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Framework programme monitoring panel gives latest judgement

A good job, managing an enormous and complicated programme, but with room for improvement in coordination and a need to ensure that the Framework programme focuses and delivers on its priorities, particularly the European research area (ERA). This is summary of the findings in...

A good job, managing an enormous and complicated programme, but with room for improvement in coordination and a need to ensure that the Framework programme focuses and delivers on its priorities, particularly the European research area (ERA). This is summary of the findings in the report of the 2000 Framework programme monitoring panel, submitted to the DG Research Director-General at the end of May. Recognising that a major reorganisation of DG Research had taken place, the report says that under these circumstances, substantial progress has been made. It also congratulates all those concerned with the Framework programme on their incorporation of the previous set of recommendations made by the FPMP in 2000. While congratulating the management, scientific officers and support staff on their work on what the panel recognises is a 'huge and complex programme', the panel did highlight specific areas of concern. The European research area (ERA) can be implemented more forcefully via the Framework programme, the panel concluded. The next round of calls for proposals could 'reinforce the ERA orientations' they say, and there needs to be clarity of what the programmes are contributing to the ERA. The role of the JRC (Joint research centre) should also have its role and visibility reinforced as part of the ERA orientation, something which should involve its close collaboration with the various DGs. The ERA policy should also lead to a stronger international (ie outside the EU) policy, something which the report claims should be coordinated by a specific directorate. There should also, it says, be an expert advisory group to give feedback on priorities and needs. Training and mobility, clustering and mapping of excellence are three other areas which require attention, according to the report. Training and mobility need to remain a priority in the present Framework programme (FP5) as well as the next (FP6). Clustering should be encouraged through the calls for proposals, perhaps by incorporating calls which only relate to clustered projects. Mapping of excellence is a welcome initiative which should be followed up with further Commission plans to involve the scientific communities. The report also calls for greater coordination in the actions designed to help SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). It recommends that the effectiveness of the coordination group between innovation cells be improved, so that best practices can be transferred across programmes. Improved coherence between the relevant DGs is also recommended. And better cooperation between the services at the disposal of SMEs, such as innovation relay centres and national contact points is necessary. One area that was particularly singled out for enhanced coordination is the European research energy programmes, where the report said that 'more coordination is needed in the management' of these programmes. The report also recommends a promotion campaign for the new EU community patent due to be ready by the end of 2001. As well as giving recommendations on strategic objectives, the report also made a number of points about the operational side of the Framework programme. It divided its comments into two sections; the structure and organisation of the Framework programmes and its processes and management tools. In the former, the panel's report calls for more training, clearer roles of project officers, better management methods and more delegation. It also suggested a review of the productivity of management tools and of the TIP (technological implementation plan). In the latter category, the panel's report focuses on the need to keep information flowing to proposers, with regular updates, adequate assistance and good communication. It also calls for the implementation of a state of the art information system for the next Framework programme. Finally it calls for an evaluation of the causes of bottlenecks in signing of contracts and reduced delays