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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research themes > Measurements & testing > Expressions of interest - the M&T experience
Graphic element Expressions of interest - the M&T experience
    29-05-2002
 
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The mechanisms used for implementing measurements and testing (M&T) activities were constantly evolving. As the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) gets underway, expressions of interest and dedicated calls aim to mobilise a critical mass of research and development resources together with a better integration of research capacities across Europe.

EU involvement in measurement-related research began almost 30 years ago with the establishment of the Bureau Communautaire de Référence (BCR) in 1973, well before the early framework programmes. The current system, whereby many M&T activities are selected through a two-stage process involving expressions of interest and the dedicated call, came about as a result of adjustments made in the 1990s.

Under FP4, European standardisation bodies and Commission DGs submitted a list of priority topics, which were then reviewed by the Research DG prior to the six-monthly publication of a dedicated call. The results enabled M&T to publish research on topical issues such as the microbiological quality of bathing water and electromagnetic dosimetry for mobile communications. There was, however, some criticism that only a closed circle of organisations could propose research topics.

Pros and cons under FP5
 

Under FP5 a more targeted approach was adopted for M&T activities, devoting a higher proportion of research funds to socio-economic issues of concern to European citizens. Expressions of interest were invited from anybody wanting to submit a description of problems they would like to see solved, irrespective of whether they wished to take part in a subsequent proposal.

Expressions of interest should provide a clear demonstration of the merit of the proposed topic, and an outline of potential objectives and criteria for applicants. They were evaluated periodically by independent experts, bearing in mind the FP5 socio-economic criteria, available budget and quality of the document. Selected priority topics have generally been published twice a year in the Official Journal as a dedicated call for proposals, with supporting documents made available on the WEB.

The process offers two major advantages. Firstly, pre-assessment means that prospective applicants can decide whether to invest time and effort in making a proposal in the knowledge that the need for research has been independently established. Secondly, it permits suggestions for research by parties who have identified important needs, but who do not necessarily have the capability to conduct the actual RTD. This is particularly appropriate for research on the development of technical support to standardisation bodies and agencies involved in the fight against fraud.

The combined expression of interest and dedicated call mechanism has also helped to overcome the problem of over-subscription. Some 384 expressions of interest were received for M&T from 22 countries, of which 30% were selected for publication. 75% of the topics covered met with a response, and about 60% of the proposals made were successful.

This more flexible approach to defining the topics of the dedicated calls has been particularly successful in the standardisation area. The quality of standards and time-to-market is substantially improved when the work of European standardisation bodies is complemented by well-targeted pre-normative research. The technology needed for a new standard may be a spin-off from research undertaken by industry, universities and national or private research laboratories, and this has widened and enriched the range of M&T topics dealt with by the Growth Programme.

 
Scope for improvement under FP6
 

Other Commission DGs could be encouraged to participate more actively. Many regulations and directives are developed with too little consideration given to the RTD required for their implementation.

Another problem encountered under FP5 concerns the need to achieve a critical mass of RTD in given areas, which is not helped by the requirement that those who submit an expression of interest remain anonymous, with no advantages in the selection process. This has of course ensured fairer competition for funds, but it hinders the clustering of activities and development of large-scale projects.

The trend towards funding large-scale strategic projects with European -added value is confirmed in FP6, with money targeted at key areas such as genomics and nano-technology. The European Commission has invited those interested in participating in the new "integrated projects" and "networks of excellence" to submit an expression of interest on topics that could be dealt with under these instruments. All relevant information related to the origin of the document will in future be made available (unless the submitter is not in agreement), with a view to fostering contacts between researchers. This should help the Commission and the wider research community to shape future calls, whilst at the same time permitting the development of a critical mass of activity.

Carlos Saraiva Martins of the DG Research Measurement and Testing Infrastructure Unit believes that this trend is essential if the objectives of the European Research Area (ERA) are to be met. He says, "We should all be aware of our responsibilities towards European citizens, and should see ourselves as scientific officers taking on a new role as a catalyst between citizens, researchers and national projects".

An analysis of the EoI exercise can be viewed at
http://cordis.europa.eu/fp6/eoi-instruments/home.html

 
Pros and cons under FP5
Scope for improvement under FP6
   

Key data

The two-stage Growth Measurements and Testing selection process entailing expressions of interest and the dedicated call has been assessed and improved upon under FP4 and FP5. Under FP6, the mechanism will allow Europe's research community to help in preparing first calls and to consolidate the trend towards large-scale projects, strengthening European competitiveness and helping to solve major societal problems.

     

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