Brussels, 18 Feb 2004
On the eve of the presentation of the first draft report evaluating the new instruments in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and member of the high level panel charged carrying out the evaluation, presented some preliminary findings.
While the high number of proposals received is to be welcomed, along with the general acceptance of the new instruments and their integrating objectives, Professor Bullinger pointed to issues of clarity, project management and transparency for further analysis.
'The number of submitted proposals shows the attractiveness of the programme, particularly IST [information society technologies],' said Professor Bullinger. Referring to those that were refused funding, he asked 'Did we say precisely enough what we wanted? There are some areas where more explanation is needed.'
Also in attendance at the presentation, Richard Escritt, a director within the Commission's Research DG, responded to this remark by saying that 'the difference between the number of proposals submitted and those accepted is not as dramatic as it first appears.' On account of budgetary restraints, only between half and one third of the submitted proposals could have received funding.
Mr Escritt also had an answer for another of Professor Bullinger's criticisms, this one referring to the budget for project management, which is set at seven per cent of a project's total budget. Professor Bullinger claimed that this amount of money is not enough to manage a large consortium, to which Mr Escritt replied that while the figure for management costs is limited to seven per cent, project consortia can now claim for 100 per cent of costs, which was not the case in FP5. Professor Bullinger also highlighted the difficulty that some universities are facing in terms of project management because of a lack of management capacity.
The main comprehension problem relates to the Network of Excellence concept, said Professor Bullinger. It remains unclear, he claimed, whether such a network should be constructed according to political criteria, ensuring coverage of the whole of Europe, or whether the concept means that only those organisations that genuinely demonstrate excellence should be included. 'Excellence is being impaired by thoughts on cohesion. If a Network of Excellence is really a Network of Excellence, it should be based on excellence,' he said.
While welcoming the new instruments as tools which really do encourage integration and collaboration, Professor Bullinger questioned whether such large consortia really fulfil the aims of increasing flexibility and reducing bureaucracy. He added that with so many partners involved in each project, the amount of EU funding received by each partner is often low.
For the remainder of FP6, Professor Bullinger proposed that the Commission provides more specific information on what is required in project proposals, and retains the traditional funding instruments alongside the new ones, as 'Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects are not suitable for all priority areas.' Turning to money, he proposed that more is allocated to project management, and that the cut to the requested budget upon selection of a project should be less dramatic.
Looking ahead to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), Professor Bullinger called on the Commission to retain the Framework Programmes as the key instrument for supporting European research, but requested higher funding for core areas. He also highlighted the need for preserving continuity and diversity with regard to the funding instruments.
Professor Bullinger was sceptical of calls for a new funding initiative for basic research, and called on the Commission not to make a division between basic and applied science. 'There is no difference, it is simply a question of a perspective of time,' he said. 'There is research that will give results in 20 years and research that will give results in five years. There is also research for which one cannot say now when the results will be available. But they will be available.'
German MEP Ralph Linkohr, author of a report calling for an increase in the research budget to 30 billion euro for FP7, welcomed Professor Bullinger's presentation and called for a change of mentality towards research funding within the Commission. Referring to the Lisbon and Barcelona targets, of making Europe the most competitive economy in the world, and increasing research funding to three per cent of GDP respectively, Mr Linkohr said: 'The Commission will always have a problem as long as they have an accountant's mentality.' He called for a move away from budget-oriented research towards results-oriented research.
The second draft report on the mid-term review of the new instruments will be ready in May, and the final conclusions will be presented in June.
For further information on the mid-term review, please visit: