Brussels, 8 November 2006
26.10.2006 Type of Procedure: Consultation procedure
REPORT on the proposal for a Council decision on the Specific Programme "Cooperation" implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities
[...] Your rapporteur, in general terms, endorses the structure and content of the Commission proposal. She nonetheless believes that further clarification is needed on the following points:
Multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Major scientific progress will be much facilitated if there are joint proposals for technological and scientific 'Themes' that are applicable to more than one theme and, regarding interdisciplinarity, certain complex issues of the priority 'Themes' are approached simultaneously via more than one discipline.
Reinforcement of the role of industry via the technological platforms. If the targets of the Barcelona European Council are to be achieved and competitiveness is to be boosted, it is vital to operate a structured dialogue and to ensure cooperation with industry and between industry and research centres.
Joint technological initiatives. These are required, essentially, so as to give continuity to the technological platforms, which, in a limited number of cases, could bring into being public-private partnerships of a more integrated, ambitious and long-term nature. These would be managed by joint ventures, regarding which the level of the capital input provided by the Commission requires the opinion of Parliament, as is obligatory under Article 171. Since this involves new technical and financial management instruments for participation in the specific programme for cooperation, the Commission will have to establish management structures which ensure compliance with the criteria, transparency as regards priorities, and sound and efficient management, reporting regularly on all these aspects to Parliament.
Participation of SMEs. Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure the real participation of SMEs in the actions and projects under the priority 'Themes' of the 'Cooperation' programme. The Commission proposal needs more precise definition concerning the following aspects:
a) setting concrete objectives for participation and for the budget of the 'Cooperation' programme (20%);
b) seeking the highest possible level of contribution from all the Community funds, including the EIB (European Investment Bank) and EIF (European Investment Fund), for the financing of projects including the participation of SMEs;
c) establishing mechanisms for the creation of regional, thematic or territorial groupings with a view to enhancing participation capacity;
d) improving and simplifying the administrative procedures.
On this point, it is important to establish specific measures for coordination with the specific programme 'Capacities' and with the Programme for Competitiveness and Innovation.
Complementarity and synergy. It is important to develop complementarity and synergy between the specific programme 'Cooperation' and other Community actions and programmes, such as the Programme for Competitiveness and Innovation, the Structural Funds, and others which may be potential sources of funding for actions, infrastructures or projects in the field of R&D or innovation.
In practice, this is not easy to implement thanks to the restrictions existing under the rules which we ourselves have put in place for the use of the funds and the management of the programmes. A procedure is proposed for submitting integrated programmes on a basis of combining efforts while not duplicating them. This point should be included in the participation rules.
Budget review. Since the agreement reached by Parliament and the Council on the financial perspective for 2007-2013 does not offer the financial means required for full achievement of the objectives of the 7FP, or in particular, those of the specific programme 'Cooperation', your rapporteur suggests that, in the context of the review of the financial framework promised for 2009, a proposal should be submitted that properly reflects the Union's aspirations in this field.
Response to new needs and opportunities. The specific programme 'Cooperation' needs to be open-ended and flexible enough to respond to the needs of those areas where progress is especially rapid, ever-changing and difficult to predict at seven years' distance, and also to face the various political demands that may arise out of unforeseen circumstances and will call for rapid reaction (epidemics, etc).
Coordination with the Member States. It is necessary to reinforce the mechanisms for the coordination of Member States' and regions' R&D and innovation programmes with the framework programme and, in particular, this specific programme, so as to achieve the optimisation of financial resources, combine but not duplicate efforts, and build an authentic European Research Area.
The European Research Area. It is essential to reinforce the principle of prioritising actions in the Community area rather than the intergovernmental method. In other words, intergovernmental cooperation, as in the ERA NET context, should be favoured only if the actions coincide with the objectives of the 7FP and if the proponents facilitate and ensure the possibility of participating on a footing of equality with other actors from other Member States.
The universities as an essential network of research and teaching centres.. More than 60% of research in the EU takes place in the universities, and it is there that the great majority of researchers receive their education. This is another key area that needs stressing in the report. It should also be taken into account in any future decisions concerning the organisation of science and technology in the EU and the possible creation of new centres of excellence in the research context, such as a future European Institute of Technology.
Technology transfer. There is sufficient knowledge of the problems of interlinking the business and research worlds (in both directions). It is necessary to provide and develop mechanisms and incentives to ensure that the transfer of knowledge, skills and technologies takes place in such a way that the research findings are brought to the attention of employers, especially SMEs, and can be assimilated and used by them.
International cooperation. Cooperation with non-EU countries should be centred on those 'Themes' for which it can provide a significant added value, and should be of two types: cooperation with industrialised countries on specific 'Themes' of mutual interest, with priority for the 'Themes' of this programme; and cooperation with developing countries on programmes aimed at promoting improvements in economic development, health, social welfare and environmental sustainability.
Bridging the digital divide. The figures show that the technological gap between the EU's Member States and regions is wider than the economic or quality of life gap. It is therefore essential that the specific programme 'Cooperation' should pay special attention to boosting convergence between the Union's Member States and regions in the field of science and technology, with effective measures for closing the technological gap between territorial units.
Dissemination of science. The specific programme 'cooperation' should also contribute to the dissemination of science, with the aim of bringing science and technology closer to society: this should be reflected in both the preparation and the execution of projects.
The role of the European Parliament. The EP needs to play a more prominent role in following up and monitoring the execution of the framework programme and, in particular, of this specific programme. Parliament should be informed of, and should be able to give its opinion on, the work programme referred to in Article 6 and any adjustment thereto, as well as the budget breakdown.
Joint funding instruments with the EIB. The Commission's proposal establishes an EIB subsidy. This should have the objective of contributing in a broad sense to facilitating and encouraging private-sector investment in R&D. The shared-risk mechanism may have limitations of scope (credits only) and volume (large projects only): it is therefore necessary to explore all possibilities of joint activity with the EIB, and the EIF where relevant, in order to achieve, proportionately to the public effort represented by the framework programme, the objective set by the Barcelona summit that two-thirds of investment should come from the private sector. Every effort should be made to ensure that the EIB's funding offer in this new context corresponds to and supports the demand which needs to be stimulated by the work with the Technological Platforms and Joint Technological Initiatives.