Researchers outline visions of integrated projects and networks of excellence

March 13, 2002

Brussels, 12 March 2002

Representatives from the research community presented their visions on the possible uses of the new instruments proposed for the Sixth Framework programme (FP6), at a Commission event in Brussels on 11 March.

The event was intended to provide information on the new instruments to 'information multipliers', particularly in relation to priority six, 'Sustainable development and global change'. Representatives from the automotive and shipbuilding industries outlined how they would use integrated projects and networks of excellence in their fields of research.

Dr Ulf Palmquist from EUCAR, the European council for automotive R&D (research and development), said an integrated project in the area of integrated safety would see the collection of several projects or sub-projects around a development path to an overall objective. These projects would cover a number of FP6 themes, including information society technologies, nanotechnology and sustainable development. In terms of management, EUCAR foresees 'layered and distributed responsibilities in order to manage such a large project.' This would involve a core group for the strategic overall management of the project, with a project manager for day to day management and operation.

While the Commission envisages integrated projects running for between three and five years, Dr Palmquist believes a period of five to eight years would be more appropriate, with a total budget of around 20 million euro.

On intellectual property rights, Dr Palmquist would like to see the sharing of results within individual sub-projects, but with no global access to every partner's knowledge. He also anticipates the sharing of assessment results, but not the solutions.

Dr Palmquist is in favour of the Commission's intention to provide financial support in the form of a 'grant to the budget', which he said will allow operational and tactical management of the project, the flexibility to relocate resources and will ensure transparency in management. EUCAR expects overall financial responsibility to fall to the core group and local responsibility to go to each project and each partner therein.

Michael Goldan from the Dutch shipbuilding association VNSI said that networks of excellence will benefit the European shipbuilding industry and help it compete against shipbuilders in the Far East. Mr Goldan pointed out that the European research in shipbuilding is highly specialised and often involves small organisations. It is therefore difficult for the industry to mobilise sufficient critical mass in terms of human resources and infrastructures.

Mr Goldan described his view of a network of excellence as a programme of jointly executed research, which would involve integrated activities, such as programming, the exchange of personnel, research platforms, real and virtual facilities and possibly a new business focus, involving an adaptation to participants' activities. The network would spread excellence through the training of researchers, information dissemination and networking. Mr Goldan believes such a network would lead to competitive design and production, new ship concepts, entry into new markets and services, faster ship to shore interfaces and safer and more environmentally friendly ships.

Mr Goldan envisages a typical network involving approximately seven partners each from universities and research institutes, each involving five researchers, along with 14 from industry, each partner involving between two and three researchers, resulting in a total of 105 researchers. He foresees 50 per cent of the budget being allocated to research, 20 per cent to integration, 20 per cent to the spreading of information and no more than 10 per cent to management. Representatives from the Commission stressed however that the research intensity would vary from one topic to another.

Mr Goldan concluded by saying that networks of excellence provide the opportunity to enhance research capacities, which is greatly needed within the industry, and that he could foresee using such a network for a vehicle for integration in Europe, using existing networks such as thematic networks, created under the Fifth Framework programme, as a starting point.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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