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| Commission’s Fourth call for proposals: FP6 - EU builds on research into global change and eco-systemsResearch into society’s impact on the environment, biodiversity and human health – and new technologies to address climate change – is reinforced in the European Commission’s latest call for global change proposals within the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). Better ways to assess the forthcoming proposals should help get funding more quickly to selected project participants and boost the chances that most, if not all, of the call’s research goals are embraced by the scientific and industrial communities of Europe and its international partners.
“These reflect almost in real-time the EU’s very recent policy decisions to promote earth observation, environmental technologies, environment and health,” said Pierre Valette, Acting Director in charge of the environment research programme at DG Research. “We’ve tailored the call’s priorities to attract participants from the Union’s new Member States, candidate countries and partners in the developing world, thus injecting a wider international dimension into this next and last round of proposals.”
With a total budget of €205 million for its 38 research topics, the sub-priority call builds on several previous innovations designed to cut the time needed to assess proposals and – critical to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – to release funds to project participants.
For example, the call gives an indicative budget for research topics supported by FP6’s new funding mechanisms or new instruments link 1. These promote Integrated Projects (IPs) for large-scale collaborative research efforts and Networks of Excellence (NoEs) that bring together institutes, companies and universities to develop a critical mass of research expertise in a particular field.
Valette explained: “Giving an indicative budget for these topics makes them more transparent and thus easier for us to manage the whole budget, while allowing participants to define their proposals so they don’t exceed our allocated budget.”
Another recent innovation hinges on more thorough proposal evaluation reports. “These are more detailed than in previous years, meaning an evaluation’s conclusions and recommendations can, in some cases, go straight into a final project negociation text for the contract,” said Valette. “As a result, for many projects we think we can cut the time between the call’s closure and the actual signature of contracts from 12 months to eight.”
That would be good news for SMEs which are usually far more dependent on early access to funding than large companies and research institutes. Indeed, DG Research has crafted a number of its 6.3 sub-priority topics to meet the specific needs of SMEs, such as a greater emphasis on environmental technologies versus pure scientific research.
“We’ve had problems luring SMEs to the Framework Programme’s environmental goals but this fourth call has a strong link to ETAP link 2 [the EU’s Environmental Technologies Action Plan], which is very attractive to smaller players. They prefer technology-oriented projects,” observed Valette.
Also new in this latest call for proposals is its emphasis on broadening Europe’s links to adjacent regions and the developing world. Many of the 6.3 sub-priority topics are geared specifically to addressing problems with global change in those areas.
Examples include the study of biodiversity of littoral and terrestrial eco-systems across the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, earth observation via GEOSS – the Global Earth Observation System of Systems – to track land-use and desertification patterns, assessment of atmospheric pollutants, the strengthening of the technological and best practice part of the EU Water initiative and the predictive analysis of water demand and availability. These should lead to greater involvement in FP6 environmental research projects from partners across Central and East Europe, the Mediterranean basin, Africa and elsewhere across the globe.
For detailed information about the fourth call for proposals, see: