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The "Davignon" Report - A five-year assessment of the Community's RTD Framework Programmes

A five-year assessment of the Community's Framework Programmes for research and technological development has been carried out, at the request of the European Commission, by an independent panel of experts chaired by Viscount Etienne Davignon, former Commissioner for research ...
A five-year assessment of the Community's Framework Programmes for research and technological development has been carried out, at the request of the European Commission, by an independent panel of experts chaired by Viscount Etienne Davignon, former Commissioner for research and industry. The assessment report, officially submitted to the Commission on 26 February 1997, calls for a "new leap forward" and makes a series of recommendations which it wishes to see implemented under the Fifth Framework Programme.

Despite finding much to congratulate in the content and achievements of the many research programmes supported by the EU over the past five years, the "Davignon" panel finds that the Framework Programme is not fulfilling its promise, lacks focus and is underachieving. They stress that "This is not the fault of individuals but of a structure which inhibits the formulation of real strategy and makes effective implementation difficult". They also note that the present structure of the Programme is not flexible enough to respond to new challenges and opportunities.

According to the panel it is time for a major change, as the Commission has already proposed in its preparations for the Fifth Framework Programme, and the report calls for "a leap forward as qualitative and fundamental as the creation of the Framework Programme itself."

The report notes that there have been considerable changes since the First Framework Programme was established. In particular, there is much more caution about investment in research today, as the short-term needs of the market have come to dominate. The panel states that the limited resources available should be focused on EU priorities, chosen for their social and economic relevance and European added value.

The legal framework presently governing the Framework Programmes leads to insufficient flexibility and a lack of focus, with any adjustments requiring a lengthy legal process. Consequently, the Davignon report calls for major changes in the legal framework. In particular, the report suggests that the Intergovernmental Conference (which is currently meeting with the aim of revising the EU Treaty) should adopt qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers for decisions under the Framework Programme. With majority voting, the panel believes that the Framework Programme would be better able to address EU priorities rather than national or sectoral interests.

In order to introduce greater flexibility in the specific programmes, the report suggests that the Commission commit only part of the budget at the outset, allowing adjustments to be made in subsequent years. The management of the programmes should be clearly delegated to the Commission, which must, however, eliminate the levels of bureaucracy and delays which are currently the source of much frustration.

The report calls for a new Union Committee, made up of high-level independent experts appointed by, and responsible to, the Council, which would monitor the Commission in its implementation of the Programme. This new committee would replace the existing programme committee structure.

Emphasizing that the Programme must remain pre-competitive, the report makes a number of recommendations for new approaches to Programme implementation. Firstly, there must be more active promotion of technology diffusion and commercial exploitation, with the panel calling for programme directors and managers to be made clearly responsible for the diffusion and exploitation of research results. In addition, links with EUREKA should be improved. Other recommendations include giving more help to SMEs, applying a systems approach to implementation, the creation of "virtual institutes", and participation of the Community in Member States' joint projects.

Achieving the right balance between fundamental research and applied research should be the responsibility of each specific programme. This will ensure that the requirements of different sectors are satisfied and allow flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. The three IT programmes (ESPRIT, ACTS and Telematics Applications) should be merged, according to the panel, and a balance maintained between thematic and activity-based programmes. In the light of this, the INNOVATION programme should concentrate on the demand side, with the exploitation of results the responsibility of the thematic programmes.

International cooperation in research should ensure a special place for the Central and Eastern European countries which are candidates for EU membership. Cooperation with developing countries should contain clear European interest, although political factors may also be taken into account. In general, the report suggests that international cooperation be the responsibility of the thematic programmes, with much closer coordination with other programmes such as PHARE, TACIS and MEDA. For areas not covered by these programmes, a small team could be set up to develop a global cooperation policy.

In conducting their evaluation, the panel had access to over 100 submissions to the Commission on the Fifth Framework Programme and examined the five-year individual evaluation reports of all the 18 specific research programmes under the Fourth Framework Programme and of the Joint Research Centre. It also held discussions with the Directors of the specific programmes and other key Commission officials.

Source: European Commission, DG XII
DE FR

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Evaluation - Policies
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