FP7 takes off[ 2007-01-02 ]
The EU's largest ever funding programme for research and technological development, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), was launched on 1 January.
The programme cleared its final hurdle when it was adopted by the Council on 18 December 2006. The decision was widely expected following an agreement on a common position between the Parliament and Council in November. The common position meant that the decision could be adopted by the Environment Council without discussion.
With a total budget of €50.521 billion, FP7 will run for of seven years. An additional €2.7 billion has been earmarked for the Euratom programme on nuclear research, which will run for five years. EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik hailed the FP7's approval as 'great day' for European Science. 'In financial terms, this is a major improvement over the last framework programme. In real terms, there are 40 per cent more funds on average per year,' he said.
FP7 will aim to build on the accomplishments of the previous research framework programme, and will be implemented through four specific programmes. The 'Cooperation' programme will support research cooperation in a number of key thematic areas. 'Ideas' will fund investigator-driven research through a newly created European Research Council (ERC). The 'People' programme will support training and researchers' career development, while 'Capacities' will fund the coordination and development of research infrastructure, regional research clusters, international cooperation and closer ties between science and society.
Featuring simpler instruments and streamlined procedures for funding and participation, FP7 should facilitate the greater participation by and cooperation between universities, research centres, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and companies on a broad range of research areas. In doing so, the new programme should make headway on the goal of creating a European Research Area (ERA) - the equivalent of a 'common market' for research - to become the world's leading research area.
Under FP7, the highest portion of the budget will go to information and communication technologies (€9.11 billion), followed by health (€6.05 billion), transport (€4.18 billion) and nanotechnology (€3.5 billion), energy (€2.3 billion), and food, agriculture and biotechnology (€1.935 billion). Other budget lines include environmental research (€1.8 billion), space (€1.43 billion), security (€1.35 billion), and social-economic sciences and humanities (€610 million).
Political discussions on FP7 were first held back by the lack of agreement on the EU's financial perspectives for 2007 to 2013. Consensus among the EU's Heads of State and Government on the overall budget was needed before the FP7 budget could be set.
Subsequent negotiations addressed ethical questions related to EU funding for human embryonic stem cell research, the structure of the ERC and the risk-sharing finance facility.
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