The European Union's Joint Research Centre wants to include more academics and scientists from countries seeking EU membership, expanding the European Research Area eastwards and southwards.
Its drive involves 60 specialised workshops and advanced training courses for researchers from applicant countries from eastern Europe, Malta and Cyprus, who can also apply for 60 specially created temporary JRC posts. The initiative is directed at research organisations, national enforcement laboratories and senior scientists.
These opportunities will be made available at the JRC institutes in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The focus will be on: food, chemicals, environment, metrology, agriculture, nuclear safety and "technology foresight".
The JRC said that the programme would help eastern European researchers link up with the 150 scientific and technical networks that have already been forged in the EU and that are the bedrock of the European Commission's nascent continental research area.
The announcement comes as the European Commission called for informal expressions of interest by the EU academic community to explain how it wants to tap into the oncoming Sixth Framework Programme's €16.2 billion (£10 billion) budget for joint research projects.
The commission will analyse submissions and will publish highlights on the internet by July 2002. Brussels has stressed that there will be "no individual feedback, no budget and no specific competitive advantages in submitting an expression of interest". But it added that it considered a submission "a good opportunity to prepare for participation in FP6 calls".
To frame a submission, discussions would have to be held with research teams from other countries to form a cross-border consortium that could apply for grants.
Meanwhile, 108 scientists and researchers have signed a letter to the European Commission, calling for greater priority to be given to biomedical studies in the €16.2 billion Sixth Framework Programme. The experts claim that although the preceding programmes earmarked significant sums of money for their subject, the new scheme "offers little or nothing" for them.
Details on expressions of interest:
Michel Claessens: tel: 00 32 2 295 9971, fax: 00 32 2 295 8220,
Details on JRC initiative: www.jrc.cec.eu.int/enlargement/training