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COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES
Preliminary guidelines for the Fifth Framework Programme of Research and Technological Development Activities
Europe's research at the service of its people
10 July 1996
II. MOVING FROM THE FOURTH TO THE FIFTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME
The vast input already received for the next framework programme makes it clear that merely continuing the fourth framework programme would not be appropriate.
The priority would seem to be to consolidate our research efforts. Secondly, although it is worth persevering with certain projects and tried and tested principles and procedures (2), it is essential to incorporate new topics and new ways of organising research. Attempts to shift the balance must be viewed in the light of the initial findings arising from analysis of the fourth framework programme.
11.1 Progress with the fourth framework programme
The fourth framework programme has been running for 18 months and is proving extremely attractive. In 1995 more than 20 000 proposals were received, resulting in 3 000 projects involving more than 10 000 participants.
It can be observed that the size of projects is tending to increase, including on average more participants from a larger number of Member States, the rate of renewal of participants is increasing (37% on average of which 40% are SMEs). One area of concern is the continual increase in the number of proposals not accepted: on average only 1 in 6 has received funding.
These preliminary figures clearly indicate a need for better targeting of calls for proposals and for more concentrated efforts as a way of reducing the dispersal of resources and the administrative burden. A detailed evaluation of projects will accompany the formal proposal for a fifth framework programme.
II.2 Shifting the balance to improve the impact on society and the economy
The new general policy guidelines to put research at the service of the people can best be achieved by improving the bases of European competitiveness within a perspective of sustainable development. This can be done by, at the same time, providing better support for the production of new ideas, taking more account of the realities of demand and reinforcing links with organizations which can help to exploit the results.
Supporting basic research
Reduction in the period of time which elapses between "discovery" in the laboratory and putting products "on the market", as well as the wider range of inputs required for the development of complex systems, tends to eliminate the old distinction between basic research and industrial and applied research. It is now difficult to catalogue the discovery of a new computer algorithm or a breakthrough in the sequencing of genomes, since the time between the discovery of new knowledge and its application may be extremely short.
Consequently it is essential to maintain a research context which is open to new ideas, for work on basic questions which may possibly generate new fields of activity.
Bringing research more into line with the real market
Discussions of the framework programme have always touched on the distance between research and the market and the difference between "academic" and "industrial" research. This is how the idea of "precompetitive" research came about, although its boundaries have become rather vague and in practice it is largely ignored by the major competitors in Europe.
Competition, whether intellectual, industrial or economic, is one of the basic driving forces behind research. However, three observations should be taken into account when preparing the framework programme. First, research should now be viewed within its world context; second, the spiralling costs of research and development are now beyond the means of individual operators or even individual states, which means that risks and investment costs have to be systematically shared out; third, it is important to consider how results can be exploited.
Experience shows that we should be moving from research aimed purely at technological achievement to research aimed at satisfying consumers by providing high quality goods and services which are produced in an acceptable manner at low cost and which are at the same time highly diversified and personalized and rapidly available.
The need to involve users much more in project design, which is beneficial in terms of meeting real needs, presupposes that much greater attention should be given to demonstration and prestandardization activities. This will require varying the level of support given, with appropriate transparency, whilst complying with international rules on research aid and the Community framework for state aid for research.
Doing more to exploit results
In previous framework programmes, not enough has always been done to exploit results. Additional efforts are required in order to extend the relationships between partners and networks so that results are better exploited and to ensure that risks are funded by calling on a wider range of sources of finance, including financial institutions and risk capital organizations.
The rules on intellectual property are closely linked with the question of partnership and exploitation. They will have to be changed to take account of technological progress, to provide more incentive for the exploitation of results and to ensure that European interests are pursued at world level.
(2) Most contributions received from Member States and other bodies with an interest in the future of Community research emphasize the positive aspects of the framework programmes, particularly in the fields of industrial research, establishing networks of researchers and encouraging researcher mobility.
Over time, apart from various "success stories" (eg sequencing of the yeast genome, parallel computers, telecoms standards, first demonstrations of nuclear fusion) it can be said that 100 000 partnership links have been established across Europe, which often lead to commercial relationships.