6th Research Framework Programme (FP6)

The 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (6th FP) is the EU’s main instrument for funding research in Europe. Adopted on 3 June 2002 and implemented on 1 January 2003, the programme covers the period 2002-2006 with a total budget of 17.5 billion euro.

The 6th Research Framework Programme is the EU's main financial and legal instrument to implement the European Research Area (ERA), which is now high on the policy agenda and part of the strategy for meeting the goal of increasing investment in research to 3 per cent by 2010 as laid out by the Barcelona Summit in March 2002. It is also a legal and political obligation resulting from the Amsterdam Treaty.

The budget for the 6th FP is 17.5 billion euro. This represents nearly 4 per cent of the EU’s overall budget (2001), and 5.4 per cent of all public (non-military) research spending in Europe.

The 6th Framework Programme is structured around three priorities:

Priority 1: Focusing and integrating European research

In the interest of efficiency and to avoid the r isk of duplication or of spreading the research effort too thinly, the 6th FP concentrates the greater part of its efforts on seven priority fields, which have been chosen on account of their value for building a knowledge-based economy and society. The activities in this area are intended to integrate research efforts and activities on a European scale, and develop European knowledge and understanding.

The 7 thematic priority areas are:

  • Life science, genomics and biotechnology for health (2,255 million euro)
  • Information society technologies (3,635 million euro)
  • Nanotechnology and nanosciences, knowledge-based functional materials, new production processes and devices (1,300 million euro)
  • Aeronautics and space (1,075 million euro)
  • Food safety and health risks (685 million euro)
  • Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems (2,120 million euro)
  • Citizens and governance in a knowledge-based society (225 million euro)

In addition to these seven areas, the 6th FP includes an eigth traditional sector of research on nuclear safety, in line with the EU's responsibilities under the Euratom Treaty. This has a budget of 1,230 million euro, 60 per cent of which is for the development of the international ITER fusion reactor project, the rest for nuclear waste management, radioprotection and the Joint Research Centre's activities in this field.

Specific activities covering a wider field of research:

  • Research for policy support (formulation and implementation of Community policies) and support of unconventional and visionary research with potential to open new fields for European science and technology, including NEST (New and emerging science and technologies) (555 million euro)
  • Specific research activities for SMEs: at least 15% of the budget relating to the 7 thematic priorities will be allocated to SMEs (430 million euro)  
  • Specific international co-operation activities (INCO) (315 million euro)

Priority 2: Structuring the European Research Area

Efforts in this area should enhance stronger links with national, regional and other European initiatives in the field of research.

  • Research and innovation (290 million euro)
  • Human resources and mobility (1,580 million euro)
  • Research infrastructures (655 million euro)
  • Science and society (80 million euro) 

Priority 3: Strengthening the foundations of the European Research Area

This target should simplify and streamline the implementation arrangements.

  • Co-ordination of research activities (270 million euro)
  • Development of research and innovation policies (50 million euro) 

Instruments for the implementation of the 6th Framework programme

Two new instruments have been created for the implementation of the 6th FP:

  • Networks of Excellence aims at progressively integrating activities of network partners and thereby creating 'virtual' networks of excellence.
  • Integrated Projects will be projects of substantial size, designed to help build up the 'critical' mass in objective-driven research with clearly defined scientific ambitions and aims. 

A high-level expert group on 21 June 2004 published its final report on the mid-term review of the new instruments of FP6 (see EURACTIV 7 July 2004). The group was chaired by Dr Ramon Marimon, former Spanish Secretary of State for Science and Technology and its mandate was to assess the success of the new instruments in meeting the goals of FP6 - structuring and developing the European Research Area. The final report states the strengths and weaknesses of the new instruments and formulates 12 recommendations to overcome the weaknesses. In particular, the report emphasises the high costs and administrative hurdles related to participating in FP6 through the new instruments as well as the need for more clarity concerning the instruments' goals.

The Commission published its response to the Marimon report on 27 August (see EURACTIV 16 September 2004). It points out that many of the expert panel's recommendations match the Commission's own findings and that 'corrective measures' on the instruments were still to be taken in 2004. At the end of 2004, the Commission published several documents giving a clear classification and description of the FP6 instruments. 

The European Science Foundation (ESF), All European Academies (ALLEA) and the European University Association (EUA) believe that:

  • The ERA and the Framework Programme should build on existing structures and organisations and suggest a strong link between the ERA and the Bologna process.
  • It is of vital importance that the Commission can ensure that projects are selected on the basis of excellence and that procedures are clear and transparent and trusted by the research community.
  • Proposals for large-scale integrated projects are causing concern within the research community, as they may disadvantage smaller research groups, university departments, small and medium-sized enterprises and other groups active in innovative research.  

The Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) says that:

  • The European Research programmes should not make a goal of compensating for missing national research programmes or under developed research infrastructures.
  • This must also apply strictly to the new candidate countries.
  • Scientific and technological excellence, and economic relevance for Europe as a whole, must remain the main criteria for the selection of themes, programmes and projects to improve the competitiveness of European Industry.  

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) recommends that the thematic area "Genomics and biotechnology for health" have the following main objectives:

  • to upgrade the academic biotechnological science-base in Europe
  • to assist the development of new approaches and technologies for better selection, development and approval of innovative and safe drugs
  • to promote a pan-European network for better cooperation between academia, clinical research, industry and drug regulatory agencies  

The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) stresses that:

  • innovation research, especially within SMEs, is absolutely necessary for Europe to compete with the USA and Japan and to create and safeguard employment and economic growth
  • as a result, a minumum of 15 per cent of the overall budget should be allocated to SMEs  

The European Science Foundation (ESF) recommends that there should be:

  • A commitment to invest in basic research;
  • A link between the ERA and the Bologna Declaration on higher education in Europe, to establish a European "knowledge area".  

Euroscience, the European Association for the Promotion of Science and Technology, states:

  • It welcomes the emphasis on the need for better integration of research in Europe and a proposed significant increase in the overall budget dedicated to European science and technology;
  • However, it feels that some clarification still needs to be provided on important aspects of the proposal and that major actions directly related to the European Framework Programme have not been properly considered.  
  • The 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development will run until 31 December 2006. 
  • A number of 'corrective measures' on the FP6 instruments were taken in 2004.
  • The expert panel working on the five-year assessment (1999-2003) of EU research has presented its report to the Commission in February 2005.
  • The Commission presented its official proposal for the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development in April 2005.
  • The FP7 will come into force in 2007 and run until 2013. 

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