Europe plans to deliver scholars from red tape

February 10, 2011

The European Commission has outlined plans to free researchers from red tape and boost the income of the European Research Council (ERC).

Speaking in London ahead of the publication of a research and innovation Green Paper on 9 February, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, commissioner for science, research and innovation, said European officials had listened to the demands made by academics.

"European research funding is currently spread across too many small programmes...(and) in some cases there are different rules and procedures between them, making it more complicated to apply for funding," she said.

"We have been told that the bureaucracy is too much, that there is a huge administrative burden, that researchers and scientists want to be in the lab, not filling in forms - and we have listened."

In an overhaul of the system, there will be no Eighth Framework Programme for research funding.

Instead, the stream will be merged with the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme pot and European Union funding for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

This central funding pool - the Common Strategic Framework - will allow researchers to make just one application for funding from all streams, and successful applicants will face just one accounting system when they receive a grant.

The funding will be used to support EU policy objectives including energy, transport and health.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said the move would bring about much-needed "simplification".

She added that she would argue for an increase in funding for the ERC, which has been allocated EUR7.5 billion (£6.3 billion) for 2007-13. The promise follows lobbying by Universities UK for more investment in the council, which supports pure research.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn added that the Commission would launch a series of "innovation partnerships", bringing the expertise of researchers, companies and funders to bear on particular issues. A pilot scheme tackling "active and healthy ageing" has already been approved.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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