Automation is the key to efficient research, claims academic director

October 31, 2003

Brussels, 30 Oct 2003

Europe does not need more research, but more efficient and effective research, if an innovation-based economy is to develop, Academic Director of the animal hygiene department at Munich's Technical University, Walter Gränzer, has told CORDIS News.

'As a first step we do not need additional committees and commissions, but a wide ranging re-engineering of publicly financed research,' said Dr Gränzer.

Only through such restructuring will Europe embrace an innovation-based economy and turn around its growth performance, claims Dr Gränzer. He emphasises that this was also the conclusion drawn in 'An agenda for a growing Europe', the study requested by Commission President Romano Prodi on growth in Europe. 'The Group views Europe's unsatisfactory growth performance during the last decades as a symptom of its failure to transform into an innovation-based economy,' wrote the high level study group.

Dr Gränzer claims that this streamlining of European research necessitates 'engineers, machinists, physicists, biologists, physicians, chemists and computer scientists,' and compares their task to that of a car manufacturer. 'They must be able to build and sustain automated research assembly lines. The most important lever for the economic growth in Europe is optimisation of the efficiency and effectiveness of research by means of advanced automation in research processes,' he says.

'The motor industry [...] demonstrates the way in which high efficiency, effectiveness and high quality of products lead to great success,' says Dr Gränzer. 'Today [...], this technology has reached such a high degree of perfection that each car can be followed and controlled by a steering centre in each phase of production.'

Dr Gränzer believes that there is, essentially, no difference between the production of cars and the production of scientific information. He gives the following example: 'The preparation of a defined molecule out of natural material requires many extensive trials numerously repeated with different process parameters in order to find out the correct concentration of a precipitation medium for the protein chemistry. Then we need additional extensive trials in order to verify or to deny the once detected result.'

Anticipating criticisms to this approach, Dr Gränzer argues the flexibility essential for research 'assembly lines' can continue in such a system: 'Each car to be built on the assembly lines is different from the others, it is even possible to build two different models on one assembly line.'

Dr Gränzer believes the lack of automation, particularly where publicly funded research is concerned, is responsible for an absence of efficiency and effectiveness. 'Automation', he argues is 'the most urgent task for FP7 [the Seventh Framework Programme].'

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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