European Research Policy - Council Conclusions (Extract from: Provisional Version, Competitiveness Council, 24 September)

September 27, 2004

Brussels, 24 Sep 2004

Following to an exchange of views on the Commission's Communication on the evaluation of the new instruments of the 6th Framework Programme, which followed the report of the high level panel lead by Prof. Marimon, and the Commission Communication on the future European Union policy to support research, the Council adopted the following conclusions:

"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION:

1. RECALLS the crucial role of research policy in the context of the Lisbon strategy and the importance of the successful realisation of the European Research Area as reflected in the Lisbon 2000 and subsequent European Council conclusions1 as well as in several Commission communications and Council Resolutions and conclusions2, notably Council conclusions of November 20023 on the progress made in the development of the European Research Area, Council Resolution of 22 September 2003 on investing in research for European growth and competitiveness4 and Council Conclusions of 11 March 2004 on "Europe and Basic Research"5 ;

2. RECALLS that the European Council of 25/26 March 2004 stated that the Framework Programme for Research and Development should be simplified and made more user friendly in particular for SMEs and start-ups, and that the Council in its conclusions of 19 July 2004, invited the Commission to continue its efforts to improve its organisational and management approaches to the implementation of the Sixth Framework Programme6 and to report on this before the end of 20047;

1 2 5Doc. 7379/04.

6It is recalled that the 6th Framework programme consists of EC and Euratom framework programmes.

7Council conclusions of 19 July 2004 on the Court of Auditors' Special Report 1/2004 on the management of indirect RTD actions under the 5th Framework Programme (FP5) for Research and Technological Development (1998-2002), doc. 10942/04.

3. RECALLS that the 6th Framework Programme1 provides for an evaluation by independent experts of the effectiveness of its instruments; NOTES that the high level expert panel set up for this purpose submitted its report2 on 1 July 2004 and WELCOMES the Commission's response of August 2004 to its observations and recommendations3;

4. UNDERLINES that, notwithstanding the need to strengthen research and technological development at a European level as an indispensable complement of national efforts, in particular to exert a strong leverage effect on private investment in research, this is without prejudice to the ongoing discussions concerning the Financial Perspectives (2007-2013);

On the Evaluation of the New Instruments

5. ACKNOWLEDGES the extensive work by the high level expert panel and its overall conclusion which highlights a number of issues concerning the design and implementation of instruments of the Sixth Framework Programme and puts forward recommendations for improvement, in particular regarding the needs of industrial participants, notably SMES;

6. RECOGNISES the potential of the new instruments ("Integrated Projects" and "Networks of Excellence") as well as "Specific Targeted Research Projects" (STREPs) for transnational collaborative research in Europe and calls for continuity between the 6th and 7th Framework Programmes and the maintenance of these instruments in the Seventh Framework Programme, as well as ensuring an appropriate balance between the use of the new and traditional instruments;

7. WELCOMES the Commission's intention, by working closely with Member States and all stakeholders, in particular the EU S&T community, to pursue actively the implementation of current and additional corrective measures1, in the context of the 6th Framework Programme. RECOGNISES that the Commission will give priority to further improving and simplifying administrative and financial procedures, will monitor the impact of these measures, taking into account the views of participants and report on this by the end of 2004 and regularly thereafter;

8. STRESSES the need for the Commission, in its proposals for the Seventh Framework Programme and the implementing regulations and accompanying guidance documents, to consider other appropriate corrective measures, in particular in relation to the simplification and improvement of administrative and financial procedures, which require modification of the legislative framework. WELCOMES, in this respect, the Commission's intention to set up an appropriate consultation mechanism involving all relevant stakeholders, and to report on a regular basis on the results of the consultations and measures taken;

On the Future of European Union Policy to Support Research

9. WELCOMES the initiative by the Commission to start a policy debate2 with the European Institutions on the future European Union policy to support research and innovation and to launch a wide-ranging consultation process with users and stakeholders, while NOTING in this context the discussions held during the Informal Competitiveness Council in Maastricht (1-3 July 2004);

10. RECOGNISES the important role of the Framework Programme in furthering the development of the European Research Area (ERA) , and in this context stresses the importance of reinforcing the ties between it and European intergovernmental organisations, such as Eureka and COST;

1 These include:

  • clearly classifying the instruments according to the objectives they seek to achieve, with special attention for "Networks of Excellence", establishing clear guidelines and criteria for their use and improving communication to participants;
  • clarifying the definition of the concept of "critical mass", acknowledging that this may vary according to topic, thematic area etc;
  • improving participation by industry, small and medium sized enterprises, participants from new Member States and smaller and emerging players, for example by allocating an increased proportion of financial resources to STREPs in certain priority thematic areas;
  • improving the procedures for consortia-building, proposal submission and evaluation and contract negotiation for both "Networks of Excellence" and "Integrated Projects", including, where appropriate, a broader introduction of a two-stage evaluation procedure to improve efficiency and reduce costs for participants.

2 See the Commission's Communication "Science and technology, the key to Europe's future - Guidelines for future European Union policy to support research", doc. 10740/04 - COM (2004)353 final.

11. TAKES NOTE of the approach by the Commission of identifying a number of major objectives and corresponding activities as the starting point for the ongoing discussion on the future of EU research1 and NOTES the relevance of the annual reports on progress with implementing the Sixth Framework Programme2 and the "five-year assessment"3 of the Framework Programmes for this discussion;

12. STRESSES the need for coherence and synergy between the major objectives as well as the need for continuation of the collaborative research actions as a key component of the next Framework Programme;

13. UNDERLINES the need for further reflection and clarification on how existing horizontal themes will be integrated in the next Framework Programme, such as:

  • the openness of the Framework Programme to the rest of the world and international research co- operation;
  • encouraging and facilitating industrial participation, in particular by small and medium size enterprises, in the Framework Programmes;
  • improving the relation between science and society;
  • research and innovation in support of the European Union's policies;

1 The areas identified by the Commission are as follows:

  • Creating European centres of excellence through collaboration between laboratories;
  • Launching European technology initiatives, which bring together the main stakeholders to mobilise a critical mass of public and private resources in specific technology areas;
  • Stimulating the creativity of basic research through competition between individual teams at European level and defining the appropriate mechanism to support such research (see also Commission Communication of 14 January 2004, doc. 5598/04 RECH 9);
  • Making Europe more attractive to the world's best researchers;
  • Developing research infrastructures of European interest;
  • Improving the co-ordination of national research programmes, building on the successful experience of Era-Net;
  • the role of industrial innovation and competitiveness as drivers for the design and implementation of RTD activities;

14. INVITES the Permanent Representatives Committee to reflect further on the communication on the future European Union policy to support research, on the basis of further clarifications by the Commission, with a view to a timely preparation of an in-depth debate by the Competitiveness Council of 25/26 November 2004 on the essential features of the future Framework Programme."

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