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FP7 Launch: EU R&D Initiative 2007-02-08

Posted by clype in Europe, Money, Science.

Europe has begun rolling out its new ‘Research & Development’ (‘R&D’) initiative — ‘The Seventh Framework Programme‘ (the ‘FP7‘).

‘FP7’ will see more than 7 000 million EUR/year (4 600 million GBP/year) handed to investigators to advance scientific knowledge and — by extension — boost the EU’s economy.

It runs until 2013 and amounts to a significant jump in investment over previous community programmes.

UK Science Minister Mr.Malcolm Wicks told a launch event in London that Europe had to get smarter to stay competitive. He said:

[Picture of Malcom Wicks]
‘Globalisation is the buzzword now; we are aware that we cannot compete on price alone in producing many of the goods that are made more cheaply in China, India and other emerging economies.

‘Europe’s economies will prosper or not depending how good we are at coming up with new ideas, new science; and particularly how good we are at technology transfer and innovation.’

A little over 40 per cent of the EU’s expenditure is currently reserved for Agriculture but an increasing proportion (5.3 per cent last year) is committed to Research.

And with ‘The FP7’, the latest in series of pan-European collaborative science research budgets, the money available to drive the Union’s ‘knowledge economy’ forward gets even bigger — a 41 per cent budget increase on ‘FP6’ at 2004 prices.

Scientists working in university and other institutional laboratories, research divisions in large companies and even small enterprises can apply for funding from the ‘FP7’ pot.

The money is structured under themed headings and directed into priority Research areas, such as

  • Information and communication technology (9 000 million EUR),
  • Health (6 000 million EUR),
  • Transport (4 000 million EUR), and the fast-emerging
  • Nanotechnology sector (3 000 million EUR).

The intention is that this money acts as an innovation growth factor, bringing on the next-generation high-value services and products that keep Europe at the forefront of world markets.

The UK has done very well out of the Framework series in the past; its 6 000 participants in ‘FP6’ have so far taken more than 1 700 million EUR, almost 15 per cent of the available funding.

Britain is involved in more projects than any other country in the EU.

In a globalising economy, our scientists are on the front foot in co-operating with their counterparts across Europe,’ said Ashley Ibbett, from UK’s ‘Office of Science & Innovation‘ (‘OSI’) and who led the British negotiating team in the run-up to ‘FP7’.

Between 1992 and 2003, UK papers with international co-authorship doubled from 20 per cent to 40 per cent.

‘France and Germany show similar trends.

‘Science is becoming increasingly international with collaboration across borders.’

What is different about Britain compared with other European nations is that most of its participants are from the higher education sector, from universities.

The government wants greater involvement from industry; it wants more corporations to follow the example of ‘BT’ which now has 10/15 per cent of its research spend tied up in Framework-funded projects.

If you look at the technologies out there today, the window for exploitation is extremely short,’ explained The Head of ‘BT’s’ Research & Venturing, Mr.Mike Carr.

From our point of view, the only way to succeed is to have a very rapid implementation strategy, and that means you’ve got to tap into technology from wherever it’s from.

In “BT” we probably only do something like 1 per cent of the world’s research in telecoms; 99 per cent is going to come from somewhere else. And “FP7” is all about tapping into that wider community of knowledge.’

The downside in the past for any would-be Euro-scientist — as all who have gone through an application for funding will testify — has been the ‘legendry bureaucracy’. The paperwork demands put off many, particularly from small enterprises.

‘The European Commission’ has promised a more streamlined process for ‘The FP7’. There is also a commitment to pay more of the total costs of a research project, so a university or other research institution is not forced to ‘steal’ from its other activities to sustain work through to completion.

The Vice-Chancellor of Southampton University Mr.Bill Wakeham is encouraged by the changes, and believes the collaborative model can only become more relevant in the future.

[Picture of Bill Wakeham]
‘Very few problems anymore exist in the silo of a single discipline or indeed a single university,’ he said.

‘Some problems simply have a scale beyond that of one university, even one country.

‘Such things as climate change are too difficult and too large to tackle alone, and one needs a mechanism that comes together to fund many universities in many countries.

‘The Framework Programme has been that opportunity.’

At present ‘The EU’ spends about 2 per cent of its ‘Gross Domestic Product‘ (‘GDP’) on Research & Development (‘R&D’)–  significantly less than the USA (2.8 per cent) and Japan (over 3 per cent).

Some emerging Asian countries, such as China, are now increasing their ‘R&D’ investment to a rate where they will soon catch and overtake Europe.

Business investment has stumbled of late. As a consequence, Europe is now on track to miss the so-called ‘Lisbon Objective’ of boosting its spend to 3 per cent of GDP by 2010.

[Picture of Janez Potocnik]
‘We need to do much more and we need to do it quicker,’ said The European Commissioner for Science & Research Mr.Janez Potocnik

‘The 3 per cent target remains a distant goal. If we do well and all member states realise the measures they have committed to in their national reform programmes, we could hit 2.6 per cent in 2010.’

UK groups interested in applying for ‘FP7’ funds can get advice and information from a new website set up for the purpose.





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