might otherwise be available within the company itself. The benefits to the universities are just as clear, List says. "Most institutes today are below critical mass, so help from industry is important to them. They gain access to market information, and to real-world testing of their scientific models - normally a very expensive process."