Brussels, 15 March 2002
The increased responsibility for project participants proposed for the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) has so far been the main point of discussion at a series of seminars the Commission is holding in order to provide information and answer questions on the new instruments proposed for FP6.
The seminars, each of which focus on one of the FP6 thematic priorities, have been organised to clarify the new instruments: integrated projects, networks of excellence, Article 169, stairways to excellence and specific support actions. Several seminar participants have asked for clarification on joint liability and the signature of just one contract between the project coordinator and the Commission, each of which will mean more responsibility for the project partners.
Neomi Soffer, a national contact point for Israel, told CORDIS News of her concern that joint and several financial liability will make small and medium sized enterprises unpopular as project partners.
Another new area of responsibility is the signature of just one contract between the project coordinator and the Commission instead of contracts with each member of the consortium as was the case in the Fifth Framework programme (FP5). The Commission has proposed this change in an attempt to cut delays between proposal selection and the launch of a project, and recommends that a consortium agreement be signed by all project partners previous to the closure of the contract between the Commission and the project coordinator. The consortium agreement is 'not mandatory, but practically indispensable,' said Colette Renier from the Commission.
Tony Henley from BAe Systems in the UK suggested that one company cannot sign a contract on behalf of another company, and was also concerned that intellectual property right rules would not apply to the project's sub-contractors, to which Ms Renier replied that 'no-one would sign a contract with the Commission without first sorting out conditions with the partners.'
Matthijs Soede, a senior project advisor from Senter/EG Liaison, which supports interested companies and institutions in obtaining European R&D funding is fairly enthusiastic about the proposed new instruments. He told CORDIS News that the 'philosophy of the new instruments is very good because you have to have goals in order to have an impact, to show what European cooperation can do.' The difficulty is the implementation of these proposals, according to Dr Soede, who is concerned that the added responsibility for the project coordinator may be too much and may lead to 'a different class of people becoming involved' in order to cope with the project management.
Whilst the Commission is making every effort to simplify the procedure for becoming involved in EU projects, Dr Soede is not too concerned about the bureaucracy involved, saying 'the bureaucracy is reasonable for the amount of money involved. You cannot get money for free.'
The instruments proposed for FP6 also involve more flexibility than was the case in FP5. While most in the research community appreciate this approach, Dr Soede is concerned about the move away from deadlines, arguing that the new guidelines are perhaps 'too open to get real results.' The advantage of deadlines is that they tell researchers what to deliver and when, said Dr Soede, adding that project partners are often dependent upon the results of somebody else.
Some participants at the seminars were concerned that integrated projects and networks of excellence will remain exclusive clubs for the large and well-known research entities in the larger EU Member States. Neomi Soffer told CORDIS News of her concern that both instruments will remain closed for members who already know each other. Leda Skoufari from the Cypriot research foundation is worried that the Associated States will not have equal opportunities to participate as 'no-one really knows us'. José Carlos Pereria from the Technical University of Lisbon told CORDIS News that the strong focus on technology will benefit major players - large firms. 'What will happen to universities of peripheral countries and SMEs? How can they be integrated?' he asked. However, Ignors Kabaskins from the Transport and telecommunication institute in Latvia is more positive, envisaging Latvian participation in several projects.