Why does the EU support research?
Research and technological development (RTD) is an essential element in the socio-economic structure of industrialized countries.Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the individual and collective well being of citizens depends on the quality and relevance of RTD.
This is why European governments decided that one objective of the European Union (EU) must be to strengthen the scientific and technological basis of Community industry, while promoting all the research activities necessary to support EU policies.
Future European Research
Without determined action at European level the current fragmentation of Europe's research efforts cannot be addressed.
- Member States
- scientific community, and
are taking up this challenge. They are all now committed to working jointly towards the creation of a 'European Research Area' (ERA). The European Council supports the Commission's overall approach aimed at pursuing efforts to make a reality of the ERA.
EU research role
The European Union plays an active role in research in fulfilment of its legal and political responsibilities arising from the European Treaties. But, quite apart from these, Europe must also be involved because of a number of developments in the RTD sector itself.
Modern research has developed in today's global environment. High-level research is increasingly:
- costly, and
- needs a constantly increasing "critical mass".
As a result, EU research has to organise:
- co-operation at different levels
- co-ordination of national and European policies
- networking teams, and
- increased mobility of both individuals and ideas.
Why does the EU support Energy Research?
Most problems and challenges in the energy sector are global in nature and thus common to all Member States.
Energy RTD activities address issues which are not just national, but global in scale. Co-ordination of research at a European level is therefore appropriate because energy systems, networks and services, as well as the associated environmental impacts and sustainable development issues, all must all be approached in a global context.
European RTD is essential
Collaborative RTD at the European level is essential to maximise the productivity and efficiency of our research, which in turn ensures the greatest social and economic benefit to the citizens of the Union.
Energy research is vital not only to support Europe's transition to a more sustainable energy policy but also to support a wide range of other EU policies, including:
What determines EU support?
Situations in which research on a European level has demonstrable benefits over research conducted at a purely national or regional level.
EU research funding represents about 5 % of all publicly funded research in the Union. For maximum impact it is clearly necessary to target this funding in areas with the greatest European added value. For example:
- where the research need is common to many or all Member States
(e.g. nuclear waste management);
- where a project is too large in scale for any single Member State to finance alone
(e.g. the development of nuclear fusion);
- where high-level research capability is scattered all around Europe
(e.g. energy efficiency in buildings).
EU funding is focused
To avoid spreading the available resources too thinly, EU funding focuses on a number of priorities which are defined in the Research Framework Programmes.
The precise mechanism of how European funding is allocated to specific projects has varied over the years - according to the rules set out in the relevant Framework Programme.
However, typical features of an EU-funded project include:
- participation: they involve at least three independent partners from three different countries, two of which are either an EU Member State or a candidate country;
- selection: they are selected on the basis of strict criteria following an open call for proposals published in the Official Journal of the European Communities;
- funding: research costs are shared, with the EU often providing up to 50% of the total budget.
Further information on the current Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) can be found on CORDIS, the online Community R&D Information Service. It is dedicated to providing information regarding the implementation of the Framework Programmes.