Commission Vice-President Professor A. Ruberti (responsible for science, research and development, education, training and youth) sent a note on 17 June 1993 to Community Ministers for Research and to the European Parliament's Committee on Energy, Research and Technology (CERT) examining how to improve programme management in order to increase the efficiency of Community activities, both meeting the needs of ongoing activities and also preparing for the Fourth Framework Programme. The paper aims to provide a basis for discussion with the scientific and the industrial and technological communities. A management manual should be available for users and the research community during October 1993. Topics include: I. Improvement of existing procedures: - Flexibility: Detail in defining scientific and technological objectives tailored to the decision-making level (Framework Programme, specific programme, workprogramme, calls for proposals, projects); focusing objectives to avoid over subscription; making objectives ambitious but realistic and measurable. - Access to and participation in programmes: Calls for proposals for specific programmes to be issued on pre-specified dates; dissemination of information on calls; publication of a news bulletin with information on calls, timescales, conditions, etc. to ensure researchers have equal opportunities to participate, with selection based on proposal quality. - Simplification of proposed requirements and contract conditions: Reduction of information required for project selection, simplification of contracts (a model contract), setting up new payment procedures. - Project appraisal and selection: Transparent procedures, defined in full consultation with interested parties; published selection criteria providing information on the way experts are selected for project appraisal and the terms of reference for the evaluation. - Dissemination and exploitation of results: Strengthening of these activities by means of a network of Relay Centres established at national and regional level, helping organizations (especially SMEs) to benefit from Community RTD. - Measures specifically aimed at SMEs: To encourage research by or for SMEs; to simplify the transfer and takeup of technology through introducing specific project procedures meeting their needs; the use of intermediary bodies to disseminate information and help in project preparation and finding partners; to encourage cooperation between SMEs and research centres. - The Commission's internal management procedures: Management by objectives and by delegation. - Decentralization: A management tool already widely used in programme management and operation, that can lead to efficiency, improved service and flexibility, assuring at the same time complete fairness, equality of opportunity and operational efficiency within existing financial and legal constraints (within these constraints, the Commission seeks opportunities for subcontracting where real benefits for management of Community research can be attained). II. Increased coordination with Member State activities: - Thematic networks of excellence: Bringing together for a given technological or industrial objective, manufacturers, users, universities and research centres which participate in projects cofinanced by the Community. Their design and management are to be "bottom-up" and ensure the exchange of information and results between partners. - Concerted networks: Identified by national laboratories or institutes, with Member States playing an important role. - Consortia for integrated projects: Bringing together network and Community actions in an integrated structure with common objectives and based on a contractual relationship. The initiatives set out in the note were favourably received by the Ministers for Research meeting within the Council (30.6.1993).