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Imagine Europe as a Research Area...

The 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development

The largest instrument of research funding in the European Union is the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FPRTD). Its sixth edition (FP6) was voted by the European Parliament on June 27, 2002 and has been in effect since November 2002. Put into action by the European Commission, its budget amounts to 17.5 billion euros over four years.

The idea of the EU as a truly common research space has gained a lot of ground since first proposed at the Lisbon Summit in 2000 by the European Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin. The challenge launched at Lisbon is to bring into being a European Research Area (ERA) for science and technology which will prove fertile ground for scientific excellence, competitivity, and innovation, by promoting better collaboration and coordination among the various research actors in Europe. Above all, its explicitly stated goal is to make of the European Union the world leader in scientific research by 2010 and to establish a knowledge-based economy.

An incubator of European and international projects
As the foremost means for realizing the ERA, FP6 aims to concentrate research more intensely and to integrate it more fully on a Europe-wide basis. To accomplish this goal, FP6 is organised around seven thematic areas of priority: life sciences, genomics and health biotechnologies; technologies for the information society; nanotechnologies, intelligent materials and new production processes; space and aeronautics; food safety and health risks; global change and ecosystems; citizens and governance in a European knowledge-based society.
The FP6 includes two principal funding instruments for achieving its ends. The Excellence Networks* coordinate multiple research groups and activities into a concerted effort with the goal of fostering cooperative structures at the highest international level of science. Integrated Projects* meanwhile aim at knowledge production by gathering together the partners and the means necessary to achieve ambitious but clearly defined research objectives.
To ensure that FP6 was in step with the projects and expectations of the scientific community, the European Commission made use of all available means of concertation. As a final step in that process "it issued a call for expressions of interest in the Spring of 2002 as a way of sounding out European scientists on the Programme", emphasises Monika Dietl, head of the CNRS Bureau in Brussels. "The bureau in Brussels used several internal CNRS means to alert researchers to FP6 possibilities, working with each scientific department's European affairs advisor as well as the partnership services of the regional delegations. A number of CNRS scientists responded positively. In Europe over all there were more than 12,000 expressions of interest, which required a huge job of analysis," according to Ms. Dietl.

A new tool to match an ambitious vision for European research collaboration
Articles 163-173 of the European Union provide for the establishment of the Framework Programmes. The articles stipulate that the FPRtds must include:

 a founding text: FP6 was adopted June 27, 2002;
 specific programmes (voted on September 30, 2002): These texts list the scientific content of European programs, and they precede the working programs which provide greater detail on the specific thematic priorities and the various aspects of the framework programme;
 regulations for participation and for dissemination of results (voted on November 5, 2002): these rules govern the FP process. From them are derived two texts:
 a standard contract which determines the rights and obligations of the European Commission and of the partners of a consortium
 a mandatory consortial agreement which ties consortium partners to one another, which is a required feature since it regulates important questions of intellectual property and funding.

What is the implication of the Framework Programme for the CNRS?
The CNRS worked to mobilise its own forces as well as those of its European partners in favor of certain themes it wanted to see emerge from the working programs. The Brussels Bureau took on the task of collecting as many expressions of interest as possible (in four months) and worked closely with the scientific leadership of each CNRS Department, with their differing approaches, to analyse the responses. "The projects retained are a good fit with overall CNRS policy" remarks Ms. Dietl. "Project leaders are recognised by their European counterparts, they have a good grasp of FP6 mechanisms, the teams assembled are high quality, and the whole presentation has been done according to EC standards."
The Brussels Bureau acts as consultant to CNRS scientists and laboratories, helping them find their way through the EC maze and putting them in touch with the proper individuals. The CNRS Regional Delegations' services for partnerships and for industrial contracts possess a great deal of expertise for administrative, legal, and financial matters. Finally, the European affairs advisor in each scientific department has a role to play concerning proposal content. Monika Dietl's assessment is that "the CNRS is fully ready to participate in 6th Framework Programme and to meet all the criteria necessary."

What part does fundamental research play and what is the commitment to applied research?
The treaty of the European Union commits its member States to act to strengthen the competitivity of European research. This necessitates a link with the world of industry and in particular with Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises in keeping with the European Commission's strong priority on SMEs. While it is true that projects are often initiated by the academic community, economic considerations like contracts, patents, or licensing agreements must nevertheless be taken into account. Fundamental research, guided research, and applied research are inevitably interconnected.
Finally, pluridisciplinary research activity must be developed to respond to the evaluation criteria of the EC. "The themes chosen cut across disciplines and involve several fields of research", concludes Monika Dietl.


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