As the main driver for innovation
and economic development, R&D plays a key role in reviving the economies
of the candidate countries and ensuring their full integration into
the global market. Policy-makers in these counties know that to
become truly competitive they must increase inward investment and
restructure their science and technology capacities. In this respect,
access to EU-funded research programmes - and future EU membership
- is critical.
Co-operation with the research community in the
candidate countries began in 1992 under the Third Framework Programme's
PECO/Copernicus programme. This was set up to preserve the valuable
scientific potential and expertise of ten countries of central and
eastern Europe, all of which were facing drastic cuts in national
research funding in the post-Communist era. Over 3 200 projects
totalling €93 million were funded under FP3 from the 12 393 proposals
Under FP4, all Community programmes were open
to candidate country participation. Copernicus, part of the specific
programme for international co-operation (INCO), was the main instrument
for S&T co-operation and played a large part in helping to stabilise
and eventually restructure the R&D systems through the candidate
countries. More than €300 million was allocated under FP4 to candidate
Improved status, stronger ties
The arrival of FP5 in 1998 brought with it a change
of status for candidate countries. Twelve states signed an association
agreement to FP5, allowing their research institutes, universities
and industries to participate fully in the research projects under
the same conditions as Member State organisations. This new status,
which involves a financial contribution by each country to the overall
FP5 budget, based on their GDP ratio, makes research the first area
where the applicants were treated as fully-fledged Member States.
FP5 created many opportunities for both Member
States and the newly associated states (NAS). It had a real impact
on the national research policies in the NAS, speeding up their
integration into the S&T community at European level and improving
their research conditions and facilities.
Special initiatives were put in place to integrate
the future Member States into European R&D community, the most important
of which was the setting up of a network of independent, multidisciplinary
centres of excellence. Thirty-four R&D institutions in 11 candidate
countries were picked to establish these centres in the NAS. The
Commission provided funding to a tune of €24 million to enable the
centres to carry out research and to build strong partnerships.
In the case of existing Member States, FP5 created
opportunities to co-operate with the NAS, providing a source of
qualified research personnel, with world-class expertise and a high
potential in terms of intellectual capacity and know-how. Furthermore,
association also meant that the national RTD programmes in the NAS
were now open to EU participation, giving new research opportunities
to EU researchers. With FP5, 17.6% of all contracts - i.e. 1 500
research projects - included at least one candidate country partner.
But experience shows that certain NAS have difficulties
taking advantage of the opportunities, mainly because of the diversity
in approach, policies and research structures already in FP5. To
encourage more researchers to participate in FP5, the Commission
allocated almost €90 million to special initiatives during 2001.
FP6 heralds a new ERA
In a break with tradition, the Commission's new
Framework Programme has introduced two new instruments - Networks
of Excellence and Integrated Projects - to help give EU activities
a greater impact and bring about a stronger structuring effect on
Networks of Excellence aim to reinforce and integrate
European expertise in certain research sectors. Network members
will be based in different countries - either at universities, research
centres or companies - and will implement a joint programme of research
Integrated Projects will become the key tools
used to implement 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 research goals.
For the candidate countries, the launch of FP6
comes at a critical moment in the enlargement negotiations. By the
end of the year, it is hoped that at least ten countries will conclude
talks with the EU, paving the way for full accession by 2004. In
the interim period, all are expected to apply for associated status
to FP6, once again giving them the same entitlements as Member States.
The Commission is keen for the candidate countries to get involved
in FP6 from day one and has met with representatives from their
research ministries to discuss the legal basis for involvement and,
in particular, what their financial contribution should be in the
period prior to full membership. During this time, the candidate
countries will pay a contribution into the FP6 budget based on their
GDP ratio. The Commission intends to offer candidate countries rebates
of 30% and 20% for the first two years of participation, respectively.
Once they become full Member States, their direct contribution to
the FP6 budget will end and will come from the overall EU budget.
Seizing the opportunities
One major development in FP6 is that research
projects can now involve organisations from the candidate countries
only, so as a result, the number of proposals is expected to increase.
To encourage maximum participation in FP6 priority thematic areas,
the Commission is planning to introduce several special support
- Funding for centres of excellence:
Under FP6, funding will continue for the 34 centres of excellence
set up under FP5, to encourage co-operation between centres in
the 12 countries and with existing Member States.
- Matching partners: An inventory
of potential research partners in the candidate countries is also
under consideration. This would involve, for example, a dedicated
CORDIS webpage giving details on candidate country expertise in
particular research fields, contact details, etc.
- Support for SMEs: To encourage
the participation of SMEs, small research teams, and research
centres in FP6, the Commission seems likely to introduce an incentive
scheme called the 'Success Awards'. This would offer a financial
award to SMEs submitting an eligible proposal and to those organisations
helping to put successful proposals together.
- Encouraging mobility: Funding
will be made available for scientists to visit colleagues elsewhere
to discuss projects, to participate in international conferences
and to organise high-level conferences in their home countries.
- Improving information flow:
Special measures will be supported to improve information flow
on FP6 projects between Member States, candidate countries and
- Evaluating research systems:
To help candidate countries improve their research structures,
the Commission will fund independent, unbiased evaluation of their
research systems and policies in various R&D fields.
- Tailor-made training: Workshops
for research managers and administrators will be set up on topics
such as how to write and evaluate an FP6 project proposal, how
to manage a project, and how to fully exploit research results.
Previous Research Framework Programmes have given
a strong indication of candidate countries' skills and competencies.
FP6 acknowledges this by creating new instruments to capitalise
on these strengths to move the enlarged EU ever nearer to its goal
of becoming the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based society
in the world by 2010.
of research entities in FP5 projects by candidate country
- Bulgaria - 126 projects
- Cyprus - 72 projects
- Czech Republic - 387 projects
- Estonia - 99 projects
- Hungary - 358 projects
- Latvia - 83 projects
- Lithuania - 62 projects
- Malta - 16 projects
- Poland - 457 projects
- Romania - 154 projects
- Slovakia - 136 projects
- Slovenia - 198 projects
Source: European Commission,
overview of R&D in the candidate countries
% of GDP
% of workforce
Data for 1999.
* Data for 1996.
No data available for Malta.