Research chief set on getting new faces in Framework

October 1, 2004

The incoming European Union Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, has unveiled his priorities for reforming the EU's Framework Programmes on research to help his fellow Eastern Europeans profit from its funds.

In answer to a questionnaire from the European Parliament, the economist from Slovenia said his top priority would be "simplification of existing administrative and financial rules" of Framework Programmes 6 and 7.

He wants to make the rules "more flexible" to help applicants from the new EU member states and those from small businesses across Europe.

Dr Potocnik said he would also adapt funding regulations to suit "emerging groups and innovative firms". He said he would help Framework projects secure funding from other EU sources, especially "structural funds" for poor areas, many in Eastern Europe.

Dr Potocnik said he would push hard to expand Framework Programme budgets, which the European Commission wants to hit €40 billion (£ billion) for FP7, which will cover 2007-10.

He backed proposals from his predecessor, Philippe Busquin, that the Commission farm out detailed management of funded research projects to participants or external bodies.

But he believes that Brussels should retain overall control. His views chime with Mr Busquin, whose officials rebuffed a suggestion from the Marimon expert group on EU research that the Commission only define the "strategic objectives of research". Participants should "define the specific research objectives", the group said.

Brussels said this was "tantamount to calling into question the principle of the work programmes on which the EU's research programmes are based".

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