Brussels, 10 Dec 2003
The EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for research celebrated its first birthday with the launch of a new website reviewing results from the first calls for proposals.
The Sixth Framework Programme is the European Union's main tool for funding research in Europe. Proposed by the Commission and adopted in June of 2002 by the Council of Ministers and European Parliament, it was formally launched in November last year to run for four years.
Administered by the Commission's Directorate-General (DG) for Research, FP6 is open to public and private entities based in the EU, candidate countries, as well as certain nominated (associated) states. To receive EU financial support, these entities put together consortia in order to answer calls for proposals issued by the Commission under a number of pre-determined thematic headings.
The main themes in FP6 cover such topics as life sciences, information society technologies, nanosciences, aeronautics and space, food quality and safety, sustainable development, and citizens and governance, along with several other priorities aimed at focusing and integrating community research.
A number of features distinguish FP6 from its predecessors. Taking the European Research Area (ERA) as a focal point, with an emphasis on integrated research activities, FP6 is striving to promote greater efficiency and to build what the Commission calls "critical mass", which ensures that funded projects have a lasting impact on the scientific and technological landscape.
Tighter focus for FP6 calls
Two new 'instruments' were introduced to lend weight to FP6's ambitions: the 'networks of excellence' (NoE) and 'integrated projects' (IP). The Research DG reported a strong response to the first calls for proposal under FP6, attracting some 11 600 submissions for funds by European consortia comprising over 106 000 participants from more than 50 countries.
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin is encouraged by the first year's results. "[It] shows that the European scientific and business community is vibrant and willing to pool resources at the European level," he said in a statement coinciding with the launch of a dedicated website summarising the results. The 'pooling' aspect is an important feature of the new instruments, moving away from the idea of multiple project funding in favour of supporting what the FP6 Guide for Participants refers to as "coherent and long-term research activities and partnerships".
A total of 108 IPs and 57 NoEs are currently being negotiated after the first FP6 calls. Nearly 39% of the IPs fall under the 'life sciences, genomics and biotechnologies for health' theme, while almost 30% of the NoEs are in the theme going by the title 'nanotechnologies, nanoscience, knowledge-based multifunctional materials, and new production processes and devices'.
The Commission expressed satisfaction with the response to FP6 calls from acceding and candidate countries (they were included in 40% of proposals), but it wants to improve on this in later rounds. Another concern is the 'oversubscription' to many of the themes, which the EU's executive body will try to remedy in future calls by tightening the focus and using a two-step submission procedure more widely to filter out proposals unlikely to be successful.