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Brussels, 21 June 1999

Community research: a continued dynamism closer to the needs of society
«1999 Annual Report on the Research and Technological Development Activities of the European Union»

Keywords: Annual Report, RTD Policy

The period from 1998 to the beginning of 1999 marks a turning point in Community research: while the final projects of the 4th Framework Programme 1994-1998 were initiated, a new research policy closer to the needs of society was adopted. It took practical form in the launching of the 5th Framework Programme, which was the major event of this period.

In 1998, Community research showed continuing dynamism following on from previous years: 6200 new projects were launched, involving some 28000 partners and creating more than 90000 collaboration links, including 83% between teams of different countries. These figures confirm the essential role held by these programmes in setting up a genuine "research Europe". In 1999, the first calls for proposals of the 5th Framework Programme have been closed or will be closed soon, so that a large number of projects should be launched before the end of the year.

This data comes from the 5th Annual Report on Community research which has just been published by the Commission. The Report provides a general picture of both policy developments and research activities (including actions carried out by the Joint Research Centre) and presents some results obtained under the research programmes. It confirms the central position now occupied by Framework Programmes in the landscape of European research: they instigate and cement the scientific community; supplement the efforts carried out both at national and regional levels (in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity); and clearly indicate major priorities for the years to come. In this respect, it will be noted that the budget of the 5th Framework Programme has increased in constant terms (i.e. taking into account inflation) by approximately 3% compared to the previous programme.

The main results are summarised below :

· A research policy closer to the needs of society

The 5th Framework Programme 1998-2002 was adopted on 22 December 1998 by Parliament and the Council. It is the major event of the period 1998-1999. Its innovations reflect the new orientations of research policy both at the level of contents and the level of implementation. With regard to contents, the main innovation is the grouping of research activities in four coherent thematic programmes and in  « key actions », actually a series of priority socio-economic problems which will be the subject of multi-field research. With regard to implementation, one will retain the obligation of use or dissemination of the results, the possibility of granting exclusive licences, etc. The "political" role of Community research is also amplified by explicit connection to the other major policies of the Union. For example the new Framework Programme prefigures in a way the enlargement of the Union since it associates the eleven countries in pre-adhesion phase, the research teams of which benefit from the same conditions of participation and financing as those of the Member States.

· Positive impact on employment and the quality of life

Even if the effects of research on competitiveness and employment are largely indirect and diffuse, the studies carried out and numerous projects (see examples below) confirm the positive impact of Community research. In the Member States as in other industrialised countries, a majority of quality jobs are created in sectors and firms which depend increasingly on sciences and technologies (health, information, environment, new technology-based services, etc.).

The important contribution of research to standardisation should also be underlined in this context. The development of materials of reference, of test methods and of reliable measurement techniques accepted by all the actors concerned has a direct impact on the economic competitiveness of European industry and on the quality of life, allowing in particular the fight against fraud, the development of trans-european transport networks, medical diagnosis production, the monitoring of the environment, etc.

· Better access of SMEs

In 1998, participation by firms in the Framework Programme remained high, accounting for a total of 38% of participations in the new research projects.

The data confirms the increase in the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises compared with the 3rd Framework Programme, in which SMEs accounted for only 18% of participations. With 25% of participations, their access to Community research in 1998 remained at a similar level to 1997. In all, 14 500 SMEs took part in the 4th Framework Programme between 1995 and 1998. Around 20% of them received the exploratory awards granted to help SMEs prepare their research proposals, while 35% opted for the "co-operative" research mechanism (CRAFT) in which SMEs with insufficient research capacity join forces to entrust a third party with the research project. An independent study in 1998 confirmed the efficiency of the exploratory awards for opening up access to Community research to SMEs.

What is a Community research project ?

On the basis of the data from 1995 to 1998, here is the standard profile of a shared-cost research project :

  • A contribution of the Union which amounts on average to euros 0.7 million, accounting in general for 50% of the total cost of the project
  • An average of 6 partners from 3 different countries per project

· The Framework Programme contributes to European cohesion

In May 1998 the Commission published an analysis of the contribution made by Community research policy to cohesion in the Union. This highlighted the big increase in aid from the Structural Funds for research and how it has concentrated on the less favoured regions. Between 1994 and 1999 these interventions, which are complementary to the Framework Programme, totalled euros 8.5 billion for research, including 60 % for the Objective 1 regions alone.

The data shows that the Framework Programme itself significantly narrowed, although still insufficiently, the technology gap in terms of research effort. Indeed, while Objective 1 regions account for hardly 7% of the domestic R&D expenditure of the Union, their research teams account for almost 15% of the participations in the Framework Programme in 1998 and take part in 40% of the projects.

· More women in research

The 5th Framework Programme explicitly refers to "the need to encourage the participation of women in the fields of research and technological development". The first tangible measures have been taken, notably :

· An increase in the proportion of women in the groups appointed by the Commission to advise it on research policy: 27% of the members of the External Advisory Groups set up in 1998 are women; 

· Establishment of a coordination unit to raise awareness of women and science within the Commission departments responsible for the Framework Programme.

· Research respectful of ethical principles

Throughout the procedure for adoption of the 5th Framework Programme in 1998, great attention was paid to the ethical aspects of research, particularly on the part of the European Parliament. Article 7 of the Framework Programme expressly states that the Community research activities must be carried out in compliance with fundamental ethical principles. In addition, the Framework Programme will fund studies on medical and biomedical ethics and has imposed strict controls on genetic research on human beings and experiments on animals.

· Increased transparency, improved management

Greater transparency and closer involvement of all interested parties will characterise the implementation of the 5th Framework Programme, by improving the flow of information to the Council and the European Parliament and with the aid of continuing advice from the 17 External Advisory Groups for the key actions and/or programmes.

Questions of research management also continued to enjoy a high profile in the discussions on the 5th Framework Programme and the specific programmes implementing it. Numerous improvements were made, for example, the preparation of guides to proposers and a common system for electronic proposal preparation and submission.

The Commission also modified its internal structures in order to reflect better the structure of the 5th Framework. Both DG XII and the research directorates of DG III and DG XIII have thus undergone reorganisations.

For further information, please contact:

Cyril Robin-Champigneul
Framework Programme Unit, DG XII-AP
Fax : +32 2 299 16 05
E-mail: cyril.robin-champigneul@ec.europa.eu

Michel Claessens
Communication Unit, DG XII
Fax : +32 2 295 82 20
E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

The Annual Report on Community research (Annual Report 1999):

This report is available in 11 languages at http://ec.europa.eu/research/reports/1999/index_en.html or to the Communication Unit of DG XII, fax: +32-2-295.82.20; E-mail: Research DG contacts

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Additional information on Community research

The magazine « RTD info » gives information on news of Community research: political developments, project results, major events, etc.

Detailed information on Community research is available from various complementary publications. In addition to the Annual Report, numerous documents compile a very detailed picture of Community research, in particular:

  • Annual monitoring reports (continual and systematic monitoring): these are published each year for the Framework Programme and each specific programme and provide concise, independent feedback on the progress and quality of the measures taken to implement the programmes.
  • Five-year assessment reports published every fourth year, both for the Framework Programme and for each specific programme, which present an independent retrospective evaluation of the relevance, efficiency, results and impact of the European Union RTD programmes.
  • The European report on science and technology indicators which contains descriptions, statistics and detailed analyses of European and national RTD activities in the world context.
  • Research and development: annual statistics (Eurostat): an annual publication containing comparable international statistics on R&D expenditure, R&D personnel and patents in the Member States, broken down by regional level.

These documents can be obtained or ordered from the Commission's Internet sites:

Extensive information on EU policies can be found on these sites, and in particular, on the CORDIS site which is devoted to the RTD Framework Programme and on DG XII's site, all the reference documents, the texts of calls for proposals and a host of other information, in line with the Commission's transparency and information policy.

EXAMPLES OF COMMUNITY RESEARCH DEVELOPED IN 1998-1999

Information technology: Software optimising the supply-production-demand chain has been developed from theoretical research into artificial intelligence and combinatorial analysis under the ESPRIT programme. Applications have brought productivity improvements of 30% in the clothing, drink packaging and car industries.

Non  nuclear energy: One of the most remarkable examples of economic development as a result of Community research was an RTD project on wind power which enabled a German company to develop and put on the market new products, including a gearless turbine offering high performance at far lower cost. These have considerably expanded the market of this company, to the extent that it has built up a network of branches across Europe and in India and has become the world number two in this sector, jumping from 20 to 850 employees.

Industrial and materials technologies: The MEBIOCE project has developed a system for identifying pathogens or cancerous cells 100 times more sensitive than conventional laboratory tests. This is the fruit of cooperation between two SMEs and a research centre. It will be on the market soon.

 Environment: European researchers brought together within the PROVOST project (PRediction Of climate Variations On Seasonal Timescale) developed an overall model taking into account the oceans-atmosphere interaction which gives very promising results as regards climatic operational seasonal and interannual forecasts. This model had in particular envisaged the milder and wetter winter than usual that the greater part of Europe faced at the beginning of 1998, as well as the drier conditions than normal for the Mediterranean region and Northern Scandinavia.

Marine sciences and technologies: The ALIPOR (Autonomous Lander Instrumentation Packages for Oceanographic Research) project has developed a series of instrumentation packages for measurement, monitoring and sampling on the sea floor.

Biotechnology: For the first time, researchers are close to decoding the complete genome sequence of a model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. The most advanced project in the world in its field, it involves nearly 30 laboratories from 10 countries. An astonishing finding : 50% of genes (still) have an unknown function.

Biomedecine and  health: The European researchers involved in EUROSIDA project recently published a study in which 7000 European HIV infected individuals have been monitored, showing a decrease in death rates of 84% as a result of anti-HIV drug treatment. In a study on multidrug resistant Tuberculosis, a group of European researchers has successfully developed a rapid culture-independent test for the prediction of drug resistance.

Agriculture and fisheries: A Community project developed a process to produce car parts made of polypropylene reinforced with natural fibres (flax or wood). A French car parts manufacturer has already begun product development and marketing of the new materials originating from the project.

Transport: The METARAIL project developed testing methods and tested different low noise freight wagons in 4 Member States. It was shown that a 50-75 % noise reduction is feasible. The UIC (Union International des Chemins de Fer) has decided in favour of a voluntary agreement to retrofit the brake shoes and wheels of the entire fleet of freight wagons, which will lead to 50 % noise reductions at unchanged costs.

Dissemination and optimisation of results: The 16 venture capital funds selected under the I-TEC 1 pilot project represent a total investment capacity of in the order of ECU 770 million, of which ECU 291 million is for the start-up phase of technology innovation projects. One year after the inception of I-TEC, the first seven funds established have invested ECU 16.7 million in 25 undertakings employing over 150 staff.

Training and mobility of researchers: Besides its scientific successes, a network on non-linear dynamics has created remarkable career prospects for young trainee researchers. Over the first two years of the contract, this network has trained 30 young researchers, almost half of whom have found permanent jobs already. Most of those still working on the network have received job offers.

Joint Research Centre (JRC): Prompt and accurate response to new health concerns is essential. The JRC validated analytical methods for the detection of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food and provides the necessary reference materials to carry out the tests. These are the first steps in support of the «Novel Food Regulation» which requires foods containing GMOs to be labelled.

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PRESS RELEASES | PRESS RELEASES OF 1999 | 17.02.2000