Brussels, 06 Dec 2004
Germany is the latest country to outline its position on the future Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and includes a call for thematic priority areas to remain at the core of the EU's research activities.
According to the report produced by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the government believes that the scientific priorities of the current framework programme should continue to form the basis for the next, and the proportion of the budget allocated to these thematic areas should reflect this prioritisation.
In particular, Germany would like to see special emphasis placed on the following areas: life sciences and biotechnology; information and communication technologies; nano and micro technologies; climate, environmental sustainability and transport; energy, sustainable energy and associated technologies; and aeronautics. In addition, consideration should be given to making social sciences and the humanities a priority in their own right, states the report.
Referring to the outputs of EU funded research, the position paper notes: 'Translating R&D [research and development] results into products and processes is important for stimulating economic growth and dynamic development. It is therefore necessary to again intensify technology transfer and the commercialization of results.'
A major theme of the German position is that of increasing industrial participation in the framework programme, particularly that of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). 'The terms and conditions for participation by SMEs in thematic priority projects must be made far more attractive,' it states.
To achieve this, the German government suggests the use of smaller projects with fewer partners, and argues for a more flexible use of funding instruments which meet the specific needs of SMEs, for example SME-led Integrated Projects or STREPs. The introduction of concrete funding mechanisms designed to forge closer cooperation between the framework programme and EUREKA is also suggested, given the popularity of the later among private companies, including SMEs.
Germany would like to see an increased budget for FP7 but, like a number of other countries, it is keen that such an increase be achieved without letting the overall Community budget rise beyond 1 per cent of EU gross income. Additionally, Berlin argues that any increase in the EU research budget should take account of the Barcelona 3 per cent target: 'As two-thirds of the 3 per cent are to come from private investment, the operational set-up of FP7 must provide strong incentives for companies to increase their R&D expenditure.'
The country lends its support to the creation of a European Research Council (ERC) to fund basic research projects exclusively on the basis of excellence, and also endorses in principle the EU's intention to fund space and security research, on the proviso that no Community resources are spent on defence research.
In line with the UK position published the week before, however, the German government sounds a note of caution with regard to the creation of additional European Technology Platforms: '[T]echnology platforms involve a high degree of sophistication, making the complex cooperation between the participating players even more complicated, and they will therefore cause serious management problems. [...] As a new instrument, the platforms should first be tested through pilot projects in a few selected areas.'
Finally, and again mirroring a stance adopted by other EU countries, Germany argues that the Joint Research Centre (JRC) should 'render its services and make its research contributions by submitting proposals in response to [...] FP7 calls, that is, in competition with public and private research institutions in the member states.' To read the position paper (in German or English), please visit: http:///www.forschungsrahmenprogramm.de/i nhalte/rp7