The European Commission has launched a pilot project which will see the results of EU-funded research in seven key subject areas made freely available online. According to the Commission, the initiative should raise the visibility of European research, and drive innovation by ensuring that businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have access to the latest research results. 'Easy and free access to the latest knowledge in strategic areas is crucial for EU research competitiveness,' commented Janez Potocnik, the EU's Science and Research Commissioner. 'This open access pilot is an important step towards achieving the 'fifth freedom', the free movement of knowledge amongst Member States, researchers, industry and the public at large. Beyond, it is a fair return to the public of research that is funded by EU money.' The pilot project will cover certain areas of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), namely health, energy, environment, information and communication technologies (ICTs), research infrastructures, socio-economic sciences and humanities, and science in society. These areas were chosen because of their high societal impact and their importance in helping Europe address major challenges such as climate change. Between them, the subject areas targeted account for some 20% of the total FP7 budget. Recipients of FP7 grants in these fields will be required to deposit peer reviewed research articles arising from the projects in the open access repository of their choice. A new clause added to the grant agreement in the chosen subject areas requires researchers to ensure their articles are freely available either 6 or 12 months after publication, depending on the subject area. In fast moving fields such as energy, environment, health and ICT, the deadline is six months. For research fields in which results remain relevant for longer, such as in the social sciences and humanities, the deadline is 12 months. This period will give publishers the chance to get a return on their investment. The pilot will run until the end of FP7 in 2013. If the model proves successful, the Commission will expand the initiative in the next framework programme and in the Member States. The Commission is not the first funding agency to set out an open access policy for the research it finances. Within the EU, national and private funding agencies in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK have similar schemes. Further afield, the National Institutes of Health in the USA requires its grant recipients to make research available within 12 months of publication. At the EU level, the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) has called for all FP7-funded research to be made freely available six months after publication at the latest. In its position paper on open access, the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC) notes that ideally, publicly funded research should be made available within six months of publication. In addition, an online petition calling on the EU to 'guarantee public access to publicly-funded research results shortly after publication' has gathered almost 30,000 signatures.