IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice
Banner Research
  European Commission   > Research > Growth
Homepage Competitive and Sustainable Growth - Making the European Research Area a Reality
Graphic element
Graphic element
Graphic element
Graphic element Research > Growth > The Growth Programme > Programme at a glance
Graphic element Programme at a glance:
The 'quick' guide to EU research and the Growth Programme

Research crucial for economic growth and employment

In the 21st century, economic and social development will become increasingly knowledge based, putting ever growing demand on our research abilities. Society is growing more and more dependent on the results of scientific and technological development. New products, new processes and new technologies will be essential to maintain economic growth, competitiveness and employment.

Major EU policies in fields such as the environment, transport, including sustainable mobility and road safety, and consumer protection - from food safety to counterfeit goods - also all need support from scientific and technological development.

Job creation is becoming more concentrated in high technology sectors such as pharmaceuticals, aeronautics and biotechnology - and particularly in SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) with high growth potential. In the USA, for example, these sectors have been responsible for some two million new jobs a year over the past decade.

However, in Europe - despite significant differences between Member States and even with some sign of resurgence in company research spending - overall the EU invests much less in research than its global competitors:

  • In 1998, only 1.8% of Europe's GDP went into research, compared with 2.8% in the USA and 2.9% in Japan. Moreover, this gap has been increasing, with the difference between the total expenditure on research in the USA and Europe having increased fivefold from 12 billion in 1992 to 60 billion in 1998.
  • Similar differences show up in the numbers of people employed, with researchers accounting for only 2.5 in every 1,000 industrial workers in the EU, compared with 6.7 in the USA and 6 in Japan.


Research crucial for economic growth and employment
Placing research at the heart of the policymaking process
Defining scientific, technological and social criteria
Developing key actions in thematic programmes
Clear economic and social targets for Growth
More information

Placing research at the heart of the policymaking process


Research must be placed at the heart of the European policymaking process. While national governments carry the main burden, the EU Framework Programme for research and development, first started in 1984, is playing an increasingly crucial co-ordinating role. And this position may well grow with the implementation of the European Research Area proposed by Philippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research.

Commissioner Busquin

The ERA is intended to provide a coherent European approach to research, researcher mobility and research infrastructure with increased co-operation between national and European policies. A key aim is to boost public confidence in science and technology, been badly affected by dramas such as food contamination and environmental pollution. The Commission sees a need to develop a common approach to financing large research facilities in Europe, to make better use of direct and indirect aid - particularly in the form of patents and risk capital - to encourage private investment in research and innovation, and to promote researcher mobility.

The EU's Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), which runs from 1998 to 2002, sets out a more consistent and focused approach to research to increase impact. It was subject to extensive debate with the scientific community, industry and Member States before being approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The result is a commitment to a more limited number of objectives, greater emphasis on using results and the definition of selection criteria according to both socio-economic and competitive needs.


Defining scientific, technological and social criteria


Efforts in FP5 are being concentrated to increase the effect by limiting the number of programmes and defining selection criteria more strictly. FP5 is based on scientific and technological excellence, European added value, and relevance to main EU policies - including co-ordination with other EU activities such as technical and economic assistance (for example, the PHARE programme on EU enlargement), education and training programmes and structural funds.

Social objectives include increasing employment, improving health and quality of life, and reducing the environmental impact of industry and transport. European added value implies achieving critical mass in specific technologies, tackling European-wide problems and establishing EU standards, and developing complementary skills.


Developing key actions in thematic programmes


The result has been the development of a range of activities from basic research to development and demonstration. These are focusing both public and private research through a series of carefully defined key actions in four thematic programmes:

1. Quality of life and management of living resources;
2. User friendly information society;
3. Competitive and sustainable growth; and
4. Energy, environment and sustainable development.

The four thematic programmes are backed by three horizontal actions cutting across all the key actions: confirming the international role of EU research; promoting innovation and encouraging participation from SMEs; and improving human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base. Other changes from earlier framework programmes include greater involvement of scientists and industry through the establishment of 17 expert advisory groups.

The total budget for FP5 is 14.96 billion, with 10.84 billion for the four thematic programmes, 2.12 billion for the horizontal actions and the rest split between the EURATOM nuclear programme and the activities of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre.


Clear economic and social targets for Growth


The Competitive and sustainable growth programme has very clear targets: to increase economic growth and to create new jobs in Europe. With European unemployment figures standing at 18 million, this is a particularly necessary requirement. The targets are being achieved by directing the innovative effort of EU industry towards improved competitiveness and by supporting EU policies on competitive and sustainable development. It brings together work under three previous programmes: BRITE-EURAM; Standards, Measurements and Testing; and Transport.

Growth consists of three main interrelated elements:

Four key actions to develop critical technologies, concepts and policies:

1. Innovative products, processes and organisation;
2. Sustainable mobility and intermodality;
3. Land transport and marine technologies; and
4. New perspectives for aeronautics.

Three generic research strands to help develop the scientific and technological base in a small number of critical areas:

1. New materials and production technologies in general
2. New materials and production technologies in the steel industry; and
3. Measurements and testing.

Support for research infrastructures.

As with all the thematic programmes, Growth is providing specific support actions to encourage SME participation. It also offers training possibilities for young researchers from around the world. In addition, through a series of international agreements, many of the activities of the programme are open to non-EU partners.


More information


More information about the Growth Programme is available on this site with fuller details about the programme itself and how it is working in practice. A brochure entitled 'Global Competition, Global Concerns', which provides a general introduction to the programme, can also be downloaded. In addition, the site includes a full list of other relevant documentation and guidance on how to participate in the programme.

More general information about European research policy can be found on European Commission's special Research web pages. Full details about participation in any aspect of Community research as well as lists of current and completed projects can be found on the Community research and development information (CORDIS) website.

If you have any specific questions
about the Growth Programme,
please contact the Growth infodesk


Homepage Graphic element Top of the page