The European Parliament's committee on industry, research and energy adopted a report on the future of EU research policy on 21 February, giving support to the broad ideas presented in the Commission's communication 'Science and technology - Guidelines for future European Union policy to support research'. Rapporteur Pia Elda Locatelli emphasised the need for an increased research budget, stressed the need for continuity, and highlighted the proposed European Research Council as 'crucial for successful innovation'. Some 225 amendments were tabled, but few of them questioning Ms Locatelli's general position. The report calls for the synchronisation of the duration of the framework programmes with the duration of the financial perspectives, which would extend the programmes to seven years. The new system would comprise a rolling programme, including a mid-term review, which would allow a readjustment of objectives if and when needed. In adopting the report, the committee called on the Member States to ensure a significant increase in the EU's research budget. The establishment of a European Research Area (ERA) will not be possible without a significant budgetary increase, claims the report, which subsequently 'calls for the same determination that was manifested in pursuit of the single market and monetary union to be applied by all Member States and EU institutions to building the ERA.' In her explanatory statement, Ms Locatelli refers to the 'absurdity of trying to plan for a new FP [framework programme] in total ignorance of the amount of funding available for it.' The research budget should be at least doubled, and 'Member States should regard this as a minimum not to be questioned during the negotiations on the financial perspectives,' she writes. The report welcomes the proposal on the establishment of a European Research Council, which, it underlines, should be adequately funded, independent, and accountable to its funders but autonomous in its operations. On human resources, the report calls on the EU institutions and the Member States to consider the promotion of women's access to scientific careers and subsequent advancement as a priority, and to make mobility a 'mass phenomenon'. In order to promote technology transfer, MEPs accepted an amendment by Dutch MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij calling for a pre-determined, substantial proportion of the funds for collaborative research within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to be put aside for facilitating and supporting cooperation between small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and research institutions. The report also calls for the promotion of incubators favouring high technology start-ups. Although the Commission has not yet put forward proposals for which scientific fields should receive funding under FP7, MEPs have already begun debating the issue. While Ms Locatelli highlighted space and security research, the life sciences, energy and nanotechnology as areas which should be funded, a compromise agreement extends this list. Biotechnology, neuroscience, preventive research and public health are specified under the heading of life sciences, while energy research is stipulated as referring to all existing and future non CO2 emitting energy sources. Information and communications technology (ICT), new materials and production processes and chemistry are also added to the list. An amendment by German MEP Peter Liese also states than in awarding research funding, the Commission must 'show a proper concern for animal protection firstly by supporting alternatives to animal testing and secondly by reducing to a minimum the number of animal tests in the projects it finances.' The report was adopted by 41 votes to 3, and will now be forwarded to the EU institutions and Member States. Another Parliament report is set to follow after the Commission unveils its proposals for FP7 in the spring.
Policy making and guidelines
11 March 2005