The European Commission has admitted that the Sixth Framework Programme for research will be tailored to a limited number of priority subjects.
It is expecting to receive 95 per cent fewer applications for money than under the Fifth Framework Programme.
Speaking to Brussels-funded news service Cordis, Peter Kind, head of the commission's directorate for the European Research Area (structural matters), said that officials were keen to avoid the "over-subscription" of available budgets that had occurred in previous framework schemes.
He said that guidelines could make the average size of a project in the sixth programme up to ten times the size of an project in the present round. The commission hoped, he said, that this would lead the number of proposals received to drop "by a factor of up to 20 in comparison with FP5".
His admission should intensify concern among academics that their particular subjects will be frozen out because of a bias towards large-scale focused priority projects. Thematic priorities include genomics and biotechnology, information technology, nanotechnology, production processes and multi-functionality.