Tony Tysome charts the development of research funding in Europe
The Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration holds the European Union's main cashpot for stimulating research.
With an original budget of Ecu13.1 billion (Pounds 8.7 billion), the Fourth Framework Programme has until the end of this year to run, when it will be superseded by a bigger, but more streamlined, Fifth Framework.
The programmes contained within the Fourth Framework were designed to enhance the quality of life for European citizens by creating links between industry and higher education, working together on projects to enhance the development and practical use of new ideas.
The Fourth Framework was divided into four "activities", with each programme containing a number of strands. The first activity deals with research, technological development and demonstration programmes, with 15 programmes dealing with areas such as telematics, environment and climate, biotechnology, and nuclear fission safety. The second activity is concerned with cooperation with Third World countries and international organisations; the third with the "dissemination and optimisation" of research results; and the fourth with stimulating training and mobility of researchers.
To qualify for funding, projects must be shown to be collaborative, involving a consortium of organisations from different member countries - although links will be made further afield in the case of the second activity. Projects must also be "pre-competitive", ie the research must be early in its development and have the potential for the results to be exploited a year or two after the funding has finished.
Funding is by one of six methods: "shared cost", the most common form, under which the programme provides up to 50 per cent of the costs of the project; "concerted actions", where funding is directed towards the coordination of projects rather than the work itself; "direct actions", where the European Union pays for the entire cost of research done at one of the sites of its Joint Research Centre or the Joint European Torus facility at Culham; "specific measures", under which the European Commission funds researchers for particular projects; "preparatory, accompanying and support measures"; and "allowable costs" of a project which can be reclaimed in some cases.
Framework five, which is due to come into operation at the end of the year, has been allocated a budget of Ecu16.7 billion.
Amendments to the programme agreed by the European parliament mean it will include a total of four "thematic programmes", covering life sciences and technologies; information and communication technologies; transport, mobility and production; and energy, environment and sustainable development.
The four research themes are to be allocated a budget of Ecu12.16 billion,with the rest of the Framework five money split between projects encouraging international cooperation, support for small- and medium-size enterprises forging research partnerships with institutions, and the training of researchers.
The amended proposals for Framework five are due to go back to the Commission, which will modify the programme in the light of the amendments,before passing it back to the Council of Ministers for final approval. European officials are hoping the process will be finalised by June.
Support for student and staff mobility and trans-national cooperation between institutions is also available through the Socrates/Erasmus programme. Contact UK Socrates/Erasmus, Research and Development Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury. Tel: 012 7611.
For more general information on research and development programmes, contact the EC Research and Development Enquiry Team at the Office of Science and Technology, 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London. Tel: 0171 215 1611.