ANRT, the French "Association Nationale de la Recherche Technique", organized a conference on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme, in Paris, on 21 and 22 April 1997. Professor Jorma Routti, Director-General of the European Commission's DG XII (Science, research and development), presented the Commission's proposal, adopted on 9 April 1997. Following this, a number of senior officials from the European Commission presented the Commission's proposals in the areas covered by each of the six proposed specific programmes. Professor Routti began by outlining the overall objectives of the Commission's proposal. He noted that the EU needs to maintain a level of excellence in European science and technology but pointed out that European research must also respond to the Union's priorities, such as industrial competitiveness, innovation, Community policies, and the needs of society, especially for employment. Professor Routti stressed that the Fifth Framework Programme needs to have more of a global outlook than the Fourth Framework Programme. He recognized that the new Framework Programme would represent a break with the past but reassured participants that the Commission would ensure that there was a smooth transition. Turning to the research fields to be supported under the Fifth Framework Programme, Professor Routti explained why the Commission was proposing fewer programmes than in the previous Framework Programmes. The enormous range of technology means that not everything can be covered, given the limits of the Community budget. The 16 key actions proposed by the Commission within the three thematic programmes will target research efforts into certain areas, and will aim to build on existing competence, or work towards the integration of European networks. Fewer programmes and a simpler structure will also allow the Commission to improve the efficiency of the Programme, according to Professor Routti. The Commission's initial proposals for the budget for the five years of the Programme envisage that the Fifth Framework Programme will receive an equivalent proportion of the Community budget to the Fourth Framework Programme. This would mean that the total budget would be of the order of ECU 16 billion for the entire Fifth Framework Programme, or around 4% of the Community budget. Whilst the Commission acknowledged that there would not be a significant increase in the Community's research budget, he stated that it was important that the budget represented the same proportion of Gross National Product (GNP) as today. Support for SMEs will be integrated further into the specific programmes themselves. This follows the general trend for integration of existing programmes shown throughout the proposal for the Fifth Framework Programme. Professor Routti acknowledged that the Commission and the large and small Member States do not fully agree on the areas for the key actions, but he suggested that it is likely that the emphasis will be on the life sciences. There will be six programme committees, composed of representatives of the Member States, but the key actions within those programmes will be the responsibility of the Commission alone. With difficult negotiations involving the Council and European Parliament to come, Professor Routti noted that there could be some changes in the research areas to be supported, but that he hoped the Programme would be launched officially at the beginning of 1999.
Policy making and guidelines
10 April 1997