Brussels, 29 Apr 2005
Implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) proposals as they currently stand will create nearly a million extra jobs in Europe by 2030, compared with a 'business-as-usual' scenario of moderate growth in EU research funding, according to an impact assessment carried out by the European Commission.
Furthermore, depending on the rate of growth in framework programme funding after FP7, the impact assessment also reveals that doubling the EU research budget at this stage could increase Europe's GDP by up to 1 per cent over the same period. As the report emphasises, given that the framework programme represents only a modest share of overall European public research spending, its effects are significant indeed.
The impact assessment was based on input from stakeholders, internal and external studies, and contributions from recognised experts in evaluation. It looked at three policy options in particular - the 'do-nothing' scenario of ending EU support for research and development (R&D), the 'business-as-usual' approach of continuing FP6 in its current form, and the proposed FP7 option.
The relative merits of each option were analysed in the context of the challenges facing Europe, notably globalisation, the need for increased growth, competitiveness and jobs, environmental and social concerns, and weaknesses in the European research system. However, the report opens with the warning that assessing the impacts of research policy is a particularly difficult task, mainly due to the time lag between carrying out research, generating innovations and reaping the commercial benefits.
Ultimately, the first option of 'do-nothing' is easily disposed with by the report. 'The 'do-nothing' option (or indeed the downsizing of EU intervention) is clearly ruled out as an option. It would stop in its tracks the process of building an integrated European Research Area, and would lead to greater fragmentation and inefficiency of research efforts in Europe,' it concludes.
An economic impact assessment contained in the report suggests that if such a course of action were pursued, as a direct result Europe would suffer a fall in GDP of 0.84 per cent and lose 800,000 jobs (87,000 of them research-related) compared with the 'business-as-usual' approach. Besides, all stakeholders consulted during the evaluation process were of the same opinion: that the framework programme should be retained 'as a vital instrument of EU policy for the knowledge-based economy', according to the Commission.
Following a 'business-as-usual' approach, meanwhile, would ensure that the current weaknesses of the European Research Area would only be partially addressed. This would threaten the achievement of key EU policy objectives, notably the Lisbon agenda and Barcelona target, and send a discouraging message to Member States in terms of their own research investment levels, thus compounding the negative effect.
While providing continuity, continuing with the framework programme as it currently stands under FP6, with no change in the budget, structure of thematic content, would not represent an adequate response to the new challenges facing Europe or the renewed emphasis placed on the Lisbon agenda, finds the report. Furthermore, the EU now has 25 Member States, and maintaining the same budget as for FP6 would result in a greater scattering of the EU research effort.
According to the impact assessment, therefore, continuing FP6 would represent a missed opportunity to further restructure the EU research system. 'The conclusion is that an FP is needed that is substantially larger than FP6 in order to be able to address important weaknesses in the European research system,' it states.
Specifically, in their present form the FP7 proposals are expected to have a significant impact in areas such as simplification of procedures, promoting public-private partnerships in the form of Joint Technology Initiatives, support for basic research, promotion of researcher mobility and careers, and strengthening research capacities within regions and among small and medium sized enterprises.
In conclusion, the report emphasises that the emergence of new (and the intensification of existing) economic, social and environmental challenges demands a European response: 'The next FP must respond to these challenges; business as usual will not suffice.'
To download a copy of the report, and for further information, please: