Brussels, 26 Jul 2004
Gearing up for future Framework Programmes, the Commission has set the wheels in motion for a comprehensive overview of EU research. The study, or Five-Year Assessment, will draw on what has happened in recent years to map out what should be done to extract the best from Community research.
The European Commission announced this month that it is supporting a major study to look at the achievements of Community research over recent years. Headed by Erkki Ormala, vice-president of the Finnish telecommunications company Nokia, the Five-Year Assessment is being carried out by a panel of leading experts in fields that include science, engineering, the social sciences and humanities.
The Assessment, covering the period 1999 to 2003, comes at a time of enormous importance for Community research: against the background of the pledge by Europe's leaders at the Lisbon Summit, in 2000, to make Europe the world's most knowledge-intensive economy by the end of the decade. How well the EU is progressing towards its European Research Area goals and discussions on future EU research funding also feed into the importance of carrying out an in-depth review.
The study will not only provide a strong evidence-based analysis on what has happened over the past five years but will also look further down the road at future research activities and the need for longer lead times – i.e. allowing for the co-decision process between the European Council and Parliament – in preparing Framework Programmes. Drawing on the broad experience of the 13 experts representing 13 different countries, the study will provide a major contribution to policy-making and will no doubt fire debate on the shape and role of future EU programmes, especially the Seventh Framework Programme.
By looking into the achievements of past and current EU activities – including how well they are implemented, their evolution and future perspectives – the Assessment will also strive to improve the relevance and quality of research initiatives and programmes. The panel will seek answers to a range of questions, carry out strategic and in-depth reviews of their respective fields and, with the help of the Commission and independent specialists, integrate data coming from various other reports and impact studies, including the recently published mid-term evaluation of FP6's new instruments (see Headline).
Some of the questions the panel could ask include: were the activities carried out efficiently and were they cost effective; were specific industrial and research communities, including SMEs, able to respond appropriately; did the activities achieve their objectives; what were the results and what impact have they had on EU policy, competitiveness and technological development; how have the policies and programmes evolved; and are they suitable for the future?
National authorities could also be called upon to contribute to the study by providing national impact assessments and other appropriate research-related or similar data. The panel will produce an Independent Assessment Report, including its findings, conclusions and clear recommendations for future action, and will present it to the Commission no later than November this year.