Brussels, 08 Mar 2005
With a total of 13 Member State contributions already submitted in response to the Commission's proposals on future EU research policy, Spain is the latest country to add its input to the debate.
To find out more about the process of drafting such a position, and what the Spanish government will be doing to ensure that its position is taken fully into consideration, CORDIS News spoke Luis Delgado, the Spanish Framework Programme Coordinator and the person responsible for finalising the Spanish position paper on the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
In principle, revealed Mr Delgado, Spain agrees with the Commission's overall objectives for FP7, such as reinforcing the European Research Area and creating a true internal market for knowledge. According to the position paper: 'We believe the fundamental principles on which the earlier FP were based, and which have provided such good results, should be maintained.'
However, Mr Delgado adds: 'We need to go deeper - we have some differences concerning the practical implementation, based on our experiences of FP6. Spanish entities had some difficulties with the new instruments, for example. The rationale for the new instruments is OK - creating critical mass and increased integration - but excellence and European added value are not only related to the size of projects.'
The position paper makes this point quite clear: 'The size of the consortia should be proportional to the goals to be achieved, and should not compromise an end in itself. We should promote the inclusion of groups which, albeit small, have the potential to contribute to the European research process.'
The Spanish position contains recommendations on all the major aspects of the future framework programme. For example, it supports the creation of an ERC with increased levels of funding for basic research, it calls for specific measures to increase the participation of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and it advocates stronger relationships between FP7 projects and the companies that could make use of their results.
Yet given the diversity of Spanish entities with a stake in FP7, CORDIS News asked Mr Delgado how easy it was to draw up a position paper that reflects the full range of opinions. He explained that a commission had already been established for the users of the framework programmes, including representatives from universities, public research organisations, industry associations and technology centres. A public consultation was then set up which sought the input of these and other actors, and a working group drafted the final position.
'It was evident that there were some different views between, for example, industry associations and universities, but we did manage to achieve a consensus, even if some of the issues remain a little ambiguous as a result,' explained Mr Delgado.
The end result of such a consensus-building process is a position that is 'quite general', admits Mr Delgado. However, the paper itself is only one of the ways in which Spain will seek to exert its influence on the design of the next framework programme, and its release has been timed for maximum impact. 'The Commission is currently finalising its detailed proposals for FP7 - now is the time to communicate the interests of the Member States, the three or four major points that we would like to achieve.'
Another of the ways in which Spain and other Member States will ensure their views are reflected in the final programme is through a process of consensus building between themselves. 'The majority of other Member States have already reacted to the Commission's proposals. We know about each others' positions, let's say, so we know that at least partial agreement can be reached in certain areas.' Fora such as CREST and the Competitiveness Council play a key role in this process of international consensus building, Mr Delgado added.
For its own part, rather than trying to achieve all of the aims outlined in its position paper, Spain will now concentrate on 'sending major signals' to the Commission concerning the three or four issues that it would most like to see covered in FP7, revealed Mr Delgado.
Unsurprisingly, in many instances these key issues relate to Spain's own specific position within the framework programmes. For example, Spain would like to see a general provision to facilitate the participation of the most remote regions in FP7, with the Canary Islands uppermost in its thoughts. The country would also like to see a more comprehensive approach to marine research in the next framework programme, given the economic importance of marine resources to the EU as a whole, and to Spain in particular. Finally, Mr Delgado said that his country would like to see more enhanced scientific cooperation between the EU and Latin America in FP7, including a specific section for EU-Latin American cooperation under the INCO programme.
Ultimately, however, Mr Delgado and his colleagues understand that if Spain and the EU's other Member States are to truly realise their economic potential, the framework programmes are only a small part of the equation. 'In the end, all Member States will have to better coordinate their national programmes, as more than 90 per cent of research funding is invested at the national level,' he concluded.
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