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Brite-Euram: Making a Lasting Impression on Europe Graphic element
Brite-Euram: Making a Lasting Impression on Europe

 

 

  Measuring the impact  
  Principal benefits  
 

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Introduction


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.

> EU-funded industrial research
> Keeping faith with Europe's manufacturing sector
> Boosting SMEs, promoting thematic networks and other measures
> Systematic evaluation of programme benefits

EU-funded industrial research

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.

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Keeping 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 innovation, including:

  • 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 cycle.

3. Technologies for transport, including:

  • cars, aeroplanes, ships and trains,
  • design and systems integration,
  • technologies for improved efficiency and environmental protection, and
  • 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 this way.

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Boosting 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 credibly demonstrated.

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Systematic evaluation of programme benefits

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 Euros 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.

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