Brussels, 04 Mar 2005
Tekes, Finland's technology agency, has called for the introduction of an entirely new thematic priority in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for EU research: 'R&D as a tool to renew strong existing industries'.
In a position paper on FP7, Tekes states that it finds 'most current FP6 priorities and themes important and relevant to European R&D [research and development] collaboration. However, new viewpoints and orientations are needed in order to ensure the competitiveness of European R&D in the future.'
For that reason, Tekes' list of proposed thematic priorities largely resembles that in place in FP6, minus the current 'citizens and governance' priority, and with the addition of both 'safety and security' and the priority on industry.
The proposal to introduce a priority specifically for industry was formed following a national exercise to develop a roadmap for technological development in Finland, explained Petri Peltonen, Executive Director of International Networks at Tekes.
One of the outcomes of this exercise was that while it is of course important to develop new technologies, it is also important to ensure that existing industries constantly update themselves through technological means, Mr Peltonen told CORDIS News. Globalisation has meant that every industry must increase both its productivity and its value added if it is to compete internationally.
While it is often the case that lobbying for certain thematic priorities to be included in the EU programmes is driven by national or sectoral interests, a focus on reviving current industries through R&D would benefit every EU Member State, each of which is facing challenges in certain industrial sectors.
'We have a strong national innovation policy and Europe needs a strong European innovation system. They must be complementary, not overlapping; strengthening competitiveness at a European level,' said Mr Peltonen.
There are clearly provisions for industry in the initial proposals for the next framework programme, and in particular proposals on Technology Initiatives and Technology Platforms. While these are an 'important new concept that address the needs of some industries', Mr Peltonen has a personal concern that they are leaving gaps in those industrial sectors where no platform has been formed.
In the past Finland has done very well in the framework programmes, having been a net recipient from the programme for many years. And unlike other countries, Finland has managed to maintain its level of industrial participation during FP6. The Tekes position paper shows, however, that the country is taking nothing for granted.
Finland's main successes have been in the field of information society technologies. The position paper emphasises the importance of continuity between FP6 and FP7 in this field, and suggests that all the strategic objectives from the major FP6 calls should be continued in FP7. In addition, Tekes would like to see the inclusion of what it considers to be 'strategically important topics'. These include: cross-cutting research; network access and safety; e-inclusion; sophisticated approaches to e-commerce; seamless communications; robotics and embedded energy issues.
In the field of 'life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health', Tekes proposes deepening the priority's topics in order to meet current research needs. Systems biology, bioprocess technology and 'biotechnology meets information technology' should all be included in FP7, believes Tekes.
The agency's proposals for the thematic priority 'nanotechnology, new materials and processes' would see it extended to address wood-related chemistry; new materials for welfare and electronics; bioprocesses; nanostructured soft materials; nanobiomaterials and device integration; and new processes for the purification of nanoscale objects.
'Space and aviation' is Tekes' fourth priority, followed by 'food quality and safety', which, the paper states, should focus on four key areas: food and health; food safety; bioprocesses; and active packaging.
Tekes believes that too little emphasis was placed on environmental technologies in FP6, and the agency's priority for this field is thus entitled: 'sustainable energy and environmental technologies (non-nuclear)'. The paper outlines a need for more research to be supported in areas such as technologies to increase energy efficiency; new 'green' innovative products and processes; water supply and sanitation technologies; and mitigation technologies for traffic-related environmental impacts such as pollution and noise.
The Commission has proposed supporting security research as a specific priority for the first time in FP7. The move is welcomed by Tekes, although the agency would like to see the concept broadened to include the safety of the living environment, dependability, and risk management in global businesses. 'This viewpoint arises from Tekes' strategy, which takes into consideration the safety of society as a whole. It includes not only citizens and the public sector but European companies as well, which currently face great challenges in a globalised and interlinked world,' states the paper.
Mr Peltonen was in Brussels on 3 March to present the Tekes paper to representatives from both the Commission's Research DG and its Enterprise and Industry DG. Its main points were well received, he believes, although only time will tell whether they are taken into account by the Commission when outlining its vision of FP7. The Commission proposal is scheduled for publication at the beginning of April.
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