Brussels, 10 Oct 2006
European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik highlighted some of the ways in which the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will increase the career opportunities and mobility of researchers in Europe and retain the best brains, while on a visit to Zagreb, Croatia, on 9 October,. Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the Croatian born scientist Nikola Tesla, a world-renowned inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer, the Commissioner referred to the €4.7 billion 'People' programme in FP7, which he said would enable tens of thousands of researchers to benefit from fellowships for research training. 'These will be for researchers across the board - from those at the beginning of their careers to the more advanced,' he added.
The FP7 programme will also aim to build on efforts undertaken in the Marie Curie Actions to link academia and industry and increase industry participation, 'because mobility needs to be across sectors as well as borders,' noted Mr Potocnik. 'The programme will help with training and career development in different sectors, especially in the private sector.'
On mobility, the Commissioner said that he was aware of the visa problems encountered by researchers from non EU countries. Although this remains the responsibility of individual EU Member States, Mr Potocnik said that he would continue to call for a rapid introduction of measures in line with the 'Researchers' visa' Directive, which foresees the creation of fast track procedures to facilitate the free movement throughout Europe of third country researchers.
To ensure that researchers want to come to Europe and remain here, the Commissioner underlined the importance of creating an environment fit for excellence. 'Researchers are drawn to excellence, whether it's excellent equipment, teachers or conditions. So we are aiming to improve all their areas of interest,' he said.
FP7's 'Capacities' programme will aim to improve the working environment of researchers with the establishment of major new infrastructures. The Commission is also urging EU Member States and their universities and research centres to apply both the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct. While the Charter provides clear, harmonised principles in the treatment of researchers, the Code is a blueprint for fair recognition of qualification and mobility in recruitment. 'With a fair professional environment, offering good career prospects, more researchers will be enticed to stay, return or come to Europe,' said Mr Potocnik.
On funding, the Commissioner said that while the budget for research had increased by 40% in real terms since the previous framework programme, it still only represented 5% of public research spending in Europe. In order retain researchers in Europe, the Commissioner argued that more funds need to be channelled into research in Europe from public and private sources.
Of the funding which is available to researchers under FP7, the Commissioner pointed to the efforts to ensure that accessing them is made as simple and transparent as possible. The FP7 rules for participation do away with cost models, foresee the creation of a guarantee fund to cover the financial risk of pre-financing without recurring to requesting guarantees from beneficiaries, and clarify the provisions on intellectual property rights.
In addition, simplification will also be implemented through: rationalising the number of audit certificates and reports, which in turn should ease the path of payments; 'Commission rules' to regulate and harmonise submission, selection and evaluation procedures; and, finally, measures affecting the internal working of the Commission services such as the establishment of a Single Registration Facility for proposers.
'With all of this I sincerely hope to simplify the life of researchers when they participate in FP7, so that they can concentrate in what they best do: research,' said the Commissioner.