Brussels, 17 Dec 2004
The results of the Commission's consultation on the future of European research policy show widespread support for the Commission's proposals, but a need for clarification on certain aspects.
In June 2004, the Commission published its 'guidelines for future European Union policy to support research, which outlined a six plus two structure. The six major axes are:
- creating poles of excellence;
- launching technological initiatives in key industrial areas;
- stimulating competition between fundamental research teams;
- reinforcing human resources;
- developing research infrastructures of European interest;
- reinforcing coordination of national programmes.
The 'plus two' refers to the two relatively new areas to receive EU research funding - space and security.
The consultation received over 1,700 responses as well as written comments on various aspects of the communication. The Commission is also receiving position papers on the document, and has thus far gathered around 100.
The six major objectives outlined in the guidelines received positive responses from over 80 per cent of respondents, with some of the priorities proving particularly popular with participants. For example, over 95 per cent of respondents considered making Europe more attractive to the best researchers 'very important' or 'important', while over 90 per cent considered the creation of centres of excellence to be equally important.
Written responses indicated that stakeholders require more information about certain proposals, in particular those relating to basic research and technology initiatives, in order to participate in the debate. In the case of the latter, those responding to the consultation identified a need for transparency, openness and clear 'rules of the game' as conditions for success.
More information was also requested on plans to support infrastructures of European interest, in particular in relation to the criteria for defining 'European interest' and the funding mechanism envisaged. Respondents also highlighted the need for this priority to cover a wide range of disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities.
Endorsement for space and security research was lower than that for the six major objectives - 24.1 per cent considered space to be 'very important' and 40.4 considered it to be 'important', while the corresponding figures for security are .2 per cent and 37.2 per cent. Written responses raised the necessity to strike a balance between fundamental liberties, human rights and social values.
A number of other issues addressed in the Commission document were also put to stakeholders, including industrial competitiveness, focusing on key topics, administration, and science and society.
Industrial competitiveness was deemed 'very important' or 'important' by 88.3 per cent of respondents, with most support coming from large companies. Written comments pointed to the value of specific measures for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), but called for an increased budget in order to reduce oversubscription.
A number of participants questioned the wisdom of distinguishing SMEs from other companies, however, and in particular those that are only slightly larger.
Written comments also emphasised the need for innovation to be seen as integral to EU research projects, and called for this to be strengthened at the evaluation stage and through provisions for intellectual property rights in framework programme contracts.
A high number of responses were supportive of including a science and society aspect in the framework programmes, while many commented on the need to achieve better connections between science and society at large. A minority of respondents expressed scepticism, stressing that societal considerations should not take precedence over scientific criteria. A few stakeholders also warned of the increase in paperwork that such considerations bring about.
The largest number of responses (540) came from individuals, followed by universities and higher education institutes (456). Large companies, SMEs, governmental bodies and associations were also represented. Germany was particularly active, submitting 258 responses, while the UK, Italy, Belgium, France and Spain all contributed over 100. The Commission concludes that the responses received 'represent an important indication of the views of the research community and research users', but that the low response rate from some Member States, and in particular the new Member States, means that some countries are under represented. To access the consultation analysis, please click here
To follow discussions on the future of European research policy, please visit: http:///www.cordis.lu/era/fp7.htm