EU-funded environment research is leading in several environmental research areas and contributes to the development of tools for environmental policy. Economic and social potential impacts in all areas are genuine. These were the principal results of the Environment Impact Assessment of the FP6 sub-priority Sustainable development,Global change and ecosystems released on 15 December 2008.
As mentioned in the previous issue of EU Research for the Environment, the assessment aimed to evaluate the achievements and impacts of projects funded under the sub-priority. The study analysed a sample of 66 out of the 280 projects, representing 36% of the European Commission’s total contribution of €852 million in FP6.
In terms of scientific and technological impacts, it was determined that scientific leadership goes along with EU political ambition in an area, and that several projects addressed new issues and initiated new approaches, in particular research with a strong interdisciplinary component. In several areas, moreover, scientific and technological impacts go beyond publications and include other types of outcome – notably in the case of problem-solving research, such as guidelines.
The assessment found that the projects in most areas have strongly contributed to the institutionalisation of ERA in the field of environment.
The study identified a strong link between policy relevance and environmental research. Most projects support national and international policy by strengthening the knowledge base and/or developing methods and tools.
Human activities are directly affected by the environment, and vice-versa, as for example in sectors like agriculture and tourism. The study found indirect and potential economic and social impacts of environmental research, at least for the present time, but possibly very important in the future..
On the basis of the scientific, policy, economic and social impacts, the assessment pointed out challenges and recommendations to strengthen and enhance future EU environmental research. In particular, dissemination and exploitation of results and the use of best practices for bridging the gap with policy-making remain a challenge.