EU research priorities to be revealed, renamed

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Climate change, energy, health and SMEs will form the centre of European Commission proposals for research funding within the new Common Strategic Framework (CSF), which will be renamed today (10 June) at a 700-strong stakeholder event.

The CSF will follow on from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) after it expires in 2013, but the new funding pool will be the subject of heated debate as the Commission mulls over a White Paper to be released later this year.

The White Paper will outline how the research budget should be allocated under the new programme, which will roll together several existing structural and cohesion funding mechanisms under a common umbrella.

University associations, national research institutions, government officials and business leaders will all mingle at the conference, during which in the Commission will unveil the new name of the programme after holding an open competition to settle the matter earlier in the year.

Direction: Climate, health, energy, SMEs

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will also outline the Commission’s response to hundreds of submissions it has received following the publication of a consultation paper on the CSF earlier this year.

Officials said that a new innovation competitiveness report issued by the EU executive this week (8 June) highlighted the direction that the Commission would take on the CSF.

The report found that education systems needed to be adapted to business innovation needs, SMEs needed more encouragement, and that more research was needed to tackle climate change and to reduce the gender gap in science.

It found that business investment – as opposed to state funding – of research was a key weakness in Europe, where half as much private sector cash was spent than in South Korea and Japan.

A source in the EU executive said the report's findings would echo today's Commission priorities for the new framework programme. He added: "What EU citizens want is for the EU to tackle the grand challenges including health, energy, SMEs and climate change. That's what they want the EU funding to do."

Cut back red tape, inefficiency

The CSF will attempt to avoid the inefficiencies of the current programme.

On Wednesday, MEPs adopted a resolution on the mid-term review of FP7, noting that complexity of administrative management, red tape, lack of transparency and unjustified delays remain major handicaps.

The resolution said the Commission and EU member states should push harder for co-operation and co-ordination between the various EU and national funding programmes.

Jeremy Fleming

EU Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "It is only at an EU level that we can mobilise sufficient resources to tackle societal changes, only through EU funding that we can stimulate our innovators and researchers to joint forces and work together across national borders, and only the EU can we organise continent-wide competition to stimulate our researchers towards greater excellence."

A Commission official said the report's findings would echo today's priorities for the new framework programme. He added: "What EU citizens want is for the EU to tackle the grand challenges including health, energy, SMEs and climate change that's what they want the EU funding to do. That is why we have significant input at today's event not only from the research commissioner but also from Commissioners Rehn [economics], Poto?nik [environment], and Barnier [internal market], reflecting how all these strands will be brought together under the new programme."

Referring to the European Parliament's resolution on FP7, rapporteur Jean-Pierre Audy MEP (France; European People's Party), said: "We need to simplify the future and settle the past. Our payments need to be simplified. We will reduce the number of mistakes this way. The possibility of independent audits should be recognised."

The Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration activities (FP7) is the largest research support instrument in the world. Of the €54.6 billion total sum, 25.8 billion was committed over the first four years (2007-2010), while the remaining €28.8 billion must still be programmed in the final period 2011-2013, which amounts to 9.6 billion a year on average.

The new Common Strategic Framework – which will be renamed today – will take over from FP7 in 2014. The percentage of the EU budget to be ascribed to the new programme will become clear when the Commission unveils a White Paper on the framework before the end of the year, but the final amount will depend on the size of the EU budget which will by then be the subject of intense negotiation between the Council, the Commission and the parliament.

  • 10 June: New name will be unveiled for Common Strategic Framework, new priorities unveiled and discussed by stakeholders.
  • Before end of year: Commission to publish White Paper on new funding programme.

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