Brussels, 09 July 2002
The European Parliament has published a working paper, written by the University of Oviedo foundation, Spain, comparing the Fifth and Sixth Framework programmes and raising areas for future discussion.
The analysis focuses on the legal, technical and policy aspects of the new framework programme. The paper highlights that most changes to the structure of the Framework programme have been made to aid the establishment of the European research area (ERA), which has, 'in the space of just over a year, [...] become the reference framework for research policy issues in Europe.'
In terms of structure, rather than being divided into direct and indirect thematic and horizontal actions, as was the case in FP5, FP6 consists of three interdependent targets which seek to integrate, structure and strengthen the foundations of a European research area.
The legal basis of the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) does not differ greatly from that of Fifth Framework programme (FP5), according to the working paper. 'It is clear, however, that in the new programme certain articles are given unprecedented scope and importance,' claim the authors, picking out Article 169 (which provides a legal basis for cooperation between the Member States and the EU) as one such article. Article 169 'fills a gap in the previous framework programmes,' says the paper.
The structure of European research has moved from both vertical and horizontal in FP5 to circular in FP6, 'grouping all the actors, themes and activities together within the same perimeter,' states the paper. One reason for this is the different criteria defining the Framework programmes, says the paper. While FP5 was defined by criteria related to the Community added value and subsidiarity principle, social objectives, economic development and scientific and technological prospects, FP6 is defined by a different set of principles. FP6 focuses on research with a more structuring effect on the research activities conducted in Europe, with greater coordination of national, regional and European initiatives, simplifying and streamlining the implementation arrangements, decentralised procedures and concentrating on a selected number of priority research areas in which EU action can add the greatest possible value.
The priority areas for research have also altered in the next Framework programme. A number of areas which were key actions in FP5 become priority thematic areas in FP6, such as 'genomics and biotechnology for health', 'nanotechnology, intelligent materials and new production processes', 'aeronautics and space' and 'food safety and health risks'.
FP6 will also operate on the basis a set of new instruments. Financial contributions will be made by the Commission towards networks of excellence, integrated projects, national programmes carried out jointly and activities carried out in order to anticipate the EU's scientific and technological needs, including specific research activities for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) and specific international cooperation activities.
For the second specific programme, 'structuring the ERA', the Commission will also make financial contributions towards activities promoting interaction between research and innovation, activities for the development of human resources and increased mobility, activities in support of research infrastructures and activities promoting the development of harmonious relations between science and society.
The paper raises a number of areas for discussion. The authors question the grouping together of the seven research priority areas in a single programme and the discontinuation of some research areas, such as oceanography, biomedicine, sustainable agriculture and the conservation of European cultural heritage. The paper also states that 'the continuous changing of priorities also prevents the consolidation of research groups, created on conclusion of the previous Framework programme.'
The report also asks whether the ERA is a means or an end, how Member States can become involved in creating the ERA and what will be the next stage in the development of the ERA, assuming that the ERA will be created in several stages. What are the networks and mechanisms that would allow optimum and effective communication between the different actors of the ERA, the authors would also like to know. Finally, the paper questions how it is possible to guarantee an equitable division of the benefits of the actions envisages in FP6 among all EU Member States and beneficiaries.
To see the full report, please consult the following web address: http://www.europarl.eu.int/stoa/publi/p df/stoa107_en.pdf