Brussels, 15 March 2002
A research council for the whole of Europe, working with the national research councils, is probably at least 10 years away, according to Professor Norbert Kroó, the secretary-general of Hungarian academy of sciences and a member of the European research advisory board, EURAB.
Speaking at Norwegian research and IT forum in Brussels on 15 March, Professor Kroó claimed that, while the idea was initially brought up around eight years ago, it will be at least another 10 before it becomes a reality.
The European science foundation (ESF) has recently been promoting the idea of a Research council for Europe, but Professor Kroó feels that one single organisation cannot be the lead in creating such a council. 'It can't be the project of just one organisation to build this council. I do not think that the ESF in its present form is appropriate, but it could be reshaped.' He added that there must be a definition of what is needed before resources should be dedicated to the idea. 'I don't think that this project should start simply by distributing money,' he said.
The impetus for a European research council has also come from Scandinavian countries, said Professor Kroó and he welcomed this. Another speaker at the event, Gunnar Ahlén, special advisor to Swedish Ministry of education and science, said that a European research council could be worked out from 'the inside of the Sixth Framework programme [FP6]'.
The event provided a background on the new instruments that will be available in the next Framework programme. Some of the concerns expressed by attendees included fears that decision making procedures in deciding the networks of excellence and the integrated projects would become more political, that SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) may find it difficult to have the same level of participation as the Fifth Framework programme and that preparation costs for participation in FP6 will be higher.
However the general mood was upbeat and most participants agreed with Ramon Noguera of the UK research office (UKRO), who said that the most important message to convey about FP6 is 'Don't panic'. This was enhanced by Professor Kroó, who said: 'We [Hungary] are not afraid of being overruled by the big countries. If the idea is good enough, then small countries will overcome any obstacles.' He added that networks of excellence have already been tried by the four Eastern European countries grouped together in the Visegrad cooperative agreement (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland) and have worked well.