Brussels, 11 April 2002
Speaking to a Brussels audience on 10 April, President of the German research organisation the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Professor Hans-Jürgen Warnecke, outlined his desire for the organisation to participate in more pan-European research projects, and called on the directors of the individual Fraunhofer Institutes to see it as their task to help establish the European research area (ERA).
The statement came on the day that representatives from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft met with the Commission to discuss the new instruments for the Sixth Framework programme (FP6), and Professor Warnecke revealed that the organisation has already prepared an outline for an integrated project, one of the new tools proposed by the Commission for FP6.
The organisation held its annual meeting of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft institutes' directors in Brussels, instead of Munich for the first time from 9 to 11 April. The move was intended to highlight to the directors that the organisation must pursue a European path, and to signal to the outside world that the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft wants to be active in Europe, according to Professor Warnecke.
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Brussels, and act which he described as 'more than a symbol that the ERA is on course and will be a reality.'
The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is a national, publicly funded organisation for applied research, comprising 56 institutes. Almost two thirds of its annual research budget of one billion euro is covered by contract work carried out on behalf of industry, state and public institutions, with the rest coming from national and federal governments. The organisation already has sites in Asia and the USA as well as Europe, but foresees yet further cooperation in Europe.
The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft has already opened an office in Brussels in order to play a more active role in European research policy, and has carried out a number of joint ventures with other research institutes in EU Member States including Zilina in Slovakia, Paris in France, Gothenburg in Sweden and Milan in Italy. The organisation has also participated in over 350 projects in the Fifth Framework programme.
Professor Warnecke explained that the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft abroad should not be seen as unwelcome competition to national research organisations. Through joint ventures 'complementary scientific competences of both organisations are brought together,' said Professor Warnecke. 'These joint ventures are, in our understanding, the first integrating 'European Institutes': They are managed by national research organisations from different countries with a common European vision.'
The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft currently has two principles guiding their activities, said Professor Warnecke. First, 'the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, as the current largest contract research organisation in Europe, must itself become involved in shaping the integration of research,' said the organisation's president, outlining how it will be actively involved in the introduction of new long term research structures. Secondly, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft must consider risk management, which means choosing instruments which are suitable for different scenarios, 'whatever sort of Europe we get,' indicating that the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft must remain capable of adapting to future developments, particularly EU enlargement. Professor Warnecke stressed that the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is happy to be the Commission's 'discussion sparring partner' or 'project tester'.
There are still further fields in which the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft sees opportunities to strengthen European commitments, according to Professor Warnecke, who pointed to cooperation between universities, cooperation with the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the stimulation of researcher mobility. 'I assure you, we are working on these subjects and are also open to suggestions from others,' he said.
'The so-called Fraunhofer model' cannot simply be copied and placed in other European countries,' Professor Warnecke conceded, noting different research cultures and aims. 'But Europe is rich in models and ideas. Therefore an open exchange of best practice between research organisations in Europe should result in more efficient structures and processes, to both sides learning from each other.
Europeans must speak with one voice, and according to Professor Warnecke, 'we scientists have always been capable, where international cooperation is concerned, of moving faster than politics.'
For further information on the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, please consult the following web address: http://www.fraunhofer.de
CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001