Successful R&D is essential in maintaining the competitiveness
of European industry as well as benefiting European citizens and
improving their quality of life. Commission-funded programmes
for research and technological development (RTD) have long recognised
the importance of coherent investment in science and technology
to foster innovation in traditional manufacturing industry. But
there is a clear need to make sure funds disbursed under such
programmes are spent in the most cost-efficient way. The knowledge
and experience gained from the projects must be shared by current
and future participants, and should inform the decision-making
process on the future of EC-funded R&D.
faith with Europe's manufacturing sector
SMEs, promoting thematic networks and other measures
evaluation of programme benefits
EU-funded industrial research programmes have now been running
for well over a decade. The emphasis has shifted continuously
over this period with a growing focus on socio-economic effects.
The advent of the European Research Area, designed to improve
co-ordination between activities at national and European levels,
will increase the impact of such research by avoiding fragmentation
and helping achieve critical mass.
The first BRITE (Basic Research in Industrial
Technologies for Europe) programme ran under the Commission's
First Framework Programme (FP1) for Research and Technological
Development from 1984. The Brite-Euram industrial and materials
technologies activity, initiated in 1988 under FP2 - and renewed
under successive framework programmes - was committed to building
an internationally competitive position for EU industry through
co-ordinated, co-operative research and development. Its aim was
to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry through
concentrated and targeted RTD actions on priority industrial objectives.
Brite-Euram III - more formally the Industrial
Materials Technologies (IMT) Programme - was established under
FP4 (1994 to 1998) and set out to provide support to industry
as well as to academic and research organisations for pre-competitive
collaborative and co-operative research in materials, design and
manufacturing technologies - with a special emphasis on transport
sectors, including aeronautics, cars, ships and trains.
Its main goals were to stimulate technological
innovation, encourage traditional sectors of industry to incorporate
new technologies and processes, promote multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary
technologies, and develop scientific and technological collaboration.
Brite-Euram set precedents both in the
breadth of projects and in the assessment of their impact in more
than just economic terms. The European Commission's Fifth Framework
Programme for Research and Technological Development has already
marked a turning point with a widening of the role of European
research to benefit European manufacturers and citizens alike.
faith with Europe's manufacturing sector
The shift towards the knowledge economy has led to a belittling
of European manufacturing. Yet, many of our leading manufacturers
are big players in the global economy and leaders in domestic,
European and world markets. The manufacturing sector remains a
powerful engine for growth and makes a significant contribution
to employment in some of Europe's more deprived regions. It is
also a force for innovation and is constantly looking to develop
new products and processes.
The European Commission provides strong support
for the sector, focusing particularly on boosting R&D capabilities.
The main channel for much of this support has been the Brite-Euram
programme, which set out to: stimulate technological innovation;
encourage traditional sectors of industry to incorporate new technologies
and processes; promote multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary technologies;
and develop scientific and technological collaboration.
The areas covered included:
1. Production technologies , such as:
- mining, construction and processing, general manufacturing
and cleaner processing;
- development of clean production technologies;
- rational management of raw materials;
- safety and reliability of production systems; and
- human and organisational factors within production systems.
2. Materials and technologies for production
- materials engineering,
- new methodologies for product design and manufacture,
- reliability and quality of materials and products, and
- technologies for recovering products at the end of their life
3. Technologies for transport, including:
- cars, aeroplanes, ships and trains,
- design and systems integration,
- technologies for improved efficiency and environmental protection,
- technologies for safety and operation.
Projects were selected following calls for
proposals. As for most European RTD programmes, the principal
form of financing supported under Brite-Euram III was through
shared-cost actions, where the Commission provided 50% of project
costs. Three quarters of the available funds were allocated in
SMEs, promoting thematic networks and other measures
SMEs are a driving force in manufacturing. Yet their size, low
cost-base and flexibility can be a drawback when it comes to finding
the capital and human resources to invest in innovation and product
development. The answer lies in collaboration and joint ventures.
This allows groups of SMEs with insufficient resources to commission
university laboratories or research centres to carry out R&D
activities for them, or to pool resources with other SMEs.
Encouraging and facilitating this kind of collaborative
venture were key aims of Brite-Euram.
Thematic networks bring together various individually
run projects that share similar technological or industrial objectives.
These networks can give greater coherence to research activities
and encourage the exchange of know-how and technologies.
Preparatory, accompanying and support measures
complement the R&D strategy. These measures are crucial to
the kind of projects evaluated under the impact study assessment.
Brite-Euram made it easier for European RTD players to access
the benefits of the programme. This meant providing logistical
support to keep the project moving along the right track. The
programme also helped make optimal use of the results of RTD projects,
principally by helping in their dissemination.
These measures can be achieved through organising
conferences or workshops, carrying out research and evaluation
studies, commissioning external experts, or running campaigns
to stimulate expressions of interest.
Brite-Euram brought together individuals as
well as organisations. It also ran a training project entitled
Industrial Research Experience that aimed at broadening the experience
of qualified young engineers and scientists by exposing them to
industrial research with one of the partners in a Brite-Euram
III research project.
This was intended to encourage exchange of
information and to enhance the candidate's suitability for a subsequent
career in industry. The work in the international environment
of a European research project represented an important and unique
advantage for the candidate. At the same time, the host benefited
from the up-to-date knowledge of the trainee.
The host institution should preferably have
been an industrial enterprise. However, in exceptional cases,
research centres and universities could also host trainees if
the industrial nature of the training activity was clearly and
Systematic evaluation of
A key element of Brite-Euram was a systematic
evaluation of the benefits of the EC-funded programmes designed
to stimulate R&D. Although manufacturing is not a high-growth
sector, it is significant in terms of employment, EU exports,
innovation and R&D. The initial focus of the Brite-Euram impact
studies was on the exploitation of research - the return on investment
(ROI) that the programme brought to participating companies and
institutions. Over the years, the measurement of success changed
with evolution in Commission thinking to take into account wider
criteria such as the effect on employment and sustainability.
The impact studies set out to answer a range
of questions, including:
- Did companies and other organisations involved see a real
benefit in economic terms ?
- What were the effects on employment and the environment ?
- How effective was the programme in terms of scientific and
technological impacts ?
- Did the programme succeed as planned ?
These studies looked at the partnerships forged
between companies and research institutions, with a particular
focus on SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). They examined
process and product innovation in manufacturing and materials
research and the effect on key sectors such as metallurgy, aeronautics
and transport. And they studied both the immediate effects and
the impacts some years after the end of the projects.
The success of consecutive Brite-Euram programmes
led to the introduction of the even more ambitious Competitive
and Sustainable Growth Programme under FP5, with a budget of
2 705 million. This covers areas not included in Brite-Euram/IMT,
and can be seen as a merged follow-up to Brite-Euram/IMT, the
Standards, Measurements and Testing (SMT) and Transport Programmes
- the latter dealt with policy-oriented research into sustainable
mobility and intermodality.
What these Brite-Euram impact studies demonstrate
is that such an investment, while perhaps not obtaining spectacular
results, is cost effective and long lasting - offering economic
and socio-economic gains, generating jobs, providing environmental
benefits and acting as a catalyst for innovation and future growth.