Brussels, 20 April 2005
Dear Chairman of EIROforum,
Dear Directors General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am really pleased to have the opportunity to give this speech for the presentation of the EIROforum Science Policy Paper.
At the European Council in March it was concluded that “Europe must renew the basis of its competitiveness, increase its growth and its productivity and strengthen social cohesion placing the emphasis on knowledge, innovation and the optimisation of human capital”.
This was a reminder of the Lisbon objectives towards the development of a knowledge-based society in Europe, originally proposed in 2000 and confirmed recently by the Commission on the occasion of the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy.
Indeed, the Seventh Research Framework Programme, as proposed by the European Commission on 6 April, will be a cornerstone in this knowledge and growth policy.
I am pleased to see that the Lisbon objectives are also underlying the Science Policy Paper presented today by EIROforum.
EIROforum, a collaboration between seven major European Intergovernmental Research Organisations, is a pillar in the ongoing construction of the European Research Area. It seems to me particularly important that EIROforum proposes in its Vision Paper to forge close ties with the Commission in order to reach common objectives.
The proposal on FP7 is very recent: it was adopted by the Commission exactly two weeks ago. Let me take this opportunity today to address important stakeholders of the European scientific community to say a few words about the future Framework Programme.
For a large part, FP7 is designed on the basis of continuity, notably in the drive to develop the European Research Area. We build on positive experience: for instance Marie Curie mobility actions and SME support will be continued and reinforced, collaborative research will remain a core activity, the main “instruments” which have proved successful will be maintained and improved. However, a significant number of new aspects will appear.
What is new in the proposed Framework Programme?
1 - Doubled budget
New is the proposed budget of more than €70 billion over 7 years, which represents a doubling with respect to FP6 in terms of annual budget.
This is necessary, simply because Europe does not spend enough on research as compared with its main competitors. It is vital for the future of Europe to be able to meet the new science and technology challenges at the cutting edge of international research.
This is the reason why we had set in 2002 the Barcelona objective of raising the European effort from 1.9% of the European Union GDP to 3 %. The doubling of the budget of the Framework Programme will have a leverage role to reach this goal.
2 - Simple structure
New also is the simple structure of FP7, organised into four main programmes that we call: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities (in addition to the JRC and EURATOM programmes).
The objective of this programme is to gain leadership in key science and technology areas by supporting trans-national cooperation between universities, research centres and industry.
Nine major themes for cooperation have been identified, that will be implemented through Collaborative research, Joint Technology Initiatives, Coordination of research programmes and International Co-operation.
In particular, the new industry-led Joint Technology Initiatives will aim to stimulate public-private partnerships. This follows the work of the European Technology Platforms, which have brought together European stakeholders to define a strategic research agenda for the coming 10 to 20 years.
This programme will reinforce the excellence of Europe’s knowledge base by funding frontier research carried out by individual teams or clusters of teams competing at European level. We propose for that an ambitious budget of more than €1.5 billion per year.
This will be carried out in the framework of an autonomous European Research Council under the governance of an assembly of renowned scientists working across all disciplines.
While the “cooperation” programme will be about transnational society-driven research cooperation, the “ideas” programme will be about investigator-driven research exclusively based on excellence through competition.
This programme will develop the human potential of European research by supporting researchers’ careers and their mobility, within and outside Europe, through Marie Curie fellowships and training networks. It will strengthen the existing schemes and provide increased financial support.
The objective will be to enhance the research and innovation capacities throughout Europe.
This includes the optimal use and development of research infrastructures, supporting research for the benefit of SMEs, bringing science and society closer together, developing regional cooperation activities to unlock the full research potential of convergence regions as well as specific activities of international cooperation.
In particular, the Community will now be able to contribute to the construction of new research infrastructures of pan-European interest.
3 - Implementation
There are important changes in the way we intend to implement the future Framework Programme. Here, the main issue is simplification.
Indeed, the need for simplification of rules and procedures was the most recurrent message that we received during the preparation of FP7. In the new Framework Programme, simplification will benefit all participants and especially the “smaller players”.
New aspects will also appear in the management. For the first time, the management of an important part of the actions will be externalised, particularly for those that involve a high number of small transactions such as Marie Curie actions and SME support.
Such externalised management will of course remain under the Commission’s responsibility, as provided for in an Executive Agency. In this way, we are confident that the principles of efficiency, accountability and transparency will be met. The same approach, at least initially, will be followed for the “frontier research” in the context of the European Research Council.
Let me now say a few words about our EIROforum hosts.
Your organisations, CERN, EFDA, EMBL, ESA, ESO, ESRF, ILL play an essential role in the European Research Area. They contribute to structuring the ERA by gathering around them strong scientific communities in their respective scientific fields. They enable European scientists to engage in cutting-edge research by providing them with top-class facilities and services. They improve the visibility and the attractiveness of European science all over the world.
In addition, your Forum provides now a platform for coordination and collaboration, which pools together the expertise of these organisations in their respective fields. It also facilitates high level interactions with external European institutions.
Indeed, from the beginning, the Commission has supported the setting-up of EIROforum, which was officially announced at the launch Conference of the Sixth Framework Programme organised in Brussels in November 2002. Since then, EIROforum and the Commission have continuously interacted. In October 2003, we both signed a Statement of Intent for collaboration.
Your Science Policy Paper describes some areas where we can develop this collaboration in the future. This includes the Human Resources and Science Education aspects: How to improve the career of scientists in Europe? How to raise science awareness in the public? How to attract young people to scientific careers?
In this domain, we have already started concrete actions. The science and education project proposed by EIROforum is supported by the Community under the Sixth Framework Programme, within the cluster NUCLEUS which brings together the main European actors in this field. This includes in particular your well-known initiative “Science on Stage”. I also would like to acknowledge your important participation in the EU Contest for Young Scientists organised by the Commission.
Other interesting areas for our collaboration are those where you have developed a high level of expertise which can benefit the overall European scientific community as well as society in general. This is the case for Information Society technologies. The web was created at CERN, which is now developing powerful Grid technologies for storing and processing high volumes of data. Here, the Community is supporting the EGEE project for the development of Grid architectures in Europe, where EIROforum organisations like CERN and EMBL are essential partners.
Another example is technologies for medicine, where some projects are also supported in FP6. Your combined expertise in fields such as accelerators, detectors and biology can give rise to new innovative applications in this domain.
Other important areas are also mentioned in your Science Policy Paper like the possible collaboration of EIROforum organisations with European industry in Technology Platforms, that could be supported in FP7, or possible joint actions with the Commission in the domain of international relations, where your organisations have gained substantial experience.
These various areas open interesting perspectives for our collaboration, not forgetting central aspects like the cooperation on fusion research via the European Agreement EFDA, with the support of the EURATOM Programme, and the joint efforts of the Commission and the European Space Agency to develop a Space Policy for Europe.
To conclude, let me emphasise that we have an important time ahead.
I welcome the EIROforum Science Policy Paper and I support the development of further partnerships between the European Commission and EIROforum towards our common objectives of consolidating the European Research Area and progressing in the Lisbon agenda. We are currently developing together the frame that will allow us to organise our collaboration.
The new Framework Programme will also be a key component for relaunching the Lisbon agenda, which is the top priority of the Commission. I hope that FP7 can be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament by mid 2006, so that the Programme can start at the very beginning of 2007.