Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

To better define research priorities in closer consultation with all the operators concerned, including SMEs and the users of the results, taking greater account of the needs of society; to ensure that the means available in the RTD Framework Programmes are more efficiently coordinated and targeted towards the identified priorities, and to coordinate national activities in these fields more effectively.


In June 1995, the Commission established the first of the research/industry task forces for the purpose of stimulating European research and technological development in a number of clearly defined strategic sectors. Established on the initiative of Commissioners Cresson (Research, education and training), Bangemann (Industry, telecommunications and information technologies) and Kinnock (Transport), the original task forces focused on the following six priority areas:

- Car of tomorrow;
- Educational software and multimedia;
- New generation of aircraft;
- Vaccines and viral diseases;
- Trains and railway systems of the future;
- Intermodal transport.

The rationale behind the task forces is to redress the current situation where only 13% of public research budgets are allocated to research projects involving European cooperation, as opposed to 87% for strictly national research.

After assessing the situation in its respective field of interest and drawing up an inventory of on-going activities at both the Community and Member State level, each of the task forces is responsible for:

- Defining research priorities in consultation with the various socio-economic actors;
- Reinforcing the coordination between the research efforts being made in each area (at both private and public level) in the individual Member States and within the framework of relevant European Union programmes, particularly research carried out under the RTD Framework Programmes;
- Stimulating an environment favourable to innovation.

Since June 1995, two additional task forces have been created; one focusing on maritime systems of the future and the present task force "Environment-Water", which was established in March 1995 on the initiative of Commissioners Cresson, Bangemann and Bjerregaard (Environment and nuclear safety).

The underlying mission of the task force "Environment-Water" is to consolidate the position of European technology and service companies in the water sector, to contribute to the reduction (through research and technology transfer) of the significant disparities between operators and regions in the Community and, finally, to ensure that European operators are well placed to benefit from the expected growth of the global market in water-related services and equipment. This market is expected to double over the next 15 years.

The task force is to concentrate predominantly on the research and technologies which are specific to water management in the four priority areas identified by the task force: "The fight against pollution"; "Rational use of water (demand management)"; "Fight against water deficits"; and "Prevention and management of crises". The types of activities to be pursued within these four domains (full details of which are contained in the "Subdivisions" section of this record) include:

- Targeted basic research;
- Industrial and prenormative research;
- Development of monitoring and decision support systems;
- Technological and management innovation;
- Dissemination of knowledge and know-how.

Efforts are to be made to improve the coordination of the various activities being carried out at the European and Member State levels and to better focus the European research effort in order to achieve optimum results.

To this end, links are to be established between the relevant Community research programmes (environment, industrial and materials technologies, measurements and testing, telematics, agriculture and agro-industry, energy, and targeted socio-economic research), the regional, national and international programmes, and private research.

Steps are also to be taken to improve the links between research and other actions influencing water policy in the economic, social, environmental and industrial arenas. Furthermore, the potential contribution of the many product and process innovations in the agricultural and industrial sectors to the resolution of water problems (drought-resistant plants, the substitution of products or processes in chemistry and the textile industry, etc.) is to be taken into account.


Four areas of action:

- Combating water pollution:
Activities contribute to providing the various actors (legislators, industries, local authorities, public health bodies, consumer organizations, etc.) with the "specific knowledge" necessary to orientate their actions in the fight against pollution. The task force is to address equally the development of methods and technologies for water supply treatment, wastewater treatment and the remediation of contaminated sites. Particular emphasis is to be placed on:
. Adaptation of treatment technologies to specific needs (particularly problematic pollutants, evaluation of activated sludge, adaptation to socio-technical constraints of small suburban and rural units, etc.);
. Reinforcement of collaborative research on certain key technologies (membranes, adsorption, oxidation, biological processes, sensors and process controls, etc.);
. Development of multi-pollutants treatment methods.

- Rational use of water (including recycling of water):
The priority actions under this heading are:
. Promotion of the reuse and recycling of water in the various branches of agriculture and industry (irrigation and cooling in particular) through the development of norms for reuse, the improvement of techniques for on-site treatment and storage of wastewater, and awareness campaigns;
. Development of water-conserving irrigation methods through improved irrigation scheduling (measurement equipment, information and control systems) and an improvement of the irrigation techniques themselves;
. Promotion of water conservation in industry through research to identify alternatives to water for cooling, solvent or precipitation medium, and through the development of more water efficient equipment and management methodologies;
. Minimization of distribution network losses by improvement of methods for leak prevention, detection and repair;
. Implementation of economic measures to encourage the various users to reduce their consumption.

- Fight against water deficits:
Possible areas of research include:
. Methodologies for assessing the environmental impact of different management options (change in land use, inter-basin transfer, etc.);
. Methodologies for forecasting, planning and managing water supply and demand (land management scenarios appropriate to a sustainable management of water resources, development of financial and institutional incentives, etc.);
. Reduction of structural disparities and the sometimes excessive compartmentalization of responsibilities and resulting inefficiencies.

In terms of the diversification of supply sources, the task force envisages the development of:
. Techniques for recuperating rain and run-off water, particularly through artificial recharge of aquifers;
. Extension of desalination technology (improvement of performance, reduction of investment and operating costs), paying particular attention to the possibilities of coupling desalination with renewable energy resources;
. Investigate the possibilities of exploiting karstic aquifers.

- Prevention and management of crises:
Research aimed at improving the forecasting and prevention of extreme events (such as sudden and exceptional pollution, floods and severe drought) and at improving the capacity to respond to such events. Activities covered under this heading include:
. Establishment of preventative practices and improvement of knowledge about the causes and effects of such catastrophes;
. Development of forecasting and management tools, particularly alert systems allowing rapid intervention;
. Development of emergency systems for supplying water to affected populations.


As a first step, the task force "Environment-Water" is responsible for extending the concertation among the relevant Commission services to the relevant European actors: companies, water supply and treatment operators, specialized research centres, users, regional and national bodies, etc. The objective of such detailed concertation is to identify and define the priority orientations within the four areas singled out by the task force (see the "Subdivisions" section of this record). In selecting the priority areas, attention is to be paid to the following:

- On-going activities at different levels;
- Importance and urgency of the various problems;
- Perspectives offered by science and technology;
- Market opportunities;
- The competitive position of Europe;
- Potential for the exploitation of the research results.

A reference framework is to be established in order to coordinate and establish cooperation between the actors in research and innovation at the local, regional, national, European and, if applicable, the international level. As mentioned elsewhere, this is to incorporate the creation of synergies between the actions undertaken within the various Community, national and regional programmes, as well as with research conducted under the EUREKA framework or by industry.

To achieve these aims, various modalities are to be considered. These include:

- Coordination between national and Community research programmes;
- Establishment of industrial partnerships;
- Promotion of new research;
- Implementation of new research;
- Implementation of pilot and demonstration projects.

Special attention will also be paid to important accompanying measures in areas such as training and technology transfer.

At present, the various task forces do not, themselves, manage or fund projects; they will, nonetheless, be able to influence the content of the remaining calls for proposals under the Fourth RTD Framework Programme and the structure and content of the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. Eventually, the task forces could make use of various provisions contained in the RTD title of the Treaty on European Union: Article 130k which authorizes the establishment of supplementary RTD programmes involving the participation of certain Member States only, Article 130l which provides for Community participation in RTD programmes undertaken by several Member States or Article 130n which permits the Community to establish joint undertakings for research purposes.
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