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Competitiveness Council takes on innovation, patents and more

Innovation, patents and simplification topped the agenda at the latest meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Luxembourg on 11 and 12 October. Summing up the outcomes of the gathering, Jean-Claude Marcourt, who is among other things Minister for the Economy, SMEs (small and...

Innovation, patents and simplification topped the agenda at the latest meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Luxembourg on 11 and 12 October. Summing up the outcomes of the gathering, Jean-Claude Marcourt, who is among other things Minister for the Economy, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), Foreign Trade and New Technologies of the Belgian region of Wallonia said: 'Member States are relying on innovation.' The European Commission released its plans for the creation of an 'Innovation Union', part of the wider Europe 2020 strategy, on 6 October. Ministers broadly welcomed the European Commission's approach, underlining the importance of placing innovation 'at the core of the EU's internal market for boosting competitiveness'. The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU hopes to submit a set of conclusions for adoption at the 25 November meeting of the Competitiveness Council. The discussions will also feed into the wider debate on innovation which EU leaders will hold in December. Another issue under discussion in Luxembourg was the EU patent. It is widely acknowledged that an EU patent is essential for encouraging innovation and boosting competitiveness. However, the question of translations has hampered progress towards an agreement on this subject. Under a European Commission proposal, EU patents would be granted in one of the official languages of the European Patent Office (EPO), i.e. English, French or German. Applicants would only have to provide translations into these languages; no further translations would be needed to enforce the EU patent throughout the EU. A 'very large majority' of Member States support a compromise set out by the Belgian Presidency, highlighting the importance of making available high-quality machine translations into all EU languages as well as compensation for the costs of translation of a patent application drafted in an EU language other than one of the official EPO languages. 'A large majority of delegations underlined that the red lines for finding a final compromise are that no significant costs should arise from additional translations and that the new system should not result in legal uncertainty,' reads a statement from the Council. For its part, the Belgian Presidency appears to be optimistic that it can reach an agreement on this difficult issue that is acceptable to all 27 Member States before the end of the year. Elsewhere, ministers described the simplification of the EU's research programmes as 'a crucial and urgent necessity' and 'takes positive note' of the European Commission's proposals in this area. In a set of conclusions on the subject, ministers issue the European Commission with a lengthy 'to do' list for both the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and forthcoming framework programmes. Ideas for implementation under FP7 include the finalisation of the research participant portal, further reductions in paperwork, a more uniform application of the rules and regulations and greater synergies with related programmes such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs). Finally, ministers gave the green light for the launch of joint programming initiatives in three key areas: agriculture, food security and climate change; cultural heritage and global change; and healthy diets.

Countries

Belgium, Luxembourg

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13 December 2010