Fifth Framework Programme - External Advisory Groups
Opinion of the External Advisory Group for the Key Action "Innovative products, processes and organisation"
This report is also available as PDF-file: products1.pdf (41 Kb)
See also: Outline of a Strategy for Future Industrial RTD Activities - A Position paper produced by the External Advisory Group for the Key Action "Innovative products, processes and organisation" - January 2001:
products2.pdf (PDF-file; 420 Kb)
1. The Group met three times to examine and discuss the draft documents in their progressively revised versions; the meetings were held on 7 and 14 December 1998, and on 12 January 1999. The difficulty of addressing virtually all industrial sectors within this Key Action and the limited time constraints were recognised. A pragmatic approach was agreed and the Group reached agreement on the proposed text of the workprogramme.
2. The Group concluded that the proposed content of the workprogramme is consistent with the overall aims set out by the Council. Problems to be addressed are clearly set out within the workprogramme and the technological solutions should be kept open, as proposed in the text. Both continuous improvements and technological breakthroughs should be aimed at, for the defence of existing jobs and for the creation of new ones.
3. The proposed priorities for 1999 targeted calls are well received and concurred with.
4. The deliverables of the Key Action should be considered as broad indicators. The deliverables for the individual projects may vary as a function of the technology considered; they should however be appropriately ambitious and realistic. The deliverables for clustering should effectively contribute to improving overall quality, minimising resources consumption and modernising industry while keeping the overall employment at a satisfactory level.
5. All documents issued on the Key Action should be clear and user-friendly. When any misunderstanding might occur, the specific terms in the text should be defined, e.g. with footnotes, a glossary, etc. Further appropriate, user-friendly supporting documents should be prepared and made publicly available, such as the complementary information (background document) already prepared by the Commission, clear reference to the industrial property rights regime, guidelines on how to write a proposal and on self-evaluating one's own proposal.
6. Selection criteria should, if appropriate, be emphasised through the introduction of thresholds. The Group suggests that particular attention be given to the stimulation of innovation, improvement of competitiveness, employment, and scientific and technical excellence. In developing the evaluation guidelines, particular focus has to be given to the innovation content and effective participation of SMEs.
7. The number of non-successful proposals should be reduced, these being very costly for Community industry, RTD organisations and academia. The introduction of targeted calls is expected to contribute significantly in this respect; moreover, pre-proposals checks should be emphasised.
8. An additional support from the Commission is encouraged to help potential participants find appropriate RTD partners. However, the Group acknowledged that this is difficult to achieve due to the Commission's duty to keep rigorous impartiality. With this purpose, a better information on the on-going projects and the characteristics of the participants, e.g. through a dedicated www homepage and effective use of CORDIS, is proposed.
On the structure and management of the Key Action
9. A significant improvement of the added value in product-services and in the sustainable production is aimed at. This means that, in the shorter term, the goal is to help industry achieve increased competitiveness and profitability by moving from lower tech to higher tech production and products, whilst in the longer term an industry characterised by a "new-way-of-doing" is envisaged. Much better use of human resources is also aimed at, in the evolution towards a more intelligent production and an industry more and more characterised by non-physical assets.
10. Co-ordination, networking, exchange of information, clustering (including links with EUREKA) and cross-sectoral learning should receive primary attention across all relevant Key Actions in FP5 and in particular within the Thematic Programme 3 (Competitive and Sustainable Growth).
11. Training and industrial fellowships should be given special relevance; dedicated co-ordination with Marie Curie fellowships and - where appropriate - ad-hoc accompanying measures should be introduced, in particular for training of skilled young researchers in industry within the selected projects. In doing so, an improvement of the RTD capability of the Community industry would occur and represent an additional asset for the Key Action. The Commission is also invited to elaborate ad-hoc initiatives for stimulating the employment of young scientists in SMEs.
12. It is very important to attract SMEs to the programme. Therefore, effectiveness in supporting SMEs has been requested. Particular emphasis was given to the links and access by SMEs to the RTD results generated within the Programme's priorities; mechanisms for technology take-up should be envisaged as well as the co-operative research scheme (CRAFT). In particular, dedicated additional documentation is recommended to help SMEs on how to use better the industrial RTD scheme or the CRAFT one.
13. Deadlines for the submission of proposals should be co-ordinated with the related Key Actions, in particular within the Thematic Programme 3.
14. One www home-page per Key Action has been proposed, this including the list of on-going projects and the characteristics of the participants, this being helpful for the construction of future RTD consortia and further forms of collaboration (see also above).
15. The importance of improved knowledge and technology management should be highlighted and integrated in the projects, where appropriate.
On generic research
16. In view of the strong complementary character of generic research (materials research and research in the steel field) with the scope of the Key Action, the Group also expressed an opinion on this matter.
17. It was agreed that the proposed content of the workprogramme is consistent with the overall aims set out by the Council.
18. Focusing is considered appropriate and no gaps for RTD were detected.
19. The advantages of having co-ordinated calls for proposals for the Key Action and generic research were highlighted; the Group recommended co-ordination of the calls in the case of periodic calls. Synchronous calls with the Key Action are encouraged in particular for short to medium term research linked with the targeted priorities. In addition, all topics related to generic materials technologies should also be open with an emphasis on medium to long term research.
20. The Commission has been recommended to pay attention, in particular during the evaluation process, to avoid any possible duplication of efforts.
21. Co-ordination linking generic research activities with the priorities of the Key Actions has been recommended, as also stated in § 10. It was agreed that clustering should be possible both on initiative of the proposers or on the Commission's initiative. In all cases, clustering shall be on voluntary basis.
22. For research in the steel field, effective co-ordination with the RTD activities carried out within the Key Action and the materials research was recommended. However, appropriate visibility was requested to fully comply with the Council's decision and to facilitate the participation of the steel industry and the related RTD centres and academia, in order to promote the substantial phasing-in of the ECSC research. In view of the expiry of the ECSC Treaty and its research, the importance of continuity for steel research was highlighted, as well as the integration of steel sector research with suppliers and users. The Group agreed that the calls should explicitly address the three priorities given for research in the steel field.
23. It is very important to attract SMEs also to the generic research, even if a marginal interest in medium to long term RTD is often acknowledged in the case of these enterprises. The potential of the CRAFT scheme was recognised; the Commission is recommended to continue with this scheme and to encourage proposals linked to the objectives of the Key Action, as well as to generic materials technologies. Moreover, training to reinforce technological capabilities of SMEs could also be included to reflect the training intentions within the Key Action.
On the support to research infrastructures
24. Consistency with the Council's decision and Community needs was acknowledged. Effective focussing and linking to the socio-economic priorities of the Key Action were considered as being strongly needed; in consideration of the relatively limited budget, potential connections with projects funded within the Key Action and generic research was recommended. A continuing attention to ease participation and access for SMEs was requested.
On the modalities for implementation
25. The Group expressed its agreement with the proposed text, as being consistent with the needs and the RTD objectives stated.