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image European Research News Centre > European Research Policy > Gearing up for FP6
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image image image Date published: 07/11/02
  image Gearing up for FP6
RTD info special
"EU enlargement"
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Interview with Polish Minister for Science and Chairman of the State Committee for Scientific Research, Michal Kleiber.

     
   

To what extent does research contribute to the integration of candidate countries in the EU?

Research was the first negotiation chapter to be closed by the majority of the candidate countries and is the first policy area where candidate countries are now fully integrated into the EU. All candidate countries acceded to the Fifth Framework Programme - some very effectively. Poland got off to a difficult start but our participation has increased rapidly thanks mostly to the special NAS actions - Polish centres of excellence recently won 65% of all contracts and our contribution return rate for FP5 will probably reach 85%. Although this figure is much higher for other countries, for example, Estonia, it is not bad for the largest candidate country. Furthermore, everybody knows that shared results of co-operative research are much more valuable than balancing the books.

The research sector acts as a positive forerunner for other sectors. The scientific community are powerful opinion-makers committed to European integration. Examples of such commitment from my own country include the recently inaugurated programme "The Polish Research for European Integration", and plans for a Polish Foresight Centre supporting long-term transformation of Polish industry.

What new opportunities do you think FP6 will bring to the research community in the candidate countries?

I believe FP6 will offer a long list of opportunities. The new thematic priorities correspond to our S&T policy, as does the concept of centres and networks of excellence. Real progress can be made in the candidate countries through co-operation on an equal footing with strong, innovative European consortia. Active participation in FP6 will bring other benefits, too. For example, it will promote and strengthen links between research in the candidate countries and the needs of industry, which is urgently needed. It will also help develop a new culture in S&T governance resulting in more open procedures in these countries, along with a regular evaluation of research output, socio-economic impact, and project management skills. Last but not least FP6 will help us achieve full EU membership.

How well prepared are universities, research institutes and private firms in candidate countries to take advantage of FP6?

For the R&D sector in the candidate countries, participation in FP5 was an effective learning experience. We have become familiar with the FP system, gained self-confidence, and raised the level of scientific competence following years of pressure exerted by highly competitive funding systems. Strong support measures, implemented by candidate country governments to assist researchers in FP5, proved important. In Poland, significant financial support will continue for successful participants in FP6.

On the other hand, candidate countries currently suffer from low science budgets and far too few orders from industry. In brief - the situation is not unique. A number of highly ranked units in the science sector can compete although many innovative firms remain far behind. No doubt researchers will achieve a high participation rate in FP6, but it will be more difficult for candidate countries' industrial partners to take full advantage of it.

How do you compare the research facilities in the candidate countries with those in the EU Member States?

Overall, research funding in the candidate countries is at a much lower level than in the EU Member States. In Poland it amounted to 0.72% of GDP in 2001. As a result, the science infrastructure tends to be weaker, although selective investments during the 1990s led to the setting up of a large number of laboratories at a competitive international level. Such a positive development is by, among other things, the growing level of participation in the FP5. We plan to capitalise on this by linking together in networks and consortia from leading laboratories - centres of excellence - to enhance both national and international competitiveness and to benefit from the added value of joint projects.

How aware are scientists and the general population in the candidate countries that they can benefit from EU research programmes?

Polish research teams and innovative companies participating in FP5 have already recorded significant benefits from collaboration. They also get co-funding from the FP5 budget and extra financial support from the state budget. Consequently, more and more research teams are being motivated by these visible results. The scientific community sees full accession to the EU as a step in the right direction to becoming more competitive at an international level.

However, the perception of potential benefits from EU research programmes seems to be lower in other social groups, although the relatively strong support for EU membership shows that the society at large clearly sees the benefits of European collaboration.

 

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Polish Minister for Science and Chairman of the State Committee for Scientific Research, Michal Kleiber.

Polish Minister for Science and Chairman of the State Committee for Scientific Research, Michal Kleiber.

 


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