| First impressions
Preparing the proposal.
The first call for theme six, Environment (including climate change), of the FP7 cooperation work programme was published in late December 2006. This closed on 2 May 2007. A total of 72 topics were open for this call, a large number that well reflects the wide variety of environmental research – from “Ocean Acidification and its consequences” to “Georesource information system for Africa”, from “Sustainable water use in industries” to “Biodiversity values, sustainable use and livelihoods”.
These 72 topics have been organised into five activities and 11 sub-activities. The 11 sub-activities are the main reference point for the Environment Theme’s research priorities in FP7 – and in the first call in particular:
- Pressures on environment and climate (ten topics in 2007);
- Environment and health (six topics);
- Natural hazards (six topics);
- Conservation and sustainable management of natural and man-made resources and biodiversity (nine topics);
- Management of marine environments (nine topics);
- Environmental technologies for observation, simulation, prevention, mitigation, adaptation, remediation and restoration of the natural and man-made environment (ten topics);
- Protection, conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage, including human habitat (two topics);
- Technology assessment, verification and testing (two topics);
- Earth and ocean observation systems and monitoring methods for the environment and sustainable development (eleven topics);
- Forecasting methods and assessment tools for sustainable development taking into account different scales of observation (six topics);
- Dissemination and horizontal activities (one topic).
With a total budget of €200 million, most of the 72 topics call for either small- or medium-scale focused research projects (35 calls) or for coordination and support actions (25 calls), alongside 11 large-scale research projects and one network of excellence: the “European network on human biomonitoring” topic.
In addition, there are at least twelve topics called that are specifically dedicated to international cooperation partner countries, likely to be boosted by the continued funding of ongoing international cooperation actions funded by previous FPs; besides which all the topics are actually open to international cooperation partner countries to participate in. One topic has also been designed for the research to benefit specific groups (in this case civil society engaged in sustainable development).
A GOOD RESPONSE
Resolving tensions between man and nature.
Over 600 proposals were submitted for this call. Initial indications are that there was a good spread over all the different sub-activities. Traditional research areas, such as climate change, continue to attract strong interest. Other activities that are being given increased policy importance, like the environment and health, or sustainable development forecasting and assessment tools, have also generated considerable attention.
There has also been a noticeable increase of interest from outside Europe. Seeing as the FP7 Cooperation programme has opened all its topics to international cooperation and the inclusion of specific international cooperation actions, this is perhaps a natural result, reflecting the strong potential for increased collaboration between European and non-European researchers. International interest is especially apparent in subjects like earth observation systems, climate change or water.
By the end of June, most of the evaluation experts had finished their remote assessments of the proposals. The following three weeks are devoted to central evaluations, where the experts are brought together to reach a final consensus and produce a ranking list by research sub-activities. Those who have submitted proposals should therefore receive their first information letter by the end of July.
In early autumn, negotiations will begin about precisely which projects are to be supported. So fingers crossed that the first projects will be up and running by the end of the year! Most should be operational during the first quarter / half of 2008.
In any case, no rest for the Commission: just as the 2007 call enters its final stages, the 2008 call will be getting into gear. The Work Programme for 2008 is currently being drafted in consultation with the Advisory Group and the Programme Committee. The second call for proposals’ deadline is foreseen for the spring 2008. One major source of influence on the early FP7 Work programmes is the results of FP6 environmental research, which shows what knowledge gaps still exist and highlights new areas of further research.