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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
III. PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL FOR THE STRUCTURE OF THE FIFTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (3)
Given the framework and list of criteria set out above, an initial outline can be drawn of the structure and content of the future framework programme and of ways of implementing it.
Without prejudice to the final structure, the number of subjects has been deliberately limited and the following three priorities can be identified along with three horizontal activities.
III.1.1 Priority topics (research at the service of the people)
The focus is on the targeting of activities and the impact the research will have on people's lives.
- Unlocking the resources of the living world and the ecosystem: The life sciences and the environment are literally vital to people's lives and have an especially critical impact on health. Europe must realize the full potential of its scientific and technical assets in these areas, which are also promising in terms of the growth of markets and the creation of jobs.
This topic will in particular cover the acquisition and utilization of knowledge about fundamental mechanisms affecting human life, especially in the fields of health and food. Emphasis will be placed in particular on the acquisition of fundamental knowledge, the prevention of disease, (research on the brain and newly developing infectious diseases) and the quality, safety and renewable nature of bioproduction, while complying with ethical rules.
For the environment, the development of environmental regulations, tax incentives and wider adherence to the principle of responsible behaviour call for a greater understanding of the interplay between environmental factors and the introduction of advanced forms of technology in order to safeguard natural resources, reduce the use made of them and tackle the problems of pollution and waste.
This highly interdisciplinary research could in particular include in-depth study of matters relating to global environmental change, the basic cycles, natural hazards and European ecosystems.
- Creating a user-friendly information society: Europe has made a name for itself by developing the concept of an "information society", linking together technical, economic and industrial considerations and the social dimension. The very numerous applications to which it lends itself in virtually all areas of activity underline its enormous potential for increasing the competitiveness of industry and satisfying the demands of the individual.
The anticipated technological and industrial convergence between computers, telecommunications and the media is now rapidly coming about through the use of digital systems and multimedia. The non-material aspects of this development, in particular the "content" of software, are especially important. The aim now is to identify the research needed for an information society.
This research could aim at the development of technology, infrastructure, services and applications that are interoperable at world level. It will provide the foundations for very many jobs in tomorrow's world and will contribute toward the decentralization and personalization of activities in a more competitive and innovative framework.
The identification of and experimentation with these new concepts and tools will give people easier access to information and education throughout their lives, help people to share the cultural heritage and preserve linguistic diversity.
- Promoting competitive and sustainable growth: This topic covers a range of priorities which are the result in particular of various Community policies. They have a major impact on the competitiveness of the Union in view of the considerable number of jobs involved and their common feature is that they lead to a reorganization of production systems in the interests of sustainable growth.
Conventional forms of industrial manufacturing as well as the design and production of new products and materials will, for example, have to integrate the notions of product "life cycle", lower costs, the development of standards, and, more generally, "externalities", all of which have too often been disregarded in the past. Services and intangible activities, techniques for the design, production and management of complex systems and ergonomic considerations, all of which are becoming increasingly important in the economy, could also be developed.
In the energy domain, priority could be given to the development and demonstration of safe, acceptable energy systems which comply with standards and environmental constraints and are competitive in terms of production costs and the global economy. Research might also cover the rational management of energy in everyday life ( e.g. the "town and home of the future"), as well as the various options as regards the production and storage of energy with a view to the medium-term and long-term.
As regards the mobility of passengers and freight, research could be directed in particular at optimizing efficiency, safety, environmental impact and competitiveness as these are all necessary to promote the quality of products and services, to ensure their integration at the European level and to capture world markets. Particular attention could be paid to the question of intermodality, combining different transport modes.
In the agricultural sector, it is necessary to flesh out the concept of an "integrated rural development policy". All activities in rural areas, including forests, could be linked within an integrated approach, based on the need for competitiveness and sustainability and ensuring optimum land use in these areas. New instruments and systems to optimize and diversify production need to be developed, focusing on complete cycles and sequences, multifunctional management (production and ecological and social aspects) and links between activities, incorporating quality, health, environmental and socio-economic considerations at all levels.
Lastly, in the fisheries sector, a multidisclipinary approach could be adopted to shape the future of this industry and help to restore fish stocks to their normal levels.
III.1.2 Horizontal activities
These activities will include two components: one general component designed to meet common needs and provide general coordination, and the other component related to the list of priority topics above.
- Improving human potential: Greater effort is needed to improve the training and mobility of scientists, including those in industry, and to encourage them to seek scientific research posts in Europe. This would require the provision of compatible training courses and equitable treatment of visiting scientists throughout Europe, extending the communication and exchange networks between laboratories and companies and granting access to major facilities, the duplication of which should be avoided, while ensuring that new projects are better coordinated.
The promotion of a European identity by introducing a European science prize (as recently suggested by the European Parliament) and the qualification of "European scientist" could be pursued. Better links could also be sought with education and training policy mechanisms.
In a socio-economic context, action will be needed to identify social needs more clearly and to improve understanding of the social impact of research work, the changes taking place in European society and the diverse nature of its component parts and foundations, eg by increasing capacity for foresight and the study of various scenarios resulting from the introduction of technology at work and in the economy, education and culture. New organisational and developmental models which may help to reduce problems of exclusion and to achieve a breakthrough in the creation of new jobs might be analyzed together with the most promising experiments carried out in this area.
- Innovation and participation of SMEs: Access to all research and research results by a larger number of "conventional" SMEs and mid-sized firms could be facilitated through the introduction of a single, simplified framework and the development of technology transfer mechanisms.
In parallel, following the guidelines laid down in the innovation action plan, more attention could also be given to the ways in which results are analyzed and used to the best possible effect and to the establishment of links with risk capital and financial engineering mechanisms, as seen in the success of the NASDAQ. An analysis could also be made of different ways of encouraging research.
- Confirming the international role of European research: The following guidelines could be implemented in line with the Union's political objectives (particularly its foreign policy objectives) and the principle of mutual interest and on the basis of bilateral or regional agreements, and decisions to start programmes and specific projects:
- the direct, improved involvement of certain outside participants in research programme projects. Particular attention could be given to the Central and East European countries in order to help with their rapid accession to the Union, and to encourage them to become fully involved in research. At the same time, for mutual benefit, greater participation of the industrialized countries, the emerging economies and possibly the countries of the Mediterranean could be envisaged;
- the introduction of schemes to improve cooperation at European level and to make the European research area more attractive to scientists from countries with which the Union has beneficial links;
- the definition of specific international scientific cooperation projects, along with the appropriate resources, either on specific topics or relating to specific countries or regions such as the Mediterranean, the CIS and the developing countries, to support external policy objectives, involving industry and European centres of excellence.
With each framework programme, the question arises of the "dispersion" of projects and resources. There is also the problem of incorporating novel ideas that arise during the course of the programme and the difficulty of winding up activities, each of which is of interest, de facto, to a particular group of people.
The time has come to be more selective about topics and to ensure a greater concentration of resources. For it to succeed, this approach must be accompanied by greater effectiveness in implementation while complying strictly with the principle of transparency, especially in the project selection process. The Commission will also work to ensure the avoidance of fragmentation in Community research.
Increasing flexibility in research work and the decision-making process
The procedures set up over the years for the framework programme need to be slimmed down, while retaining the defining principles of equality of treatment and access and of transparency.
There is much room for improvement in the institutional support arrangements. At the Intergovernmental Conference, the Commission will, for example, advocate a simplified decision-making procedure for implementation of research policy and specific programmes and for their adoption by a qualified majority. Matters could also be simplified by reducing considerably the number of programmes and the number of committees.
It needs to be possible to supplement and adjust work programmes at regular intervals in line with scientific and technical changes and policy developments. In the event of an emergency, as recently with the problem of "mad cow disease", there needs to be an arrangement for the rapid regrouping of several areas of action around a single target, for bringing together the resources needed and, where appropriate, for redirecting effort.
Ensuring more efficient management
A slight improvement would seem to be possible where management techniques are concerned. The Commission has called for ideas about possible ways of simplifying internal management procedures and the procedures governing external contractual relations.
A stated aim is to shorten the deadlines and reduce administrative costs, e.g. when selecting proposals and concluding contracts, and when making payments, a matter of particular importance for small firms and researchers in receipt of grants.
The calls for proposals must be published on a regular basis, be compatible with the working patterns of industry, research centres and universities, and meet the requirements of sound management. Where the procedures governing the selection of proposals are concerned, it would seem to be necessary to explain the selection criteria more clearly.
Lastly, the need is being felt for some kind of monitoring tool with which to measure, in real time and on the basis of objectives, indicators and high quality statistics, the state of progress and performance of the framework programme, and a forum (e.g. on the Internet) for ongoing dialogue with participants in the Fifth Framework Programme and other interested parties.
Extending the range of instruments and means of coordination
The approach so far, which has very largely consisted of juxtaposing a large number of projects (50/50 partnership for a project generally of a modest size), should be replaced by a wider range of modalities and financial instruments more appropriate to the various objectives, whereby it is possible to establish closer links between Community activities and national activities or between national activities on certain topics.
In order to be able to respond rapidly to the considerable pressure to allow spontaneous proposals, to include emerging interdisciplinary research topics (e.g. neurosciences) and to allow for the unexpected, there needs to be some leeway, albeit strictly controlled in terms of decision-making;
The following instruments in particular are envisaged:
- a small number of horizontal programmes with a strong focus on generic technologies applicable to many areas, capable of giving rise to and sustaining more targeted research topics not necessarily always specified initially;
- "task forces". This approach is that of targeted research, open to all comers, on unifying topics. Task force activities are a new concept introduced by the Commission on an experimental basis with the fourth framework programme;
This type of research is based on the idea of placing advances in knowledge and technologies at the service of central societal and industrial objectives, thus meeting the three objectives of transparency, selectiveness and concentration. In practice, the task forces are primarily coordination instruments for formulating and monitoring the implementation of a limited number of new short-term activities, for which priorities must be identified in close consultation with industry, consumers and governments.
- instruments for encouraging cooperation between Member States. To be truly significant, European research must not confine itself to work carried out together solely within the specific programmes. Depending on the genuine desires of the Member States, the Commission is willing to promote this approach on specific topics, making use of the possibilities afforded by Articles 130k (supplementary programmes), 130l (participation in projects undertaken by certain Member States) or 130n (participation in joint undertakings) of the Treaty.
Where these first three instruments are concerned, COST could be used, as it was to begin with, as a breeding ground for ideas, while links with EUREKA could be improved in order to direct the results of Community research towards the market. This would necessitate closer interaction between the framework programme and these two forums for cooperation whose strategy is currently under review.
In addition, there is a need for more exchange of information and better coordination between Community and national research policies and investments (4). Greater consistency would entail a competitive advantage and a financial saving, enabling the Union and the Member States to focus more effectively on their respective objectives.
- to ensure that the framework programme is better equipped to provide effective support for other Community policies, there is a need for a significant improvement in the mechanisms for liaising and interfacing with the instruments of the other policies so as to make these instruments "interoperable" (5) with research and to make the Community activities more effective.
International cooperation (6) and the Structural Funds are chiefly concerned. In the latter case, the aim is to encourage the Member States to devote a larger proportion of structural resources to research in order to foster the rapid development of their potential for scientific excellence and confirm the catching-up process that has begun (7).
- the Joint Research Centre: the role and tasks of public laboratories are being carefully examined in all the major industrialized countries. The laboratories that go to make up the JRC should, similarly, be used for clear and ambitious tasks, striving for excellence and focusing on a few aspects in line with new needs emanating from industry and the market. It is necessary in particular:
- to make available independent and impartial expertise to meet the needs of Community policies and contribute towards the scientific basis for Union policy decisions;
- to ensure closer links between the institutes and the national and international laboratories.
The JRC needs to be given the organizational flexibility it requires to be in a better position to cooperate with industry and users within a properly adapted legal framework. The emphasis will be on utilizing the know-how and expertise of the institutes' researchers and facilities, which in many areas are unique in Europe, transfers of technologies, and industrial joint ventures.
(3) By extension, this discussion also covers the EURATOM framework programme.
(4) See Article 130h of the Union Treaty: "The Community and the Member States shall coordinate their research and technological development activities so as to ensure that national policies and Community policy are mutually consistent."
(5) Experience with the task force approach has shown how difficult it is to involve different programmes (e.g. research and education programmes) in a joint call for proposals exercise.
(6) Where international scientific cooperation is concerned, improvements are already in sight with programmes such as TACIS, PHARE and MEDA being opened up more widely in order to allow the participation in Community research projects of entities from the countries concerned.
(7) A communication on the relationships between research and the structural funds is currently being prepared by the Commission.