The European Commission has put forward its blueprint for the future of scientific research, concentrating much of its £11.2 billion budget on seven priority fields.
Framework 6's emphasis on a sharper focus is intended to help multinational research collaborations gain the expertise and resources to compete at a global level. This could also attract top scientists back to Europe. The draft is also intended to contribute to the creation of a European Research Area to maximise the impact of the European Union's scientific effort.
Research commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "In this programme I am putting forward proposals to help businesses develop technologies for the future and for our universities and research centres to work together to strengthen Europe's science base."
The draft programme identifies seven research priorities:
* Building on the recent decoding of the human genome to tackle major diseases and strengthen the biotechnology industry
* Developing information technologies to boost the concept of the knowledge-based society
* Pursuing nanotechnology, intelligent materials and production methods
* Maintaining Europe's lead in aeronautics and space
* Establishing the scientific base to produce safe and healthy food
* Strengthening the scientific and technological capacity to implement sustainable development and control global change
* Mobilising research capacity in economic, social and human sciences to respond to the emergence of the knowledge society.
Framework 6's four-year budget marks a 17 per cent increase in the programme. If ratified, the blueprint would be put into effect in 2003. Critics, however, have complained that it appears to exclude the kind of smaller project from which many of the great scientific breakthroughs have come.