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Programme Structure and Content

  1. How FP5 is structured
  2. Content of Thematic Programmes
  3. Content of Horizontal Programmes
  4. Joint Research Centre
  5. New integrated, problem-solving approach

How FP5 is structured

The Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) has two main components:

1. Fifth (EC) RTD Framework Programme , comprising four focused Thematic programmes implementing research, technological development and demonstration activities and three wide-ranging Horizontal programmes;

2. Fifth (Euratom) Framework Programme , comprising a focused Thematic programme implementing research and training activities in the nuclear sector.

Each of the Framework Programmes also contain a specific programme covering the direct RTD actions to be implemented by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) which comprise research, scientific and technical support of an institutional nature.

The four Thematic Programmes cover a series of well-defined problems, and the three Horizontal Programmes respond to common needs across all research areas. Each specific programme has established its own web site on CORDIS:


Activity Programmes

First Activity

Research, technological development and demonstration programmes


Activity Programmes
Second Activity
Promotion of cooperation in the field of Community RTD with third countries and international organizations
Third Activity
Dissemination and optimization of the results of activities in Community RTD
Fourth Activity
Stimulation of the training and mobility of researchers in the Community

Direct RTD Actions
Joint Research Centre (JRC)
  • Research and scientific and technical support activities of an institutional character

Thematic programmes: Content and organization

The Thematic programmes comprise:

  1. " Key actions "

  2. Research and technological development activities of a generic nature

  3. Activities in support of research infrastructures

(i) "Key actions"

Key actions are problem-oriented and clearly defined on the basis of a common set of criteria . They are specifically targeted to the objectives of each programme and to the desired results, taking into account the views of users. They will have a clear European focus. The "key action" is regarded as a cluster of small and large, applied, generic and, as appropriate, basic research projects directed towards a common European challenge or problem, not excluding global issues.

Key actions are major innovations of the Fifth Framework Programme. All concerned parties, including the user community, will be involved in the definition of the key actions. Concrete deliverables are expected, thereby ensuring that the research efforts are translated effectively into practical and visible results.
A list of Key actions is also available in this section.

The research activities carried out in this context will integrate the entire spectrum of activities and disciplines needed to achieve the objectives, ranging from basic research through development to demonstration. Consideration will be given to appropriate links with relevant national and international initiatives (including complementary European RTD frameworks).

(ii) Research and technological development activities of a generic nature

These activities, which are essential to achieve the objectives of the thematic programmes, will be carried out in a limited number of areas not covered by the key actions. Complementing the key actions, their main aim is to help the Community maintain and improve its scientific and technological capability in those areas of research and enabling technologies which should be used widely.

(iii) Support for research infrastructures

Since the construction and operation of research infrastructure is the responsibility of national authorities, Community support for research infrastructures in line with the objectives of the thematic programmes should contribute to cover two essential requirements at Community level:

  1. the need for an optimum use of existing research infrastructures; and,

  2. the need for transnational cooperation in the rational and cost-effective development of research infrastructures.

The role of the Community should be to provide added value, complementary to national or multinational initiatives. Community support may enhance access to infrastructures and will in particular be provided for research infrastructure networks leading to further complementarity, pooling of efforts and/or specialization at the European level (including the compatibility of databases).

Horizontal programmes: Content and organization

The horizontal themes are at the crossroads of the Community's research policy and its policies for external relations, innovation, SMEs and human resources, and for social and employment issues.

Each of them comprises:

  • specific activities - including, where necessary, key actions - linked to the general objectives of the Community's policy with regard to external relations, innovation, SMEs and human resources which are not carried out as part of the themes of the first activity;

  • activities essentially in the form of coordination, support and accompanying activities to ensure the coherence of equivalent activities carried out under the themes of the first activity.

In coordination and interaction with the horizontal programmes, the thematic programmes will take the necessary measures to make an active contribution, in the context of their own activities, towards the achievement of the general objectives of the horizontal programmes.

Community support for research infrastructures in the context of the fourth activity will concentrate in particular on measures enhancing access to such infrastructures.

Joint Research Centre (JRC)

The Joint Research Centre to be implemented by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) will comprise research and scientific and technical support activities of an institutional character. The JRC may provide support where it has special or even unique expertise and facilities in the Community or where it is entrusted with activities necessary for the framing and implementation of Community policies and tasks incumbent on the Commission pursuant to the Treaty which require the JRC's impartiality (for example in the case of standardization). The JRC will carry out its activities in close cooperation with the scientific community and enterprises in Europe. Exchanges between the JRC and universities, research institutes and industry will be encouraged.
The JRC is also progressively involved in competitive activities.
The appropriations made available to the JRC constitute a maximum amount. In addition, the JRC may endeavour to secure funds from other sources. The relevant JRC management rules and regulations will apply to these allocations.

New integrated, problem-solving approach

One essential new characteristic of the Fifth Framework Programme is the integrated, problem-solving approach. Integration is strengthened at three levels:
  • By the key action concept in the Thematic Programmes.

    Key actions will enable the many and varied aspects of the economic and social issues to be targeted, by integrating the entire spectrum of activities and disciplines needed to achieve the objectives.

  • Between Horizontal and Thematic Programmes objectives.

    • International co-operation
      Participation by entities of third countries and international organisations will be possible in all Thematic Programmes but under different conditions from those applied in the Horizontal Programme "Confirming the international role of Community research".

    • Innovation and participation of SMEs
      Measures encourageing SME participation in RTD activities will be carried out in all Thematic Programmes. Details on SME stimulation measures may be found in the special information brochure devoted to them. In addition, each Thematic Programme will interface with the Horizontal Programme "Promotion of innovation and encouragement of SME participation" in order to develop awareness and help technology transfer and use of the results of the Thematic Programme.

    • Socio-economic and training aspects
      Socio-economic research can be funded by both the Thematic Programmes and by the key action on "Improving the socio-economic knowledge base" of the Horizontal Programme "Improving the human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base". Socio-economic research is present in the Thematic Programmes as an integral part of the technological research activities. Training opportunities for researchers are assured through the Marie Curie system of fellowships that can be implemented by Thematic Programmes as well as by other specific training activities in the Human Potential Programme.

  • Between Thematic Programmes.

    Complementary and synergetic interactions will be ensured in particular when one programme deals with downstream users of the scientific and technological content covered by the other.

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