Copenhagen, 05 Nov 2002
Many eyebrows were raised when the Danish EU Presidency for the European research network EUREKA informed participants at the three-day conference in Odense on 28 October that part of the proceedings would take place in small groups. EUREKA was to employ a new method of working and also put the finishing touches to the proposal on the table, "Project Assessment Methodology (PAM)". EUREKA was established in 1985 and focuses especially on information and communications technology, environmental and energy technology as well as biotechnology. In contrast to the EU Framework Programme for Research, EUREKA co-operation is not based on any treaty. Consequently, no common fund exists upon which EUREKA projects can draw, so funding must be sought elsewhere. EUREKA is characterised by a 'bottom-up approach', where enterprises and research institutions themselves determine the focus of their research projects. Large enterprises, in particular, view this approach as an advantage, because it ensures greater confidentiality than the EU Framework Programme.
The conference in Odense was the first time that the 34 EUREKA participants worked in groups. However, the Danish initiative was positively received, says Michael Darmer, Head of Division in the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and Chairman of the NPC, a EUREKA body responsible for coordinating national projects. "The participants responded very positively to the group work on PAM. We received many useful suggestions on how we could improve PAM", said Michael Darmer after the meeting. He was interested to see how the meeting delegates would react to being divided into groups. "It is clear that when introducing new ways of working, much depends on how well they are received. The members must think group work is a good idea in order for it to be a success", emphasises Michael Darmer.
The NPC groups discussed how the NPC can ensure quality in the projects that EUREKA decides to promote to public and private investors. "We discussed how we could improve the matrix, under which we awarded points to the projects according to fixed criteria," explains Michael Darmer, who calls the meeting "very constructive".
The NPC Chairman admits that working in groups is unusual for EUREKA meetings. "However, the advantage of group work is that it can produce results in a short space of time. It is very difficult to discuss technical issues in a forum with 34 participants. There will always be some who say nothing and some who dominate. Furthermore, when so many people are assembled, it is difficult to reach a conclusion at the end. In small groups, everyone participates. This is particularly good for the many new Central and Eastern European countries involved in EUREKA co-operation. Thereby, they have a greater opportunity to present their views", says Michael Darmer.
Consequently, the Danish EU Presidency has attempted to mix the groups, so that they consist of a mixture of old and new, large and small, as well as active and less active Member Countries. "There has been a good mixture in the groups, which has been a major reason for the success of the group work", believes Michael Darmer.
The biotech industry in general is given high priority by the Danish EU Presidency, which is therefore working to establish a pilot project within biotechnology where both small and medium-sized enterprises participate. In addition, the Danish EU Presidency will examine the possibility of securing funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) as well as structural funds and venture capital.
Tuesday and Wednesday saw a meeting of the EUREKA high-level officials group (HLG), which is the political superstructure in EUREKA co-operation. At the meeting in Odense, the HLG discussed how EUREKA's overall structure could be made more efficient, according to the Danish Chairman Knud Larsen. "We discussed, among other things, how we can incorporate more projects into EUREKA co-operation with the same resources, and how we can contribute to the development of the European Research Area (ERA)", says Knud Larsen, former Permanent Secretary of the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and current CEO of Danish Decommissioning at Risø, an enterprise responsible for decommissioning Danish nuclear plants.
Since its establishment and until 2001, EUREKA initiated 1,443 projects, involving 6,777 people and an overall budget of DKK 150 billion. Today, EUREKA is responsible for the launch of 710 research projects, which have a total budget of approx. DKK 17 billion.
EUREKA is composed of 34 members, of whom 33 represent European countries and Israel. The last member represents the Commission.
EUREKA will convene next time in January 2003 in Brussels for the purpose of following up on the meeting in Odense. Thereafter,
EUREKA will meet twice in Denmark before France takes over the Chairmanship on 1 July. The Chairmanship does not follow the European Council's rotating Presidency, but lasts for one year at a time on a voluntary basis. Greece held the EUREKA Chairmanship before Denmark took over on 1 July 2002, and France will hand over the Chairmanship to the Netherlands on 1 July 2004.
Danish Presidency Website http://www.eu2002.dk/main/
Danish Presidency Website http://www.eu2002.dk/main/