The European Parliament has adopted a report on the "Prospects for European science and technology policy in the 21st century". The report, adopted on 28 November 1996, is the Parliament's initial contribution to the debate on the preparation of the Fifth RTD Framework Programme due to start in 1999. The Parliament calls for research to be oriented towards the citizen and welcomes the Commission's recognition of this priority in its communication "Inventing Tomorrow" of 10 July 1996. In order for citizens to benefit fully from research, the Parliament calls on the Commission to undertake activities to promote awareness of scientific activities and promote a culture favourable to research and technological innovation among the general public. Research policy should take into consideration the creation of employment, as well as the attainment of a social and economic model of sustainable development. The Parliament's report calls for greater flexibility in research programmes in order to allow them to react to changing circumstances and needs and to concentrate resources most effectively. It also calls for the development of research policy to be undertaken on the basis of closer cooperation between the Community institutions and with expert external advice. The Parliament stresses that an effective research policy, which meets the needs of the market, must incorporate a dissemination strategy. The report suggests that this should be based on a number of principles, including: multi-sector, application-oriented research on a network basis; regional networks for technology transfer; technological forecasting which converts operational options into commercially viable products; and achievement of visible objectives to bring greater public acceptance. As regards the first activity of the Fifth Framework Programme, the specific RTD programmes, the Parliament calls for a matrix structure, with a series of programmes based on enabling technologies on one axis and, on the other, programmes focused on needs. Both elements would have their own financial resources and would support a range of projects - from short-term problem-solving tasks to long-term basic research. The second activity, international cooperation, should allow greater participation of non-Member States, with appropriate funding from these outside participants. The Parliament also calls for greater involvement of the Central and Eastern European countries in the Fifth Framework Programme. In respect of the dissemination of results (the third activity), the report calls for changes in intellectual property rights aimed at encouraging technology transfer. The report also calls for greater integration of Community research policy with the Structural Funds and the PHARE and TACIS third country technical assistance programmes. The Parliament underlines the importance of measures to improve conditions for the participation of SMEs and, in particular, to increase access to finance. It notes, however, that SMEs constitute a highly diverse group and that measures, therefore, need to be tailored to particular target groups. The Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR) programme (the fourth activity), which is already a valuable resource, should be strengthened further, according to the Parliament, with greater cooperation between research institutes and industry needed. The report also calls on the Commission to ensure science teaching in schools will provide both sufficient numbers of scientists and an informed public. National research institutes should have a greater role in Community research, while the Joint Research Centre's role should be redefined, according to Parliament. Community research should have strong links with other large-scale research frameworks, particularly EUREKA and COST. The Parliament also calls for greater use of a two-stage application procedure for RTD projects in order to minimize expenditure on detailed preparation of unsuccessful proposals. The Parliament's report will be forwarded to the Commission and the Council of Ministers. It will also be taken into consideration by the Commission in its preparation of the proposal for the Fifth Framework Programme due to be launched in March 1997. The Parliament will, along with the Council, play a full part in the process of adopting the next Framework Programme and it can be expected to devote considerable resources to this - particularly within the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy.
Policy making and guidelines
10 April 1997