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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research themes > Cross-disciplinary themes > Enlargement and beyond: international co-operation is vital
Graphic element Enlargement and beyond: international co-operation is vital

While the primary aim of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) is to foster an integrated approach to research and technological development (RTD) within a European Research Area (ERA), the global nature of many of the issues to be faced demands co-operation on a world scale. FP6 removes all restrictions on participation by the EU applicant countries, supports the mobility of researchers, and encourages the formation of broader international alliances.

Commission-funded research programmes have progressed from a national focus, through EU-wide integration, to addressing the challenges of globalisation. Encouraging external participation in European research was already a priority under FP5. From the earliest days, it treated the EU applicant countries as equals to the Member States with regard to project funding. Organisations from other associated states, such as the EFTA/EEA countries, Israel and Switzerland, were also able to benefit from EU funding. European research collaboration has thus embraced the scientific communities of 30 countries.

Increased opportunities for candidate countries

A significant difference under FP6 is that the associated candidate countries will be able to form consortia without the previous requirement for involvement of at least one existing Member State.

Other European states, countries of the former Soviet Union and various Mediterranean partners also participated in FP5, but on a project-by-project basis in conformity with the interests of the Community and without Community funding. In addition, organisations from countries that have signed a Scientific-Technological Co-operation Agreement with the EU could join individual projects for which their particular skills or resources were appropriate, but again without Community funding. These have included Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, South Africa and the USA. Chile is another recent signatory – and discussions are proceeding with the Latin American and ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries.

Role in IMS

The Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (IMS) initiative, an international research and development collaboration scheme aimed at addressing manufacturing challenges in the 21st century, provides a framework within which industrial and academic players can identify RTD issues and potential research partners worldwide so that they can carry out collaborative projects, conduct broad-based technology trials and set up networks.

Initially, Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the USA agreed to participate in IMS. The European Community joined in 1997, along with Norway. Korea followed in 2000. Since 1995, a total of 40 active projects have been launched, representing an international commitment of around € 500 million and an involvement of 850 companies and research organisations beyond the European arena.

A European IMS Secretariat, jointly supported by the FP5 GROWTH and IST Programmes, was set up to help industries and research organisation to participate in IMS and benefit by a possible funding from these two Programmes.

More information on IMS can be found at:

Bi-lateral funding

Broader-based collaboration, in which the partners established in third countries can be funded by their respective national bodies, requires the prior establishment of specific Implementation Agreements. As a result of one such arrangement for scientific and technological co-operation between the European Community and the US Government, GROWTH entered into an agreement with the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of materials research.

This has enabled selected US researchers to join European consortia as participants in European Commission-funded RTD activities under GROWTH’s generic activity on materials, with the NSF providing support for US participants.

Signed in December 1999, this EU-US agreement allowed the GROWTH Programme to launch three joint calls: 70 proposals involving EU-US partners were received, compared with just three American participations in FP4 materials research projects. One more valuable outcome of the collaboration has been the ability for leading scientists in the field of nanotechnology to meet for fruitful exchanges of news and views in a series of joint EC-NSF workshops organised on both sides of the Atlantic. This will remain an important area for collaboration under priority area 3 (Nanotechnologies and nano-sciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials, new production processes and devices) of FP6.

Negotiations are currently underway for the signing of further Implementation Agreements with Russia and China.

Researcher mobility

Increasing the involvement of scientists and technologists from applicant countries is another prerequisite to making the idea of ERA a reality. Mobility programmes have figured among the successful activities of past framework programmes – but they will now become part of a more integrated overall concept.

FP6 will not limit movements to doctoral or post-doctoral students. It will be open to applicants from third countries – and, in order to counteract the ‘brain drain’, will actively promote the return to Europe of European scientists working abroad. Furthermore, institutions will be able to apply for funds to host foreign researchers, as will individual scientists seeking to work outside their own countries.

This commitment to promotion of the mobility of human resources is based on the fact that, given the growing complexity and interdependence of modern scientific disciplines, researchers will increasingly need a strong international component in their scientific pedigrees.
As part of the process, a website will be set up to promote equal job opportunities for researchers in the east of Europe. Efforts are also being made to tackle the structural problems that have so far raised obstacles to mobility – including salary, social security and taxation differentials, as well as the inherent insularity of national systems.

Making Europe an attractive place to conduct research, and a valued contributor in the sharing of results, is vital to achievement of the ambitious goals of FP6.

Increased opportunities for candidate countries
Role in IMS
Bi-lateral funding
Researcher mobility

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