Brussels, 10 Feb 2004
International research co-operation is essential to tackle global problems and optimise knowledge acquisition. The Commission's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) invites worldwide participation with direct funding for targeted third countries.
International co-operation is at the heart of the treaty establishing Community research effort. Working together in large-scale multinational partnerships helps focus research, allowing the speedier closure of knowledge gaps and earlier exploitation of promising results. FP6 goes further than any of its predecessors in encouraging this. It actively promotes participation by organisations and individual researchers from third countries in both the developed and developing regions, and reserves special funding to support such collaboration for a number of targeted countries.
The three major entry routes are:
- Collaboration within FP6 Integrated Projects, Networks of Excellence and traditional funding instruments addressing the thematic priorities. €285 million is earmarked for the participation of targeted states that include developing countries from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, Asia, Russia, former Soviet Union states, Mediterranean partners and the Western Balkans;
- Dedicated activities supporting European development aid policies, for example the fight against poverty, EU water initiatives and commitment to Millennium Development Goals (budget €315 million); and
- Human resources and mobility activities – notably the Marie Curie Actions, which offer training, mobility and career development support to young researchers.
NMP partner categories
Eligible partners for Thematic Priority 3 – nanotechnologies and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials, new production processes and devices (NMP) – can be grouped into four categories:
- Those based in an associated candidate country (including Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey): Such organisations are fully equal to partners from the EU Member States in terms of participation and funding rights;
- Those based in another associated country (including Israel, and the countries of the European Economic Area: These organisations can receive funding in consortia that include at least one partner from an EU Member State or a category 1 country;
- Those based in the 'INCO-target countries', which include former Soviet Union, Mediterranean partner, Western Balkan and developing countries: Category 3 organisations may participate once minimal conditions are met relating to the number of EU Member State, category 1 or category 2 countries are satisfied. These conditions are specified in individual calls for proposals. Around €32 million has been allocated to Priority 3 for participants from the INCO target countries, irrespective of geographic location. Even when this amount is consumed, they will be able to benefit from the same conditions as those in category 4 below; and
- Those based in a third country – which, with a few exceptions, covers the rest of the world: Such organisations can participate on a case-by-case basis, where involvement is deemed to help strengthen EU competitiveness, or give access to high-level technological know-how and skills. Other criteria are the potential to achieve upstream global consensus in preparing standardisation, or to develop systems that best fit with external market needs. Preventing a brain drain from Europe – and especially from the accession countries – is yet another consideration. Organisations may receive funding if it is essential to achieving the activity, or is planned for in the work programme. In addition, some foreign funding agencies guarantee specific levels of funding through arrangements established with the Research DG.
A number of specific international co-operation agreements are in place relative to Priority 3. For example, an EU-China implementing arrangement signed in 2001 facilitates mutual participation in materials research programmes through the joint organisation of workshops, seminars, conferences and possibly joint calls.
A similar arrangement concluded two years earlier between the EU and the US National Science Foundation has encouraged particularly fruitful transatlantic exchanges in the fields of materials and nanosciences. To create substantial added value, publication of a dedicated common EU-US call for proposals with balanced participation is being considered. Project partners however will receive funding from their respective funding authorities.
EU science and technology agreements currently exist with Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine, and more are under negotiation (Brazil, Chile, Japan, Mexico and others). Implementing arrangements are now being offered to strategically important countries for the NMP priority – such as Japan and Russia. And a special outreach event for Latin America and South Africa was held in December 2003.
A joint call for proposals launched by NMP and the Information Society Technologies (IST) Thematic Priority further reinforces the commitment to co-operation in development of new processes and flexible, intelligent manufacturing systems. NMP and IST are also supporting the industry-led Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (IMS) programme, established to foster the next generation of manufacturing and processing technologies.
The challenge for Europe is to encourage industry's transition towards more knowledge-based and customised production and systems organisation, in line with the goals of the Lisbon and Barcelona Councils. To achieve this, it is necessary to consider production from a more holistic perspective, encompassing not only hardware and software, but also people and the way in which they learn and share knowledge.