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A new framework for European research

The Research Framework Programme is the European Union's main financial instrument to support R&D in Europe. The EU has been using Framework Programmes to support co-operation between research partners from different countries since 1984.

The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) is the EU's latest R&D funding instrument. It runs from 2002 to 2006 with a total budget of €17,500 million, up 17% on FP5. This accounts for 3.9% of the EU's overall budget and 6% of the EU's total public spend on research.

How is FP6 different from previous Framework Programmes?

FP6 represents a deliberate break from previous Framework Programmes in both ambition and scope. While previous programmes have succeeded in their goal of developing a culture of scientific co-operation across Europe and in funding projects that have produced good results, they have not had a lasting effect on coordinating European research. FP6 is meant to change this.

The new Framework Programme aims to upgrade European scientific knowledge, promote innovation and competitiveness, create sustainable growth and bring about social cohesion. With an increased budget and a new innovative approach, FP6 will be the main tool used in the creation of a European Research Area (ERA). The ERA will lead to the development of a common science and technology policy across the EU by integrating existing and future Member States' research capacities.

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What are the main priorities of FP6?

A major innovation with FP6 is the way European researchers will work together on seven priority research themes in a more integrated way than before and with streamlined administrative procedures. The FP6 thematic priorities are:

  • Genomics and biotechnology for health
  • Information Society technologies
  • Nanotechnologies and nanosciences
  • Aeronautics and space
  • Food safety
  • Sustainable development
  • Economic and social sciences.

Plus

  • Cross-cutting activities
  • Structuring the ERA
  • Strengthening the ERA

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What are the new FP6 instruments?

Under FP6, management methods and procedures have been simplified to promote greater efficiency. Two new instruments have been put in place:

  • Integrated projects: these are large-scale research activities usually carried out as public/private partnerships. They will become key tools in the implementation of the seven priority areas in FP6. Each project will bring together a critical mass of scientific and industrial partners in order to meet well-defined goals.
  • Networks of excellence: as the name suggests, networks of excellence will bring together specialised researchers from all over Europe to work on a joint programme of research activities. The aim is to reinforce and integrate European expertise in certain research sectors.

The main rationale for these instruments is to move from multiple project funding to the funding of coherent programmes of research activities, giving the highest possible autonomy and flexibility to European research consortia.

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How is FP6 structured?

FP6 is structured around three main blocks of activities:

  • Integrating research — Forming the bulk of FP6 work, these projects will be carried out in a limited number of priority themes, as well as in areas covering a wider field of research.
  • Structuring the ERA — In the words of Commissioner Busquin, the aim of the ERA is to "contribute to the creation of better overall framework conditions for research in Europe". To achieve this goal, FP6 will fund projects to improve research and innovation, human resources and mobility, research infrastructures and science and society.
  • Strengthening the foundations of the ERA — The aim here is to strengthen the coordination of research and innovation activities at national and European level and to support the development of coherent research and innovation policies in the EU.

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Where does researcher mobility fit in to FP6?

Mobility of researchers has always been a successful feature of EU Framework Programmes. However, in the past mobility was not part of an integrated and ambitious concept as is the case with FP6. The emphasis on researcher training and mobility has intensified considerably under the new Framework Programme.

The funds allocated to structured training and mobility schemes for researchers under FP6 has increased by over 50% compared with FP5. The Human Resources and Mobility activity has a budget of €1,580 million representing almost 10% of the overall FP6 budget.

Investing in the development of Europe's research personnel by promoting their mobility is essential to the realisation of the European Research Area, which means that funding for the Marie Curie Actions is concentrated in the FP6 block on 'Structuring the ERA'.

The new 'Human Resources and Mobility' activities in this block are open to researchers of all levels of experience and all ages from the EU Member States, from the countries associated with FP6 and from third countries. All fields of scientific and technological research are covered and, as such, they are driven by the research proposals submitted by applicants.

They aim at developing and transferring research competencies, widening researchers' career prospects and promoting excellence in European research.

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last update: 31-10-2002