Tuesday, February 26, 2008

EU Chip And Gravy Train

Where's the train?

Sadly missed Keith has sent Tyler a couple of teeth-grinding tech links under the heading EU Chip and Gravy Train.

1. EU throws €5.5bn at embedded chips and nanotech

The Register reports:

"The European Commission (EC) is coughing up a staggering €2.5bn in industrial research in embedded microcomputers. The joint technology initiative, dubbed ARTEMIS, was given the green light by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers at the end of last year.

EU Information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding described the public and private R&D investment in embedded systems, used in the likes of credit cards, mobile phones and cars, as a “very worthwhile” project. She claims the ten-year initiative will help push European development in the field of microcomputers to the forefront."

As if that wasn't enough:

"The EU’s investment in nanoelectronics will be even bigger.

The EC said it would stump up a massive €3bn on R&D in miniature electronic devices over the next ten years under a joint private-public initiative called ENIAC.

Reding said: “The possibilities offered by nanoelectronics are only limited by our imagination. They underpin all aspects of everyday devices and so concern everyone in Europe.” She added that the huge investment was “a concrete way to ensure that such a key industrial sector continues its strong economic growth, right here in Europe”.

The EU really is Return to the Seventies- hands up everyone who remembers Jim Callaghan going on about how unless the government "invested" in chips we'd be f****d. Inmos, the state chip maker started off with £50m from the National Enterprise Board, but ended up costing us £211m (c £1.5bn in today's terms) and never turning a profit.

It's right back to picking winners, and while the EC commissars claim private sector companies will also provide funding, don't hold your breath. That's exactly what they said about the multi-billion Galileo satnav project, where in reality taxpayers have been left paying for an intergalactic white elephant in its entirety (see previous blogs eg here).

Another €5.5bn of taxpayers hard earned cash wodged out straight into the hands of the EC's favoured and protected tech suppliers.

2. EU partners with BBC on P2P Next internet TV service

IPTV reports:

"The European Union is planning to invest £10m to develop a next-gen BitTorrent client which will allow streaming as well as P2P downloading.

The project, called P2P Next, will see broadcasters such as the BBC, the European Broadcasting Unit (EBU), and 19 universities, collaborating on the development of Europe’s next-generation Internet television distribution system."

But why? The private sector has already developed the technology. As Reg comments:

"It’s an initiative which fails to address the fact that the market-led IPTV standard is already a reality, and an area that European ISPs such as BT Vision and Tiscali are continuing to spend and focus heavily on."

£10m of our money (plus an unspecified contribution from the BBC) for something we already have.


PS What is the origin of gravy train? Mrs T and I were wondering just the other day. According to the Word Detective "It is unlikely that "gravy train" ever referred to an actual train or any other sort of conveyance. "To ride the gravy train" means to secure an ongoing situation that provides good pay or other benefits with little labor or trouble, the equivalent of "living on Easy Street." It may be that the phrase originated among hoboes and other vagabonds who hopped trains as a way of life and for whom "gravy train" would be a likely metaphor for an easy existence. In any case, "gravy train" seems to have first appeared in the late 19th century. Michael Quinion of World Wide Words (http://www.worldwidewords.org/) has uncovered an example in an 1895 Pennsylvania newspaper, the earliest citation to date." Sounds a bit lame- can that be right?

PPS Chips and gravy though, eh? Yum yum. Coming from down South Tyler had never even heard of such decadence until he spent a few fine dining months in Liverpool. The trouble is you can't get them South of Watford, and Mrs T has banned oven chips. Disappointing.


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