Brussels, 19 Jul 2004
Speaking to CORDIS News about the role of the National Contact Points (NCPs) under the next framework programme, Paul Jamet, the coordinator of the French NCPs, spoke of a belief in France that the future lies in European Contact Points.
'We are in an increasingly competitive environment and if we want to build the European Research Area [ERA] we must develop our activities and services even more,' explained Mr Jamet. 'NCPs must be more proactive and offer high quality services', he added.
Furthermore, said Mr Jamet, 'we must change our mentalities. Too often NCPs feel in competition with NCPs from other EU countries. It is time to develop a more collaborative attitude. We must learn to be more cooperation oriented.'
In this regard, France, at the initiative of the French Foreign Office, has been developing contacts with NCPs in different countries. Many bilateral and trilateral meetings have been organised with South Africa, Turkey and the Czech Republic, among others. In addition, France is also planning to increase its contacts with Eastern European countries especially Bulgaria and Romania.
France is also in close contact with CECO, the China-EU Science and Technology Cooperation Promotion Office, which paid a six-day visit to Paris in May.
NCP activities have changed, explained Mr Jamet: 'We cannot continue to be information duplicators.'
Indeed, the French coordinator feels very strongly that NCPs are the right actors to build the ERA, but that they need some encouragement. 'At the end of FP5 [the Fifth Framework Programme], I presented a proposal to the Commission suggesting that we move towards a European network of contact points, based on the example of the innovation relay centre [IRC] network,' Mr Jamet told CORDIS News. 'I believe we need to rethink the role of NCPs in the ERA, and from what I have heard, DG Research is now taking up this challenge, and Dr Mitsos is considering this proposal.'
Some IRCs are already transnational, emphasised Mr Jamet. 'We should follow their example, adapting their model to our requirements.'
France has also instigated an informal meeting between NCPs to discuss the matter. The meeting should take place in the autumn and the European Commission will be invited to attend. Mr Jamet explained that the meeting will take place in Prague to facilitate the participation of the new Member.
'This should be an exciting and stimulating debate,' enthused Mr Jamet 'as we will invite both sides of the spectrum, the sceptical NCPs and those in favour of more transnational cooperation.'
The European Contact Point (ECP) is something very close to Mr Jamet's heart. 'NCPs are currently funded at national level and not by the European Commission. However, we could envisage a situation where the Commission would sponsor some European activities.'
As Mr Jamet pointed out, some NCPs have more means than others. The aim would therefore be for those countries with more resources and expertise to help others. 'I personally would be more than happy to help a foreign scientist whose NCP does not have the capacity to help him,' Mr Jamet told CORDIS News.
Mr Jamet insisted on the need to develop long term strategies as has been done in Austria and the Netherlands. Both countries have instigated schemes to help the best consortia to apply for FP6 funding.
Mr Jamet also said he feels that CORDIS could do more for NCPs and proposed increased collaboration: 'We must reflect together on which new services CORDIS can provide for NCPs. There are many possibilities that are relevant. Furthermore, if we do move towards a European Contact Point under FP7, we must develop a single source of information and CORDIS could be helpful in that perspective.
On the subject of FP7, Mr Jamet noted that the debate seems to be launched earlier and earlier every time. Turning to the Marimon report evaluating the FP6 instruments, Mr Jamet emphasised that he was expressing his own opinions and not speaking on behalf of the French ministry. 'The advantage of the report', said Mr Jamet, 'is that it re-launched the debate on the old and new instruments. The recommendations are extremely stimulating ones. Although I cannot say if France is in favour of them or not, the consensus is that asking the scientists questions directly is a good thing. After all, the scientists are the ones that are deeply concerned with these decisions.'
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