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Specific research and technological development programme (EEC) in the field of biotechnology, 1990-1994

Part of the third Framework programme for Community activities in the field of research and technological development (1990 to 1994) under subactivity II.4: "Life sciences and technologies", this new programme in the field of biotechnology expands the goals of the BRIDGE programme (1990-1994), which is part of the second Framework programme (1987-1990).

Pre-normative research will be carried out in each of the areas covered by the programme, with emphasis on the safety assessment of new techniques and novel products. The ethical, social and economic implications of biotechnology will be monitored and studied. Attention will also be given to the potential for using the applications of biotechnology R&D to enhance social progress and economic development through innovation in agriculture, medicine and industry. A multidisciplinary approach will be pursued, involving representatives from the various sectors concerned.

Contractors will be requested to provide, when applicable, information necessary for the detailed evaluation of the social, ethical and ecological impact of their projects, and, where necessary, approval from the responsible authorities.

Research will be carried out at the level of molecules, cells, organisms and populations. At the molecular level, efforts will be undertaken to contribute to the sequencing work of the entire genome of yeast and to initiate a Community effort for sequencing genes in suitable micro-organism, plant and animal species. A specific objective will be the sequencing of more than 10 million nucleotides in the organisms studied. Close liaison will be maintained with the Human Genome Analysis programme.

In the area of neurobiology, the biochemical, pharmacological and genetic characterization of newly discovered neuroreceptors systems will constitute a specific objective of the programme.

In the area of ecology and population biology, close coordination will be maintained with other relevant Community research programmes, including Biomedicine and Health, and Environment.

Research projects on human embryos are not included in the programme and any unnecessary suffering of animals used for experimental purposes will be strictly avoided.
To reinforce basic biological knowledge as the common and integrated foundation needed for applications in agriculture, industry, health, nutrition and the environment.
Three areas:

- Molecular approaches:
. Protein structure and function:
To understand and control biological functions carried out by proteins (enzymes, hormones, antibodies, receptors, body structures, etc.), and to produce tailor-made proteins adapted to the specific requirements of man (for example, new drugs, industrial enzymes);
. Structure of genes:
To arrive at a greater understanding of biological and genetic mechanisms through the study of the genetic message in representative species (gene mapping and gene sequencing);
. Expression of genes:
To study in models of practical importance the processes through which information stored as DNA in the genes is expressed in the form of active proteins;

- Cellular and organism approaches:
. Cellular regeneration, reproduction and development of living organisms:
To provide basic knowledge required by biotechnology through comparative studies of reproductive events (meiotic pairing, gamete packaging, gamete recognition and fertilization), cell-cell interaction and cell replication in animals and plants;
. Metabolism of animals, plants and microbes; essential physiological tracts:
To provide industrial and agricultural operators with the basic knowledge required for a more rational exploitation of resources in production, processing and animal husbandry;
. Communication systems with living matter:
To provide industrial biotechnologists, agricultural and medical operators with a new approach to dealing with the complexity of living systems (focusing on the immune and nervous systems);

- Ecology and population biology:
. Ecological implications of biotechnology:
To study the environmental implications of biotechnology and, in particular, of the release by man of living organisms in the environment in connection with the industrial, agricultural and environmental policies of the Community;
. Conservation of genetic resources:
To ascertain the real dimension of the problem of loss of genetic diversity (genetic erosion in plants, animals and micro-organisms).
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the programme, assisted by a committee composed of representatives of the Member States and chaired by the representative of the Commission.

The programme comprises research and technological development (RTD) projects, concerted actions and accompanying measures.

The RTD projects are the subject of shared-cost contracts, with Community financial participation not normally exceeding 50%. Universities and other research centres have the option of requesting, for each project, either 50% funding of total expenditure or 100% funding of the additional marginal costs. Contracts relating to shared-cost research projects must, as a general rule, be concluded following a selection procedure based on calls for proposals published in the Official Journal of the European Communities. Projects must, as a general rule, provide for the participation of at least two partners, each independent of the other, established in different Member States.

Transnational basic research projects are carried out to integrate research efforts in adapted Community structures (European Laboratories Without Walls - ELWW) in research topics where the main bottlenecks result from gaps in basic knowledge. Generic research projects are implemented by transnational teams of laboratories to remove - through a significant investment in skills and resources - important bottlenecks resulting from structural and scale limitations. Projects of technological priority are implemented to achieve a higher degree of coherence and ultimate impact in targeted areas.

Cooperative research projects may be submitted by a group of undertakings which do not have their own research facilities, in order to resolve common technical problems. One or more outside organizations will be appointed to carry out the research. The undertakings concerned take part in planning and piloting the projects and in implementing the results. In projects of this type, 50% of the research costs are covered for a period normally not exceeding two years.

Concerted actions consist of action by the Community to coordinate the individual research activities carried out in the Member States. They may benefit from funding of up to 100% of coordinating expenditure.

The accompanying measures consist of:
- The organization of seminars, workshops and scientific conferences;
- Internal coordination through the creation of integrating groups;
- Advanced technology training programmes, with emphasis being placed on multidisciplinarity;
- Promotion of the exploitation of results;
- Independent scientific and strategic evaluation of the operation of the projects and the programme.

The Commission is authorized to negotiate international agreements with third countries which are members of COST, in particular the member countries of EFTA and the countries of central and eastern Europe, with a view to associating them with all, or part, of the programme. When framework agreements for scientific and technical cooperation have been concluded between the Community and European non-Member States, bodies and enterprises established in those countries may be allowed to become partners in a project undertaken within the programme. For projects in Area 3 ("Ecology and population biology"), this option may be extended to bodies and enterprises established in other third countries as well as to international organizations engaged in research in this area.

The Community funds estimated as necessary for the execution of the programme amount to ECU 186 million, of which an amount equivalent to 1% of the budget is earmarked as the contribution from the programme to the centralized scheme for the dissemination and exploitation of results. At least 10% of the funds will be allocated to basic research, between 5 and 7% to the training of researchers and up to 3% to the assessment of ethical and socio-economic effects and technological risks.

The Commission shall review the programme during the second year of implementation and submit a report to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee. At the end of the programme an evaluation of the results achieved shall be conducted by a group of independent experts and submitted, together with the Commission's comments, to these same bodies.