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Programme must keep its promise, says Cresson

The European Union's Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration represents an important step towards the implementation of a new approach for European research, which is directly focused on the needs of businesses and citizens in ...
The European Union's Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration represents an important step towards the implementation of a new approach for European research, which is directly focused on the needs of businesses and citizens in an overall European perspective, European Commissioner Edith Cresson said at the opening of the Essen conference, which officially launched FP5 last month.

Commissioner Cresson, who is responsible for research, innovation, education, training and youth, opened the conference, which attracted over 5000 delegates from more than 60 countries. In doing so, she was joined by German Federal Research and Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn, currently President of the EU Research Council of Ministers, European Parliament R&D and Energy Committee Chairman Umberto Scapagnini, and North Rhine-Westphalia Minister-President Wolfgang Clement.

Commissioner Cresson thanked all the people involved in making FP5 possible.

She stressed the importance of looking at the past and the present as well as into the future - the past representing the previous FP4 and the future looking at the future prospects for European research.

"We must let the FP5 keep its promises and ensure its implementation as quickly as possible", said Commissioner Cresson. "This is the priority for the Commission as well as the German Presidency."

She reflected on three main points, the first being the context in which FP5 will be implemented, of which different aspects are all challenges to European research.

Secondly, she talked about how FP5 will respond to these challenges and pointed out that 15 billion euro, which represents a 4.6% increase in comparison with the FP4, will be invested in FP5. She also highlighted the importance of the new approach to the different programmes, which abandons traditional areas and disciplines and focuses on the big problem areas that the European Union faces.

Her last point looked at three dimensions of European research, which will be highlighted under FP5, the first of which was Women and Science. Commissioner Cresson pointed out the importance of getting women into scientific research and referred to a Commission Communication on the subject.

The second dimension looked at the ethical issues of research, such as cloning and genetically modified organisms. She emphasised the importance of a common European approach on these ethical issues.

Thirdly, she talked about the mid-term prospects for research in Europe.

"What shape will European research take in the light of the enlargement of Europe?" she asked, and "How can we maintain coherence within the European Union when the number of Member States increases?" These questions will be discussed during the Research Council meeting in May.

Commissioner Cresson also put FP5 in a wider context and looked at two or three major developments, such as Agenda 2000, which will mean institutional reform in order to make the EU function with 25 Member States.

Another issue was the social challenges in Europe, linked to unemployment.

Thirdly, Commissioner Cresson spoke about the pressure, which society puts on the scientist.

"Society expects concrete progress in fields, such as health, environment, transport, from science and technology," she said.

Commissioner Cresson concluded her speech by saying: "The FP5 is in itself a starting point for a major European enterprise for the beginning of the twenty-first century."

Mrs Bulmahn also launched the TEN-155 high-speed research network before joining Mrs Cresson for a round table, at which she presented the Commission's recently adopted policy on Women in Science.

The conference demonstrated the widespread appeal and perceived value of the EU's research programmes. Delegates varied from potential FP5 participants through "information multipliers" to policy-makers and users of research.

The conference format - parallel presentation of the various individual research programmes which make up the FP5, workshops, and project presentations, as well as an associated exhibition - enabled a vast array of information to be communicated over the two-day period. Potential participants could learn how to prepare a project proposal, negotiate a research contract, or include partners from outside the EU in their consortium. Other delegates were more interested in getting an overview of a particular research area, attending a presentation of a successful research project given by one of the researchers involved, or listening to what experts have to say about the future of European research beyond FP5. Whatever their interests, the whole conference programme was open to all delegates, and most workshops were held twice to help avoid timing conflicts.

The exhibition, which covered over 2000 square metres, was also a useful source of information, with every programme presenting its activities as well as a sample of projects from predecessor programmes. Finally, the conference provided an ideal opportunity to meet potential partners and question Commission staff directly.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

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