Brussels, 14 Apr 2003
Science in candidate countries will get a €13 million boost with the launch of several support actions. Helping SMEs put together and manage research projects takes the lion share.
By now, most people are familiar with the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the European Union's instrument for funding research in the 15 member states, as well as the 13 candidate countries nominated to join the Union. Candidate country participation in FP6 is a high priority. Being 'associated' with FP6 also means they share the same rights and obligations as current EU members.
Research is spearheading the EU enlargement process, according to Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. Speaking at the launch of Eurobarometer's 'Science and Technology (S&T) in the Candidate Countries' report, he said: "Candidate countries are fully onboard with FP6, and they have complete equality with EU member states. In fact, this is the first genuine enlargement policy, and I am very proud of that."
The Eurobarometer report provides valuable insight into candidate country attitudes towards S&T. There are a number of striking similarities in the findings of this report and the same study carried out for EU member states in 2002. Declining interest in scientific studies and careers stands out as a concern shared by respondents in both studies. For example, 42% of the 12 247 people interviewed in the current report agreed that young people are less interested in science subjects, compared with 50% in the EU study.
SMEs hold the key
Asked whether the authorities should try to resolve this situation, 67% of candidate country respondents agreed. Member states were only just behind this figure with 60%. Is declining interest in science among the youth a threat to future socio-economic development? Again, candidate countries tipped the EU members in their response to this question, 47% versus 42%.
To boost science in the candidate countries, Mr Busquin believes small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are key. "Right now, they lack networks of scientific SMEs to create jobs for science students and graduates," he said. But this is improving. The Commission has set aside €9 million of this specific support measure for candidate country SMEs to establish a virtual network for exchanging best practices, training methods and preparing to answer calls for proposals. In addition, the sum will assist SMEs in partner searches, consortia agreements and project development. The remaining €4 million will go to FP6 thematic priority areas.
In October 2002, when signing the agreement with candidate countries for their participation in the new EU research programme, I promised we would encourage candidate country partners to contribute their skills and expertise to EU research," said Mr Busquin in a recent press statement. "The €13 million scheme fulfils that commitment."
Source: EU sources
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