Commissioner Bangemann outlines the objectives of the European Union's Fourth Framework Programme With the new Research and Development Framework Programme, recently agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, the objectives of the Union are primarily to sustain the global competitiveness of the European economy and to secure the best prospects for its ... With the new Research and Development Framework Programme, recently agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, the objectives of the Union are primarily to sustain the global competitiveness of the European economy and to secure the best prospects for its future growth. Three Framework Programmes have already been successfully implemented, aimed mostly at the establishment of a solid scientific and technological base. The Fourth Framework Programme has now to concentrate on the cross-roads of technological development and innovation and to contribute to the competitiveness of all sectors of European industry and services, to their sustainable development and to the promotion of the quality of life. The White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness, and Employment has set the scene for the Union's action towards the next century and also identifies the path to effective implementation of the new R&D framework, in line with our horizontal and non-sectorial approach to industrial policy. The direction is set towards the achievement of a modern economy with efficient and safe infrastructures where all industries and services, including the traditional ones, will use tools and methods where information and communications will play a key role: i.e. the Information Society which requires the further modernisation of the whole fabric of the European economy. Therein, one of the challenges identified for the Fourth Framework Programme by the White Paper will be to foster the transformation of R&D results into innovations along with the dissemination of the established technological know-how in the European industrial fabric, the training of a highly skilled labour force and the establishment of uniform norms and standards, where needed. Another challenge for all the specific programmes and actions within the Fourth Framework programme concerns the necessary mobilisation of the small and medium undertakings in all sectors towards the leading edge of technology and innovation. Too small to afford sufficient R&D capabilities, these units working in high technology areas, or applying advanced technologies represent a significant source of creativity, growth and employment. A prime goal of all the R&D programmes will also be to support their development and dynamism with appropriate mechanisms, making it easier for them to access and use stabilised advanced technologies. Finally, the evidence is that global efficiency of all these European RTD activities will only be achieved through the appropriate co-ordination of all the efforts deployed in the Union by Member States and complemented by the Fourth Framework Programme under the provisions of the subsidiarity principle and in synergy with the objectives of the other Community policies.