Tag: funding

Trump slashes US science funding

The US government has cut funding to science as part of its cunning plan to return to a nice biblical view of things.

Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has decided that there is far too much science which assumes really weird things, like the earth is older than six thousand years, and that everything is going to be wiped out by a giant flood. All of this is impossible according to the Bible, so he does not see why the US is funding it.

Instead Trump’s first budget plan wants to invest piles of cash in the military. The plan, released on 16 March, calls for double-digit cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health. It also lays the foundation for a broad shift in the United States’ research priorities, including a retreat from environmental and climate programmes.

Boffins are worried that the Trump administration’s stance will jeopardise US leadership in fields ranging from climate science to cancer biology. The US has only started to recover from President George Bush’s veto on the use of stem cells which were made for similar reasons. But these cuts are more sweeping.

Jason Rao, director of international affairs at the American Society for Microbiology in Washington DC. The greatest threats to the United States, he says, are those presented by infectious diseases, climate change, and energy production — which cannot be addressed effectively without scientific research.

The Trump budget will cut funding for the NIH by 18 percent , to $25.9 billion, making it one of the hardest-hit research agencies. The document also calls for a reorganisation of the NIH’s 27 institutes — including the elimination of the smallest, the Fogarty International Centre — but offers no further detail beyond a pledge to “rebalance Federal contributions to research funding”.

It appears that the move is based on a paranoia in the Bush camp that the NIH is overstepping its powers.

On the plus side Trump would also create a fund within the Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH’s parent, to respond to public health emergencies such as the spread of the Zika virus.

Scientists and public health experts have called for such a fund for years, but advocates say that starting one while cutting research and prevention programmes is pointless. It is cheaper to prevent a crisis than mop one up afterwards.

But the Environmental Protection Agency is going to lose a third of its $8.2-billion budget and 3,200 its 15,000 staff. The EPA’s Office of Research and Development would see its funding reduced by half, from $483 million to $250 million.

All this is because Trump does not believe in climate and environmental regulations. One biologist, who studies chemicals that affect the endocrine system in fish and potentially people, is part of a programme that Trump wants to eliminate. She said that the reason is that if there’s no science to point out potential problems, there won’t be any more regulations.

The White House wants to cut 5.6 percent, or $1.7 billion, from the Department of Energy (DOE). The plan would eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research. And it would slash $900 million, or about 20 percent, from the DOE’s Office of Science, which supports research on topics such as high-energy physics, energy, climate change and biology.

The Trump plan does not include an overall funding target for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But it would eliminate the agency’s long-running, $73-million Sea Grant programme, which supports 33 US colleges and universities that conduct research, education and training about ocean and coastal topics.

Still this is good news for the rest of the world as it will mean that while the US is dumbing down, it can take control of scientific developments without much in the way of competition. The UK did rather well when George Bush dropped the ball on stem cell research so it is likely that European research will do well.

What should be more worrying for Trump is that his moves will give more power to the Chinese and Russian governments who will also have time to catch up.

Britannia’s cool science image sunk by Brexit

imagesubmarine2sinkingBritish scientists are losing grant money and will have to scale down operations and lay off staff thanks to the Brexit vote.

Seven national academies have called on the government to ensure that research is protected in Brexit negotiations and the President of the Royal Society has told the BBC that the future prosperity of the UK is at stake.

Annually, British universities receive £850 million in research grants each year from the European Union, but now British applicants for grants have been told to sling their electronic hooks.

Boffins are now being told that there are concerns from Euro partners that if UK scientists are involved in a project it could harm their chances in raising cash.

They are getting frozen out of big projects and European researchers in Europe are looking elsewhere to collaborate which means the British will not be around when big discoveries are made.

But the research problem is also extending to small high tech companies. The BBC found Archer Technicoat in High Wycombe, which develops bespoke coatings to toughen components for rocket thrusters for the European Space Agency.

Its managing director John Yeatman said that European funding has stopped after 30 years and interest from European partners for involving us in their projects has basically dried up.

Other researchers are packing their bags and setting up companies in Europe. Christopher Bovey was planning to set up a testing company, Herba Invest, in Totnes in Devon to help manufacturers of herbal products gain European Union regulatory approval.  Now he is setting it up in Spain.

Dr Pietro Cicuta, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, said the UK’s image was already tarnished in Europe, but it has now gone from “being cool to uncool in a day.”

Still at least we no longer have unelected officials from Europe telling us what to do, we just have Teresa May and Boris Johnson – what could possibly go wrong?

Britexit slashes UK science funding

mad scientistUK boffins are being told to leave EU science projects because the country has decided that it can do all that sort of thing itself.

The UK’s science efforts received a huge chunk of funding from the EU, and was involved with a large number of joint projects but now it looks like the boffins are being told to walk away.

Fortunately, the UK government has piles of money which is why it is talking about flogging off the NHS and cutting back on education programmes.

Theoretically the UK should be fine at the moment, after all the country has not actually decided to follow the Brexit referendum and leave the EU, but apparently the EU has unleashed a wave of discrimination against UK researchers, with elite universities in the country coming under pressure to abandon collaborations with European partners.

In a confidential survey of the UK’s Russell Group universities, British academics are being asked to leave EU-funded projects or to step down from leadership roles because they are considered a financial liability.

For example an EU project officer recommended that a lead investigator drop all UK partners from a consortium because Britain’s share of funding could not be guaranteed. The note implied that if UK organisations remained on the project, which is due to start in January 2017, the contract signing would be delayed until Britain had agreed a fresh deal with Europe.

British researchers receive about £1bn a year from EU finding programmes such as Horizon 2020, but access to the money must be completely renegotiated under Brexit and is unlikely to happen.

The 24 universities in the Russell Group are regarded as Britain’s elite institutions. With Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, University College London and Imperial College among their number, they are renowned for world-class research and academic excellence.

New EU projects are reluctant to be in collaboration with UK partners, and that potentially all new funding opportunities from Horizon 2020 are closing”.

At least two social science collaborations with Dutch universities have been told UK partners are unwelcome, one Russell Group university said in the survey.

Speaking at Oxford’s Wolfson College last Friday, the university’s chancellor, Chris Patten, said Oxford received perhaps more research income than any European university, with about 40% coming from government. “Our research income will of course fall significantly after we have left the EU unless a Brexit government guarantees to cover the shortfall,” Lord Patten said.

Still a least we will not have the EU telling us what to do.  We will have an elected, democratic leader like Teresa May.  Oh..

Government pledges more support for SMEs

Houses of Parliament, Wikimedia CommonsThe UK chancellor of the exchequer has said the government has struck a deal with the European Investment Bank (EIB) in a bid to gain more support for small and medium enterprises (SME).

George Osborne said thatthe EIB lent seven billion euro to UK last year, with the European Investment Fund supporting 25,000 UK SMEs.

The UK government will make £6 billion of UK guarantees available to co-finance infrastructure projects in the UK and will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the EIB to firm up the opportunities the fund brings.

Osborne said that an important element of the plan was to make sure that SMEs and infrastructure projects have the necessary finance.

The British Business Bank has just signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Investment Fund.

The fund’s CEO, Pier Luigi Gilbert, said that the moves reflect efforts to support small and medium sized companies that drive growth and jobs in the UK as well as Europe.

Venture Capitalism “mostly sucks”

James Sperans, an executive at Morgan Stanley, told the audience here at the White Bull conference in Barcelona that venture capitalism is not quite as dead as a dodo. He said that at the same conference in 2011.

Sperans is a serial entrepreneur with he and another four execs running a private equity division at Morgan Stanley.

He said that he found out that VC was “pretty damn dead”, deader than Lehman, deader than AIG and deader than Fanny and Freddy. VC was even deader than Osama bin Laden. 

VC in 2012 s still pretty dead – deader than Neil Armstrong, Gaddafi and Heidi Klum’s Marriage.  It’s not more dead than the Euro, and not as dead as Facebook.

Big sophisticated institutional investors like venture capital again, said Sperans. But CalPERS will never invest in venture capital again.  He said VC is neither dead nor alive, it’s undead, he said, as he showed a picture of two zombies.

Cambridge Associates claims venture capital is far from dead. The 10 year pooled return in 2011 was zero, but Cambridge claims in 2012 it was up by 4.41 percent. But 90 percent of this movement was an artefact of the 10 year numbers because it no longer included the bubble burst in the year 2000. 
He said investment people don’t need a stiff drink. “We have met the enemy… and he is us”.

In May 2012, the Kauffman Foundation did a deep analysis, and discovered that VC was the triumph of hope over experience.  Twenty percent of their 100 funds beat public market equivalent by over three percent per annum. And 10 of those were pre-1995 investments.

It is possible to make money investing in VC funds by concentrating on VCs that put entrepreneurs first. It’s also important to “avoid crowds”, and where the wall of capital are gathering together.  

Morgan Stanley likes to focus on themes, and doesn’t like to overdo it by investing too much in this tech sector.  

It’s great to chat about the Greek tragedy that is Mark Zuckerberg’s hubris. There are some reasonable things to draw from the Facebook IPO. First is that early investors made a lot of money. Business models still matter, it’s good to know that gravity isn’t completely suspended.  

It’s clear from the Facebook “debacle” that IPOs matter and it’s not the money, it’s the ambition. Mark Z doesn’t care about the money per se. IPOs matter because only public tech companies can make a specific gravity of their own.  And thinking small doesn’t protect people from making mistakes. “If you’re going to make mistakes, make big mistakes,” he said. And Mark doesn’t care about the rules that investors operate by.

DEFRA superfast broadband funding may fall short

The government has announced that it will allocate up to £20 million to help bring  superfast broadband to rural communities.

The rural Community Broadband Fund set up by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  (DEFRA) will see funds will come from the Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) £530m budget and the Rural Development Programme for England for community-based broadband projects.

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) reckons that the DEFRA share will also come from TV license money.

However, he raises concerns to TechEye that the funding might not be enough to ensure all rural areas get the benefits.

“While we’re pleased to see DEFRA putting in the money, these funds may not cover all areas,” Corbett told us.

“There’s been some issues surrounding who will cover all the costs and now the framework needs to be changed to allow communities to fund their own projects or be able to receive private funding on top of that provided by big providers such as BT and Virgin.” 

He also said it was unclear whether DEFRA’s allocation was new money or a repackaging of existing funding.

Announcing the plans, secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt said: “Remote and rural areas have the most to gain from access to broadband but these are the communities currently missing out.

“The whole of the UK should be able to share in the benefits of broadband and we are determined to make this happen by the end of the Parliament.”

DEFRA pointed out the importance of bringing mobile communications to rural communities, and said it hoped that fibre deployments and Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auctions will reduce coverage “not spots” in rural locations.

It said the rollout of fibre-based technology in hard to reach areas will potentially improve the availability of mobile networks, and make it more viable to provide wireless broadband services where they might otherwise not reach.  

Corbett agrees: “The availability of additional spectrum is also important in achieving new mobile broadband services, and that is why the government has directed Ofcom to run an auction of suitable spectrum as soon as possible.”

Mr Corbett added: “Fast reliable broadband is one of the biggest problems that many rural areas face. Local communities have long been setting up their own schemes in the face of apparent indifference from BT and a sometimes patchy response from the public sector.

“These initiatives have often achieved great results with very little resource and lead the way in thinking about how to create future-proofed next generation broadband solutions that involve the community – a genuine ‘Big Society’ response to tackling the problem.”

Tensions high among UK MPs over EU cybercrime directive

Tensions have broken out in the House of Commons over a proposed European direction on cyber attacks against information systems, which the UK has agreed to opt into.

James Brokenshire, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Home Office, began the debate by commenting on the seriousness of the threat posed by cyber warfare which is set to be a key focus of proposals to world leaders today. He said there can be “a significant real-world impact”, both financially and with infrastructure, and that national security is also at risk.

He commended the work done by the European Scrutiny Commitee to tackle this problem and lent his support to the European Union directive aimed at tackling cybercrime. He also said that the UK is committed to its role in addressing cybercrime, investing £650 million over the next four years.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, also recognised the threat of cyber warfare and welcomed the opt-in to the EU directive. However, she queried why there was a delay in the opt-in process, since there was an original deadline to do so by December 23, 2010. The UK opted in on January 31, meaning it was over a month late on the deadline. Her point was also echoed by Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, who said the UK was “dilatory” on this matter.

Johnson asked why the UK did not opt in earlier, given there is room within the directive for negotiation on certain items. She made the point that because the UK failed to opt in on time, no influence from the UK could be imparted on the draft directive, effectively axing Britain’s right to express its views on how the directive should take shape.

She also quizzed the Minister on the ability to fund the proposed measures with a severely curtailed Home Office budget, what further resources would be needed, how it will address the longer prison sentences suggested in the directive, and why the UK government failed to opt into the EU directive on human trafficking, which she asked the Minister to reconsider.

Brokenshire responded that the opt-in was made “in time” and that no harm would come from the decision. He said it would be “premature” to address specific points of the directive, since it is still in a draft stage, and he made the point that there is enough funding available, but a decision has yet to be made on how it will be allocated. He said the reason the human trafficking direction was not opted into was because there were no measures in place where the UK would have benefited, but that this decision is open to review.

William Cash, the Conservative MP for Stone, was not pleased with the decision, calling the draft directive “deficient” and still needing considerable scrutiny. He asked why there was a scrutiny process at all if decisions were going to be made before such processes were complete, but Brokenshire said that the directive was still open for negotiation.

Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud, asked if telephone fraud would be included as part of the directive – to which Brokenshire said that it mainly focused on computers, but with the growth of the likes of Skype, there is scope for its inclusion.

Infineon vows to fight Qimonda lawsuit

Chip manufacturer Infineon has said today that it will fight legal action taken against it by its former memory chip unit, Qimonda.

An Infineon spokesperson said the company is “firmly convinced” that it has done nothing wrong and that it would defend against the lawsuit taken by Qimonda, which split from Infineon in 2006.

Qimonda filed for insolvency in 2009 after chip prices fell drastically and the company failed to secure a $325 million bailout deal that was being negotiated. As part the proposed deal Infineon was to offer $75 million, but talks fell through at the last minute.

Qimonda appears to be blaming Infineon on its collapse, claiming that Infineon should be providing the difference between its equity capital and its insolvency assets.

Infineon disagrees that it should have to foot the bill, stating that Qimonda formed a shell company in 2004 before splitting from Infineon in 2006 and that capital issues were reviewed and addressed at those times. It also said that a re-examination was deemed unneccessary by all parties.

It has not been revealed exactly how much Qimonda is looking for, but Infineon suggested that the case could work to Qimonda’s disfavour, with the company required to pay legal fees if it loses. Infineon suggested it would not seek additional damages, however.

Intel funding creates Israeli storm

A recent decision by the Israeli government to give Chipzilla huge wodges of cash in sweeteners to expand the semiconductor factory in Kiryat Gat is creating a storm in the Promised Land

The Israelis wrote a cheque for $205 million to Intel to subsidise the expansion of its new Fab 28.

Although the decision still needs final approval by the Finance Ministry, Knesset committees and by Intel, fierce debate rages.

Commentators in the Israeli press are evenly divided on the matter. The obvious argument is that Chipzilla brings much-needed jobs to Kiryat Gat. The town is in the northern Negev and about half of Kiryat Gat’s workers earn only the minimum wage.

It is a region of high unemployment and expanding Fab 28 will create 570 new wellpaying jobs directly, bringing employment to a total of 3,100 workers at the Kiryat Gat plant.

However, others, like the Jerusalem Post, point out that $205 million to create only 570 jobs is not exactly cost effective.

What is more likely is that the Israelis need to stop losing industrial production. Although the country is at the forefront of industrial inventions, most of them are built in Asia.

But the idea of subsidising Intel grates with many, particularly as the country has already paid grants of over $1 billon. to Intel plants.

All this is happening while the Israeli Finance Ministry has slashed the 2011 budget of the Chief Scientist’s Office (OCS) to $270 million.

Since this money funds start-ups and R&D which has been the life blood of Israel’s invention industry, one has to question why this cash was given to a company which would only give it to shareholders.

Perhaps the problem is that the Israeli’s cannot stop feeding their addiction to Chipzilla. After all it was Israeli engineers that convinced the outfit to start making the Pentium. The rest is history.