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IC-COST - European cooperation in the field of scientific and technical research (COST), 1971-

To provide a flexible framework for the implementation of precompetitive research projects of European significance corresponding to clearly focused needs and best conducted through cooperation between industry (especially SMEs), scientific institutes, universities and national research centres.


On 21 November 1991 COST celebrated its twentieth anniversary. To mark the occasion, and in response to a Council Resolution of 29 June 1990 (Official Journal No C 172 of 13.7.1990) the Ministerial Conference in Vienna adopted a Resolution enlarging the cooperation framework from 19 to 23 European states. Thus four new members - Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Iceland - joined the 19 founding members, namely the twelve EC Member States plus Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia and Turkey. On 18 June 1992 the COST Committee of Senior Officials also decided to admit Slovenia and Croatia, thus increasing the total number of COST member countries to 25. On 1 April 1993 the COST Senior Officials adopted a resolution to admit the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic as full members following the split of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.

COST is, above all, a framework for pragmatic cooperation within which there are various procedures for drawing up and concluding arrangements for specific research projects and for monitoring their implementation. It allows for either the coordination of projects carried out by its member countries or the participation of its thirteen non-Community member countries in Community programmes

Though not a Community institution, COST grew out of recommendations put forward by the EC Council in the 1960s. COST officially came into force on 22 and 23 November 1971 at a Ministerial Conference attended by Ministers for Science and Technology of the 19 original member countries. During this Conference seven initial intergovernmental project agreements were signed and a General Resolution on cooperation in the field of scientific and technical research and development was adopted.

The seven initial COST projects were in the fields of informatics (COST 11), telecommunications (COST 25), materials (COST 50, COST 53) and the environment (COST 61a, COST 64b, COST 68). By the end of 1976, three additional intergovernmental project agreements had been signed in the fields of meteorology (COST 70) and transport (COST 30, COST 33). Thereafter the procedures for initiating COST projects were simplified and COST embarked on a period of continuous growth. By 1990 well over 100 projects had been launched.

COST was the first instrument of European science policy and provided one of the first opportunities for cooperation between research scientists from European countries. Specific Community structures for science policy have been gradually set up in parallel to COST. A large number of COST projects, especially in the fields of Informatics and Telecommunications and Materials Science, have contributed to the development of the Community's major industry oriented programmes such as ESPRIT, RACE, EURAM and BRITE, but also in other fields such as environmental protection and food technology (FLAIR).

In its Resolution of 20 June 1989 concerning COST and the European Communities (Official Journal No C 171 of 6.7.1989) the Council reaffirmed its view that COST is an important means for promoting European cooperation in the field of scientific and technical research and urged the Commission to take into account the complementary role COST could play with regard to the Community's Framework Programme.


Eleven areas: - Informatics; - Telecommunications; - Transport; - Oceanography; - Materials; - Environment; - Meteorology; - Agriculture and Biotechnology; - Food technology; - Socio-technologies; - Medical research. Technical Committees have been set up and problem-oriented research projects are under development in the areas of: - Social sciences; - Chemical research; - Forest and forestry products. NOTE: The first digit in the numbers used to identify COST projects designates the research area to which the projects belong. Thus the numbers for projects on informatics begin with 1, telecommunications 2, transport 3, etc. . Beyond the ninth area, letters are used: A for socio-technologies, B for medical research, etc. COST projects belonging to Category I were not identified by a number.


The intergovernmental agreements by which the first COST projects were covered involved lengthy procedures and required ratification by national parliaments. To speed up the procedures for initiating projects, a new type of agreement known as a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) was introduced in 1977 and officially adopted by Council Resolution on 18 July 1978 (Official Journal No C 100 of 21.4.1979). This Resolution also specified four categories of cooperation possible within the COST framework: - Category I: Projects initiated by the Commission, forming an integral part of Community programmes and open to participation by the non-Community members of COST; - Category II: Projects proposed by COST and incorporated into Community programmes following a Council Decision (Community-COST concertation agreements); - Category III: COST projects unrelated to any Community programme, with parallel participation by any of the COST member countries as well as by the Community as such; - Category IV: COST projects with no participation by the Community as such. The Memorandum of Understanding was relevant only to Categories III and IV. The great majority of COST projects have belonged to these two Categories. In its Resolution of 20 June 1989 concerning COST and the European Communities (Official Journal No C 171 of 6.7.1989) the Council endorsed and approved a simplification and redefinition of COST categories, as follows: - Category A: Concerted action projects forming an integral part of a Community R&D programme, which are open on a multilateral basis to COST third state participation; - Category B: Concerted action projects, not forming part of a Community programme, proposed either by COST States or by the Commission. Individual COST States and the Commission may participate in these projects. The MOU is relevant only to Category B, which is the predominant Category. What follows mainly concerns COST Category B projects in so far as they are more specific and representative of COST cooperation. Four basic principles govern COST mechanisms: - All member countries of COST, as well as the EC, can propose research projects; - Participation in those projects is voluntary and "a la carte", associating only interested countries; - The projects are funded nationally (Community funding is kept to a bare minimum and covers mainly administrative costs); - The cooperation takes the form of "concerted action projects" which is the coordination of national research projects. The development of COST projects is carried out in two phases: the preparatory phase and the implementation phase. A Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and specific Technical Committees (TCs) or New Projects Groups (NPGs) basically deal with the preparatory phase. Specific Management Committees deal with the implementation phase. The CSO is composed of representatives of the 19 COST countries and the Community. It is responsible for the overall strategy of COST cooperation and takes decisions on each individual COST proposal. Some Committee members act as National COST Coordinators (NCCs) for COST projects (one national coordinator for each country). The General Secretariat of the Council provides the secretariat for the CSO. The Technical Committees and New Projects Groups are consultative bodies of the CSO. They select research projects in some precise fields, examine relevant proposals and give expert opinions on proposals to amend projects already under way. TCs are established in several fields of cooperative research (TC Telecommunications, TC Transports, TC Social Sciences, etc.). The Management Committees plan in detail, carry out and supervise the work to be done during the implementation phase. Each project has its own Management Committee whose members are directly answerable to their National Authorities. New COST projects may be proposed by individual scientists, research institutes or industry. Proposals are submitted to the relevant TC or NPG for approval. The COST secretariat, in conjunction with the project initiator, then formulates a Memorandum of Understanding governing the type of activity to be pursued, the joint aims, the terms of participation and compliance with both sovereignty and - if necessary - protection rights. The MOU must subsequently be approved by the Committee of Senior Officials and signed by the National Authorities (four signatures at least). To join an existing project, individual scientists, research institutes or industry submit a request to the COST Secretariat. The relevant project Management Committee examines the request and submits it to the appropriate National Authority which in turn signs the Memorandum of Understanding. The individual countries bear the research and development costs of projects, either by awarding special research funding or subsidies, or by providing research laboratories and the requisite staff. The Commission is responsible for the coordination and provides the technical secretariats for each of the specific projects (from preparation to monitoring of their implementation). Progress results are contained in annual reports, and a final report details the overall research findings.