European research area puts revamp on the cards

October 13, 2000

The EU wants to use Framework to build common cause, reports Keith Nuthall

A European Commission discussion paper envisages transforming the European Union's Framework research programme, using its huge budget as a tool to bring the idea of a single European research area nearer reality.

Broad proposals for the 2002-06 Framework 6 programme have been released in a commission discussion paper called a communication. It also has detailed suggestions for priority subject areas.

The communication suggests building closer links between research teams in different member states. It proposes financing steps to open national projects to outsiders and to coordinate projects from different countries.

The paper suggests that Framework funds should be diverted into "large targeted research programmes conducted by consortiums of companies, universities and research centres".

It proposes that more money should be paid to researchers, including non-European citizens, to help them travel around Europe. And it calls for action to encourage women and young people to become more involved in science.

EU research commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "This communication is a further step on the path to creating a genuine European research area. The next research Framework programme will need to be thoroughly revamped in order to make a major contribution towards achieving it. The measures that I propose should enable research in Europe to perform better on the world stage, in particular vis-a-vis our partners in Asia and America."

For Framework 6, the communication suggests that the following subjects could be treated as priorities:

* Post-genome research and research into major illnesses

* Nanotechnologies

* Information technology

* Aeronautics and space technology, where "one country or one firm alone could not carry out the workI (and)I where there is considerable world competition

* Sustainable development.

The communication suggests that the programme should:

* Focus on areas where central EU action can add the greatest possible value compared with national research

* Entail a closer partnership with the member states, research institutes and companies in Europe

* Promote efficiency by focusing resources on bigger projects of longer duration.

The communication will form the basis of consultation between the EU, national governments, research organisations and companies. Comments will be fed into formal proposals that the commission will submit to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament in February.

The proposals have taken account of an independent expert panel's evaluation of the previous Framework programmes.

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