IRDAC, the European Commission's Industrial Research and Development Advisory Committee of the European Commission (IRDAC), has recently published an opinion on the management of Community RTD programmes. The opinion responds to a request from Mrs. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for science, research and development, and follows a round table on the subject held in February 1998, at which some 20 senior European industrialists participated. The management of the EU's RTD programmes has come under considerable discussion in the past few months as the preparation of the Fifth Framework Programme has advanced. The ever-increasing popularity of the programmes has placed the management issue in the spotlight as more and more proposals are submitted. The round table, which aimed to contribute to this debate from the viewpoint of industrialists, addressed the following issues: - Basic principles, facts and figures; - Quality of evaluating proposals; - Transparency; - Ways forward; - New challenges under the planned Fifth Framework Programme; - Experience from industry and the Member States. Among the main conclusions are: - EU research programmes are being managed in a satisfactory manner, however there is a need to examine, on a permanent basis, ways to improve management, with particular focus on the views of participants; - The basic principles such as equal access, selection on the basis of quality and relevance, full transparency and rapidity for the management of the programmes should remain unchanged; - The evaluation of project proposals as managed by the Commission is of a high quality, however ways to reduce the high level of over-subscription should be examined; - Confidentiality for industry remains crucial especially prior to and during the evaluation process; - Transparency in the management of the programmes should and could be improved; - Delays in the handling of project proposals, giving feed-back to applicants and negotiation of contracts need to be reduced; - Greater emphasis should be given to the selection criteria of relevance, both economically or for innovation, rather than scientific excellence; - A benchmarking exercise with other RTD funding agencies both at European and national levels could enhance mutual understanding and exchange of best practice.