It is now almost inevitable that there will be a gap in the flow of European funding for research, it was revealed this week.
A decision by the European Parliament on Tuesday to demand a larger budget for the Fifth Framework Programme than the Ecus14 billion (about Pounds 10 billion) agreed by council means that a conciliation process, which could drag on for months, is "unavoidable", European officials said.
Both the Parliament and the European Commission are pressing for a budget of Ecus16.3 billion, a figure arrived at following negotiations with various political groups.
A spokesman for Edith Cresson, the commissioner for education and research, said that although everything would be done to avoid a gap between the end of the Framework IV Programme and the beginning of Framework V, some kind of interval now seemed inevitable.
"How serious that is depends on how big a gap it is. If the conciliation process begins in mid-September and it takes three months to resolve then there will be some kind of gap," he said.
Conciliation on average takes at least three months, and in the case of the Framework IV Programme it took nine months to reach an agreement.
The spokesman said everything would be done to ensure that research funding applications were in place and processed ready for when the Framework budget was agreed.