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Commission outlines scientific objectives of Fifth Framework Programme

On 12 February 1997, the European Commission adopted its latest working document on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme which outlines its proposals for the scientific and technological content and objectives of the Programme.

This second working document complements the docume...
On 12 February 1997, the European Commission adopted its latest working document on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme which outlines its proposals for the scientific and technological content and objectives of the Programme.

This second working document complements the document adopted in November 1996, which focused on the structure of the Programme. The Commission plans to present a formal proposal for a Decision on the Fifth Framework Programme at the end of March 1997, with the aim of having the Programme operational at the beginning of 1999. The legal and financial aspects of the Programme will be covered at this final stage.

The new working document confirms the approach, outlined in the communication adopted in July 1996, "Inventing Tomorrow", of basing the Programme's structure on six major programmes. These would comprise three thematic programmes:

- The living world and the ecosystem;
- User-friendly Information Society;
- Competitive and sustainable growth.

These thematic programmes would be complemented by three horizontal programmes, covering international cooperation, innovation and participation of SMEs, and improving human potential.

The Commission intends that the Fifth Framework Programme be significantly different to earlier Framework Programmes. In particular, it should focus European research efforts on a smaller number of topics, tying in with the Union's key economic and social needs. To this end, each of the three thematic programmes would comprise a series of "key actions".

Mrs. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, presented the document to the plenary session of IRDAC, the Commission's Industrial Research and Development Advisory Committee, on 13 February 1997. According to the Commissioner, "the objective of these key actions is to mobilize and bring together, as part of a comprehensive approach, the resources of a wide range of disciplines, knowledge and technologies on the themes concerned. These efforts should concentrate on the scientific, technological and socio-economic bottlenecks affecting the achievement of the objectives".

The key actions identified within each of the themes are:

- Living world and ecosystem:
. Health and food;
. Control of viral and infectious diseases;
. The "cell factory";
. Management and quality of water;
. Environment and health;
. New rural and coastal areas;

- Information Society:
. Services for the citizen;
. Electronic trade and new methods of work;
. Multimedia content;
. Essential technologies and infrastructures;

- Competitive and sustainable growth:
. Products, processes, organization;
. Sustainable mobility and intermodality;
. New perspectives in aeronautics;
. Marine technologies;
. Advanced energy systems and services;
. The city of tomorrow.

In addition to these key topics, each programme would also include a series of general activities for the development of generic technologies and basic research, in order to address the need to maintain and develop the EU's general scientific and technological capability. Support for research infrastructures in Europe would also be re-examined.

This approach is based on lessons learned under the Fourth Framework Programme and, in particular, on experiences gained from the Task Forces, as well as on observations from the five year evaluation of the Framework Programmes. By reducing the number of programmes, the coordination of research efforts will be significantly improved and there will be much closer coordination between the three theme programmes and the horizontal programmes.

The Fifth Framework Programme will also have much greater flexibility, due to the reduced number of programmes and the gradual commitment of financial resources which makes it possible to mobilize funds at any time in response to unforeseen needs (such as the BSE and spongiform encephalopathies problem which arose in 1996).

The proposed activities in the Fifth Framework Programme are based on the principles of scientific and technological excellence, relevance to the objectives of European Union policies and European added value. These activities would have a clear focus on the Union's economic and social needs and its citizens' expectations.

Special attention will be paid to innovation, the use of results and the participation of SMEs (for example, activities designed to facilitate access to venture capital in order to exploit results better and support for the creation of innovative enterprises). This is essential as the Commission observes that the real problem in Europe is in the transfer of research results to market exploitation.

With regard to international cooperation, the paper sets out objectives for cooperation with different groups of third countries based on mutual benefit and the strengthening of European scientific knowledge and competitiveness. Likewise, regarding improving human potential, the document outlines five action lines for supporting and developing human resources in Europe, as well as for developing public awareness of science.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

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