Brussels, 21 Jul 2004
Two years into the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) and – as agreed with the Council of Ministers during its negotiation in 2002 – a mid-term evaluation has been carried out on the effectiveness of the programme's new instruments, the Networks of Excellence (NoE) and Integrated Projects (IP).
The mid-term evaluation of FP6's much talked-about new instruments was submitted to the Commission on the first of this month. A presentation of the report was also given, on 3 July, at the informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council. The report contains a number of recommendations on the Integrated Projects and Networks of Excellence, some of which could be implemented in FP6 and others assimilated into the next Framework Programme (FP7) planned after 2006. The European Commission is currently studying the report and will present its reactions after the summer.
Ramon Marimon, former State Secretary for Research and Science in Spain, together with a team of high-level experts from various disciplines across Europe, was asked to review the effectiveness of the new instruments in view of the objectives of the Framework Programme and in the context of realising the European Research Area.
The high-level panel of nine experts was set the task of analysing information collected from disparate sources and numerous stakeholders, including data provided by the Commission on the results of the first calls for proposal in FP6, a survey of 5 project coordinators, hearings in several cities – with applicants of both successful and unsuccessful proposals – for new instruments, interviews with managers involved in all of FP6's thematic priorities, as well as data assembled from CORDIS, letters, comments and so on.
The panel started out, in October last year, by defining the working methods and setting a timetable. In December, the high-level experts were able to begin analysing the results of the first call and to survey those – both successful and unsuccessful – participants who participated in it. By February, a first draft of the findings from surveys, hearings and interviews was proposed. A second draft followed in March and the final report, entitled 'Evaluation of the effectiveness of the new instruments of FP6', which includes an executive summary, as well as findings and issues resulting from the information collection phase and 12 recommendations addressed to the Commission, was published in July.
The new instruments are a "powerful means to foster transnational collaborative research in the ERA" and should continue into FP7, the report says. However "many design and implementation aspects" need to be improved. Clearer classification, guidance and communication of the instruments, their objectives and use is recommended. Questions about the concept of 'durable integration' in the NoEs were raised. The role that IPs should play in delivering new knowledge and competitive advantage to European industry needs to be emphasised and distinguished from other instruments, such as the STREPS (Strategic Targeted Research Projects), it concludes.
The report favours a two-step evaluation procedure for proposals and it says that SMEs need further encouragement to participate in the new instruments, as do those organisations prepared to carry out risky research and "emerging groups". It also clearly supports improving the administrative procedures and financial rules in order to make the new instruments more efficient and flexible.
Although the report appears somewhat critical in parts, it stresses that realism is needed and that the "weak points need to be identified to formulate corrective measures that will ensure the new instruments will have the impact for which they have been created". It is to be noted that the Commission already adopted and implemented several "corrective measures" since the entry into force of the Framework Programme, which the Panel was not able to consider.
The Commission will provide a detailed reply to the Panel recommendations which will be presented to the Council of Ministers later in September.