European Research Area begins to take shape, reveals first calls for proposals evaluation

August 1, 2003

Brussels, 31 Jul 2003

The fact that fewer proposals were received for the new funding instruments under the first call for proposals for the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) than were received in response to the call for expressions of interest indicates that an integration process is taking place among scientific institutions, according to a Commission spokesperson.

Following the submission of 1,400 expressions of interest received that addressed the new instruments, only 70 proposals were finally submitted for evaluation after the first call for proposals for the FP6 'global changes and ecosystems' thematic priority.

Whereas large numbers of expressions of interest indicated a high level of interest, the Commission believes that the reduction in the number of proposals submitted proves that scientific institutions are conforming to the objectives of European Research Area of working together to produce a better structured, integrated and highly competitive research environment.

'For future calls this integration trend will have to be encouraged and a fair level of competition should be maintained in order to ensure the highest possible quality of projects are submitted,' explained the spokesperson.

A total of 176 project proposals were submitted for the first call in this area, and of the 39 projects that have been retained, 12 projects use FP6's new instruments, and the traditional instruments. The Commission will now begin negotiations with the project consortia to allocate the 170 million euro available under the first call.

While pleased with the overall quality of proposals, the Commission was still unable to complete the work programme. Three topics: global change adaptation and mitigation strategies; climate variability, floods and drought; and climate modelling at catchments-regional scale, are not covered by the retained projects.

One area where improvements could be made is with regard to the joint programme activities for Network of Excellence proposals. 'Future proposers should keep in mind that the prime objective of NoE is to integrate resources - financial, human, infrastructural resources - and to overcome fragmentation with a view of building up a European competitive workforce in a given field,' said the spokesperson.

In order to strengthen the cohesion and complementarity of the eight Integrated Projects and four Networks of Excellence selected, the Commission will encourage the development of links and synergies during the implementation phase.

Retained projects where synergies may be possible include ENSEMBLES, an Integrated Project that will develop an ensemble prediction system for climate change based on the state-of-the-art high resolution Earth System models developed in Europe. The approach will allow, for the first time, the production of an objective probabilistic estimate of the uncertainty regarding the climate of the future at the seasonal, decadal and longer time scales.

For marine biodiversity and ecosystems, the Commission evaluators selected the MARBEF project, a Network of Excellence that will carry out a number activities, including the development of a European 'taxonomy clearing system' and a joint training programme. The project will also form a board of governance with a view to establishing links with funding agencies and policy makers at national and European levels. In so doing, MARBEF is also expected contribute to the EU biodiversity research strategy and Member State biodiversity research strategies, as well as international initiatives and agreements.

Around 20 per cent of partners are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a figure which the Commission believes will encourage further SME participation in future calls.

The geographical distribution of partners involved shows a high presence of third countries and associated counties. In the case of the 12 projects using to the new instruments, approximately ten per cent are from candidate countries. While these figures are encouraging, the Commission says that this is still not sufficient.

For further information about the global changes and ecosystems thematic priority, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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