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EU Funding Opens Up Links With Russia's Secret Cities

UK and European researchers are being encouraged to forge stronger links with the scientific community in what were Russias closed cities during the cold war.,

UK and European researchers are being encouraged to forge stronger links with the scientific community in what were Russias closed cities or ZATO (zakrytye administrativno-territorial'nye obrazovaniia). During the cold war many of these cities were out of bounds to Russian citizens and all were forbidden territory to anyone with a foreign passport. This was because they provided the technical foundation for Soviet military technology including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons research and manufacturing, enrichment of plutonium, space research, and military intelligence work. This meant that large numbers of highly qualified scientists and researchers were concentrated in these areas, developing new technologies but isolated from the global research community. Now the ADMIRE-P project - with partners in the UK, Russia and Austria - is helping European researchers to draw on Russia's potential for scientific cooperation and collaboration, thanks to a grant of 500,000 from the Information Society Technology (IST) Programme of the European Unions Framework Programme. The views westerners once had of Russia's scientific community is changing according to ADMIRE-P project coordinator Paul Drath of UK partner Singleimage. With Glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union, all of the major cities were opened for collaboration in civil research and the slow process of breaking down the barriers of secrecy began. The ADMIRE-P project has been working to forge links and encourage collaboration between European and Russian researchers from the Privolzhsky Federal District (PFD) which contains half of the once closed towns. This includes the regional capital Nizhni Novgorod, 400 universities, 650 scientific and research organisations, seven innovation technology centres and 19 technology parks. Despite this wealth of experience and innovation there are still many barriers to EU-Russian collaboration and partnership, not least of which is the cultural background of Russian R&D developed under the Soviet system. "To a certain extent differences are compounded by Cold War stereotypes of Russian scientists and suspicions on the Russian side that the West might still be trying to steal their research ideas," Paul Drath added. "However, it is the lack of knowledge of EU organisations and funding structure which poses the greatest barrier and merits special attention and ADMIRE-P aims to fill this knowledge gap. ,Singleimage, a small company based near Cambridge, has extensive experience of EU research programmes and employs Russian staff to help bridge this Gap. With the signing of the Scientific and Technological Cooperation agreement between the European Community and Russia, Russian organisations are now able to participate in the main Framework Programme priorities for the first time, rather than eligibility being assessed on a case-by-case basis as in previous Framework Programmes. The potential benefits to be gained from collaboration between European and Russian researchers are acknowledged by Peter Walters, UK National Contact Point for IST within the EUs Sixth Framework Programme saying: It is recognised that Russia has been at the forefront of many scientific advancements over the years and now UK and European research organisations will be able to draw on this experience. But the time for making contacts is now, if opportunities are to be capitalised upon. Russia's is the last market in a developed country not yet divided and this provides a unique opportunity for investment and collaboration which American companies are already capitalising on and which Europe must take timely advantage of." The Framework Programmes are the EUs main vehicle for support of leading edge, internationally collaborative R&D. The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free information on how to access some of the 17.5bn available should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080. The aim of ADMIRE-P is to encourage Russian/EU partnership projects to bid for funding under FP6. But partnerships mean making personal and professional connections and this requires a large geographically dispersed support network operated through universities and large companies in Russia. "Once fully established the ADMIRE-P network will promote project ideas more actively than an external office could do," says Paul Drath. Regional centres are also planned which, supported by the University of Nizhni Novgorod, will offer advice and distribute information. This structure emulates the support network found in many European Member States. A searchable database of Russian research teams, and their research topics and interests is being developed. The idea is that this resource will work in partnership with IST project IDEAL-IST, already involved in successfully matching partners from across Europe. However, ADMIRE-P will not only help establish partnerships but will also provide a follow-up service using the database for partner brokerage. Individual researchers, groups or institutions can join the ADMIRE-P network by joining online at www.singleimage.co.uk/admire-p/index.php or by attending one of the brokerage sessions the project is running at European Commission IST events, details of which are available on the project website. Further information and assistance on EU-Russian partnership is available from the project's helpdesk on 01480 497712. ,The EUs Framework Programmes are the worlds largest, publicly funded, research and technological development programmes. The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) covers the period 2002-2006 and is the European Unions main instrument for the funding of collaborative research and innovation. It is open to public and private entities of all sizes in the EU and a number of non-EU countries. It has an overall budget of 17.5 billion. Most of the budget for FP6 is devoted to work in seven priority thematic areas:,? Life sciences, Genetics and Biotechnology for Health;,? Information Society Technologies;,? Nanotechnologies and Nanosciences, Knowledgebased Multifunctional Materials and New Production Processes and Devices;,? Aeronautics and Space;,? Food Quality and Safety;,? Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems; and,? Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge-based Society. There is also a focus on the research activities of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across all seven thematic areas. The services of FP6UK are funded by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) / Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). More information can be found on http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk ,IST Programme ,The IST Priority Thematic Area (PTA) of the 6th Framework Programme(FP6) is the largest of the seven PTAs with a budget of 3.6bn over the lifetime of FP6. The first Call for proposals with a budget of 1070m - closed in April 2003. The second Call closed on 15 October 2003 and had a budget of 525m. The 3rd Call for proposals will be announced in early June 2004 along with a Joint Call with the Priority 3 area -Nanotechnologies, Materials and Production technologies. ,

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