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Building the ERA

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July 2004 - Issue 2

Building the ERA

Bringing a global aspect to European renewable energy research

In January 2000, the European Commission launched an initiative to create a European Research Area (ERA). The objective of this important policy initiative was to make the best possible use of scientific capabilities and material resources in Europe by creating a common market for research allowing knowledge and researchers to circulate freely within the EU. The ERA is not, however, restricted only to Europe. In today’s globalised world, the international dimension of science is more important than ever. This is why international cooperation (INCO) is a priority in European research policy. In order to enable the EU to develop topquality scientific potential and benefit from international cooperation, the European Commission issued in June 2001 a communication(1) in which it urged the ERA to open up to the rest of the world. The international dimension of the ERA makes Europe more attractive to highly qualified scientists and enables European researchers to access the knowledge outside Europe. It also leads to closer political and economic ties between Europe and other regions.

(1) COM(2001) 346 final: The International Dimension of the European Research Area

International cooperation in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
As a contribution to the European Research Area’s opening up to the world, INCO activities represent an important element of the Sixth Framework Programme. In principle, FP6 activities are open to partners from any country in the world, but specific measures have been established in support of international cooperation with the so-called INCO target countries: developing countries, Mediterranean partner countries, Western Balkan countries, Russia and the new independent states. A budget of €315 million has been reserved to fund the specific activities, which are relevant to these regions and which are not addressed by the other thematic activities of the programme. The objective of the measures is to contribute to finding a solution to specific problems faced by the regions, such as poverty, diseases, famine and the exploitation of natural resources.

In addition, the Marie Curie Actions offer various possibilities for researchers from the EU Member States, from countries associated with FP6 and from third countries to participate in the EU programmes aiming at the transfer of research knowledge worldwide. The actions are designed to finance training and work for researchers who wish to carry out research abroad. Several types of Marie Curie actions are open to third country researchers, for both young and experienced ones. For researchers coming from developing countries and emerging economies, the support for a stay in Europe can be complemented by a re-integration grant in the country of origin. Of course, Europeans are also able to receive support to conduct research in third countries.

Further information on INCO activities in FP6, including Marie Curie Actions

International cooperation within Sustainable Energy Systems (SES)
In the field of renewable energy technologies, the most interesting and rewarding way for third country partners to be involved is direct participation in the FP6 projects. Third countries can join consortia that work with Sustainable Energy Systems projects. Energy issues are global and increasing the use of renewable energy sources is as important for Europe as it is for China, Russia, India, Brazil and the rest of the world. The European Commission is, therefore, expecting a greater interest from third countries and encourages their participation in FP6 projects. Organisations from the INCO target countries (see above) can both participate and receive funding. A large part of the budget foreseen for the participation of third countries, €285 million for all the thematic priorities, is in fact still to be used. Good examples of collaboration exist (see boxes), and these positive experiences should encourage both European partners and third country organisations to be more proactive.

FULLSPECTRUM
Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in St Petersburg, Russia, is participating actively in FULLSPECTRUM. This Integrated Project aims to make better use of the solar spectrum than conventional single-gap cells currently do. Russian researchers are working on a variety of tasks, from the manufacture of high efficiency monolithic multi-junction solar cells to the completion of thermo-photovoltaic converters. To highlight this EU-Russia partnership, the Ioffe Institute hosted, in 2003, a very successful workshop entitled “Efficient use of solar spectrum in photovoltaics”.

NEEDS
Partners from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are actively participating in NEEDS (the New Energy Externalities Developments for Sustainability). This Integrated Project will evaluate the expected global costs, direct and external, of future energy systems, and the benefits of different energy policies. The INCO countries’ participation is essential so as to increase the awareness in developing countries about the notion and potential implementation of ‘external costs’ (social and environmental damage caused by energy production and consumption).

Staying alert
In order to facilitate third county participation in projects within Sustainable Energy Systems, the European Commission has already organised information sessions with representatives from China and Russia, two countries which expressed their particular interest in energy research. This may not be enough and the Commission is looking for other ways to increase awareness and interest. Information Days on EU research activities are an excellent opportunity to meet fellow researchers and receive information on calls for proposals, the rules for proposal submission, as well as all the details concerning the conditions for participation for third country partners. To find out more about Information Days, please see the Future Events section of this newsletter. If you are not able to attend the Information Day on Renewable Energy Technologies, but would like to receive information on opportunities for third countries, please send an email to the editor. We would like to point out, once more, that this time it is not a matter of receiving funding for national projects in third countries, but about joining a European consortium by offering them your expertise and participation. Third country partners receive our moral support and funding according to the same rules as for all the other partners.

BIOMASS EU-RUSSIA WORKSHOP
Moscow, 7-8 October 2004 (to be confirmed) The European Commission and the Russian Ministry for Science and Education are organising an EU-Russia workshop focused on enhancing the participation of Russian partners in FP6 research projects in the area of biomass. The workshop will present EU and Russian bioenergy programmes, as well as successful ongoing projects and activities. The technical discussions will focus on bioenergy crops/forestry/logistics, gasification, biofuels and combustion/co-firing.

CLOSER EU-CHINA COLLABORATION ON RES RESEARCH
The meeting was organised in connection with the 5th EU-China Energy Conference, which was held in Brussels in the second half of May. The purpose was to discuss and review the potential for closer collaboration between the EU and China on long-term research for sustainable energy systems. Around 70 Chinese experts were present including many senior scientists. The Commission staff presented the main areas of energy research in the work programme highlighting those of particular interest for potential collaboration and described the rules for participation. The Head of the Energy Division of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Mr Li Baoshan, made a plenary presentation on Chinese plans for RTD in renewable energy, stressing the importance of renewable energies for China. The research budget for renewables in the current five year plan has tripled compared with the previous period. The areas of interest cover a wide range of clean and renewable energy technologies, including hydrogen and fuel cells. A number of small groups comprised of Chinese experts and scientific officers from the Commission examined a variety of RES research areas in detail. These groups were very active and quickly moved to discussing specific topics for collaboration. Of particular interest and a good starting point was the idea of organising a workshop in China on liquid biofuels for transport, which could facilitate the participation of Chinese researchers in FP6 projects in this important area. Subsequently the EC made a specific proposal to MOST on the workshop to identify the technical/scientific challenges and cooperation opportunities in the area of liquid biofuels. The proposal has been positively received by the Chinese authorities.

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