Brussels, 30 Sep 2002
Dr Christophe Sensen of the University of Calgary, Canada, is well placed to discuss Canadian collaboration with the EU. A German who went across to Canada over a decade ago, he regularly goes back to Germany, so often in fact that he boasts that the number of air miles entitle him to first class tickets.
Dr Sensen is a key part of the genome Canada project, which began in February 2002. One of the main objectives is to find how genes are distributed around the body and to help with areas such as neurosurgery. Though only Princeton and Harvard universities in the USA can compete with the level of medical research the project is compiling, Dr Sensen is regularly looking for new links, such as with the German Max Planck institute and with Brazilian universities. The main links at the moment are with Europe, the USA and Singapore.
But cooperation within the EU's Framework's programmes is one of the most difficult areas for Canadian researchers, according to Dr Sensen. He says he is shocked at the lack of budgetary foresight for the EU's Framework programmes in Canada. 'I found that there is no pot of money for the EU Framework programmes...one of the major obstacles concerning Canada's participation in the Framework programmes is equality in the intellectual property rights [IPR].' Both issues need to be addressed, he claims. There is not enough dissemination of information on the Framework programmes in Canada and the main granting authorities have decided that their priorities lie elsewhere.
On intellectual property rights, several discussions have taken place between Canadian and EU representatives about the issue of attribution of IPR. Canada, as a financial contributor to the Framework projects, is reluctant to give the Europeans what it sees as too much power in determining the IPR of the project. These difficulties even led to disagreements over whose name would appear on the papers published by projects.
There are practical issues that have proven problematic as well. 'There is a timing issue. Sometimes both sides need to come up with money but cannot do it at the same time,' says Dr Sensen. 'Canada will lose out if we stand on the sidelines,' he adds. One of the major advantages of doing research in collaboration within the EU's Framework programmes is the prestige it gives. 'You don't get that so much with bilateral agreements.'
He also sees it no so much a case of having to set up lines of communications with Europe, but exploiting existing ones. 'There have always been connections between Canada and Europe...the connections are there, but there is no established mechanism.'
'We import lots of knowledge, but what we want is what everyone wants, to increase innovation,' says Marie-Lucie Morin, Director General of international business development policy and planning at the Canadian department of foreign affairs and international trade. Her task is to ensure that the best international partnerships are available to Canadian researchers, scientists and companies. Europe plays a key role. With the increasingly protectionist noises from the USA, Canada is turning more to Europe. Bilateral agreements that have already been signed with the UK, France and Germany have recently been added to with Spain, Denmark and Switzerland. The last 10 years have seen more activity with Europe and Asia and less with the USA.
Ms Morin also highlights a key to ensuring that provincial governments, the federal government and foreign representatives all work together. 'Cooperation has to be based on self interest,' she says. 'There have also been some hard hitting messages that we are not as comfortable as we were 10 years ago...from both political and business leaders.'
For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.visualgenomics.ca