Saturday 16 December 2017

Under the microscope: our future in scienceas europe acts to help small tech firms get a competitive edge, pharmachemical ireland hopes the new government will heed its warnings, writes john mulligan EU governments hope a single European patent will encourage competitiveness and innovation

In a wide-ranging policy document issued last month, PharmaChemical Ireland, the IBEC representative body for the industry here, urged the incoming Government to address a series of issues in order to ensure the country remained a key focus for international investment from the sector.

Unsurprisingly, retaining the 12.5pc corporate tax rate was cited as a key element of the strategy. But PharmaChemical Ireland also warned that the existing R&D tax credit scheme should be enhanced and that companies should be able to write off R&D expenditure against operational costs.

It added that the new Government needed to prioritise support for the teaching of science at second-level schools and to ensure the continuous professional development of all primary and post-primary teachers.

Already, life sciences are benefiting from a resurgence of interest among students about to finish their second-level education.

The Central Applications Office recently noted that there had been a 6pc rise in the number of applications for third-level places on science courses as interest in qualifications related to construction and law fell sharply.

Almost half of the more than 25,000 people working in the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland are third-level graduates.

PharmaChemical Ireland also called for public funding of applied research and in-house R&D to be progressively matched to meet that provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (now the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation) for basic research.

This would include support for in-firm capability, development, commercialisation and cluster-led academic research and innovation partnerships, said PharmaChemical Ireland in its policy recommendation document.

Meanwhile, the European Union has also been trying to cut the amount of red tape and associated costs that firms and individuals must bear when registering patents in the region.

The EU Competitiveness Council has just authorised the use of the enhanced co-operation procedure for the creation of a single European patent. That, governments hope, will encourage competitiveness, innovation and costs, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.

Under the current system, each granted patent must be validated in each country in which protection is required. A European patent designated in 13 countries is about 10 times more expensive than a US patent and 13 times more expensive than a Japanese patent, when processing and translation costs are taken into account.

Start-up pharma and technology firms would be among the key beneficiaries of such a unified system.

"It is imperative in the current global economic crisis that we as policymakers ensure that European business is not hampered by the current fragmented system that is both expensive and complex," said newly appointed Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton.

EU governments hope a single European patent will encourage competitiveness and innovation

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