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Improving the management of EU research programmes

The European Commission and Member States' Research Ministers have agreed on a strategy to improve the management of EU research programmes. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, innovation, education, training and youth, presented the Commission's plans for im...

The European Commission and Member States' Research Ministers have agreed on a strategy to improve the management of EU research programmes. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, innovation, education, training and youth, presented the Commission's plans for improving management within the forthcoming Fifth RTD Framework Programme at a Ministerial Colloquium, held in London on 28 April 1998. Ministers applauded the moves which the Commission has already made to improve the management of research programmes. However, John Battle, the UK's Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, who chaired the meeting as President-in-Office of the Research Council, stated that, "At the same time we have sent a strong signal on the need for the Commission to continually strive to improve its management of the programme, and to provide a clearer account of programme results and impacts so as to increase understanding of its achievements by the people of Europe." According to Mr. Battle, "this meeting shows the importance we attach to ensuring that European research funds are used effectively, to provide our researchers with a user-friendly system that is efficiently run, leaving as much of the money as possible for actual research to be carried out." Discussions on improving the management of EU research programmes have stepped up as the preparation of the Fifth Framework Programme has intensified. The Commission has introduced many measures to improve programmes' management in recent years, however the high profile and the scale of the programmes, particularly in the present climate of budgetary rigour, means that calls for improving their management are ever-present. The Research Council of 10 November 1997, in discussing the proposals for the Fifth Framework Programme, had called for a review with the aim of increasing efficiency in programme implementation and management. The colloquium was held to launch this review and should see concrete measures introduced into the Fifth Framework Programme. Commissioner Cresson presented a number of new measures which the Commission proposes to introduce for the new Programme. She emphasized the value of the EU's research programmes for conducting excellent scientific work and ensuring added value at European level. She also emphasized that the Commission was continually updating its management procedures in respect of the implementation of research programmes. Key elements in the proposals put forward by Mrs. Cresson include: - The Commission's performance in comparison to other organizations engaged in managing research will be monitored through a regular benchmarking exercise. A recent external study of staff and administrative costs has shown that the Commission's costs compare favourably with other national and international research organizations; - Scientists, industrialists and users will be much more involved in the implementation of the programmes. External Advisory Groups, which will provide public advice on the direction and research priorities for key areas of the Programme will be established. In addition, the two existing advisory bodies, IRDAC (industrial research) and ESTA (academic research) will be combined; - The Commission will also work to improve transparency and simplify procedures further. Included in this will be pilot experiments, such as giving more autonomy to host institutions for the management of mobility grants for researchers. Management issues will be discussed in further detail as part of the debate on the individual specific programmes. The Commission plans to put forward its legislative proposals for these in the next few months, with the focus of discussions in the Parliament and Council likely to move to these in Autumn 1998, in order that they can be formally adopted in time for the first calls for proposals to be launched by the end of 1998 or in early 1999.