CatBert on EU Research
I was still somewhat drowsy this morning when I entered my office. CatBert was already up and had occupied my chair. Curiously he browsed through my email and did not even take notice of me.
As I had yet too little energy to start another conversation I turned to the kitchen preparing the coffee. Only the soft "thump" sound coming from the office told me the CatBert had jumped off the chair and had followed me.
- "This EU research funding program thingy is just insane."
Obviously he must have read my email subscriptions to the upcoming funding opportunities and the IDEAL-IST research partner support network.
"Well, it certainly is a science by itself."
I responded, trying to drag his attention away from particular projects.
- "Yeah, looks like it. But is there actually any serious outcome from all the billions of Euros the EU pours into that research?"
CatBert is not the first who expressed his doubts on the effectiveness of the existing setup. The overhead to produce EU proposals is significant, not to be done under 3 man months. Much focus is on procedural issues, like project management, work package organisation, the number of work hours, the expertise of the involved individuals, the standing of the cooperating organisations and their complementarity. And even programs with a monetizing horizon of 8+ years ask you questions about any existing competition.
What is your particular complaint?
Foolish. I bit my tongue. It was just too early in the morning for me.
- "Well, many project proposals for partner searches sound like buzzword rides, simply reflecting the keywords in the program guidelines. Listen to that:"
- Software Platform for Adaptive Networks of Intelligent Services based on Real Time Knowledge–Based Multi-Agent Schedulers of Small and Medium Enterprises and Mobile Users
Indeed that project idea had all the hallmarks of being everything. Or nothing.
- "It gets better."
- Multi-agent schedulers of SME services and multi-agent personal schedulers for users will be able to react to events, dynamically form and adapt their schedules to user needs, preferences and constraints, directly interact with all parties involved, monitor execution of plans and coordinate their services in real time with the use of SME domain knowledge and user profile, geographical position and other context-driven information, as well as discovering and contacting users semantically and pro-actively on the fly.
"Ok, that sounds really everythingish. But not every project is so."
- "Maybe, but I fail to see how another Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, you name it, emerges from all that."
CatBert had a point. And indeed in one of the recent funding information events, David Kennedy, the new director of Eurescom, had brought up the very same question. Just to continue with the hypothesis that all European research must be even more coordinated, i.e. more institutionalized.
I told CatBert that. He shook his head.
- "To me it looks more like an employment scheme for research centers and universities. And a scheme to maintain a substantial funding aristocracy. There is nothing sincere about it in terms of research. Or commercialisation for that matter."
"Well, you just have defined, what Europe is. In the U.S. decisions tend to be made along the axis of money, influence and politics. In Europe along influence and politics. See the subtle difference?"
I poured the coffee into my favourite mug. CatBert looked frustrated.
"Care for a breakfast?"
- "Sure, why not."
I do not think he will be reading my email for quite some time.