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Press release

Commission unveils next steps towards European Research Area


Brussels, 30 May 2001

Key words: European Research Area, framework programme

  • Kommission stellt nächste Schritte auf dem Weg zu einem Europäischen Forschungsraum vor
  • La Commission dévoile les prochaines étapes de la mise en place de l'espace européen de la recherche

    Today, the European Commission passed another milestone in the creation of a European Research Area with the approval of five new research programme proposals and a new plan to support networks of national research programmes. The €17.5 billion Research Framework Programme for 2002-2006 is now on schedule for operational launch in the second half of 2002. Today's proposals set out a clearer picture of the organisation, working arrangements and priorities proposed for this new four-year programme. They also outline new methods of funding research.

    Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin welcomed the progress made today: "The recent Lisbon and Stockholm Summits have endorsed the concept of the European Research Area, which we proposed last year. The new Research and Development Framework Programme with a proposed budget of €17.5 billion will be one of the pillars of the European Research Area".

    Five new research programmes

    The five research and development programmes proposed today are:

    • Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area (12 505 million euros). This programme sets out shared scientific priorities on which the Commission will concentrate financial support, as well as an important new initiative designed to help networking of national research programmes in Member States. This will also include activities such as benchmarking and mapping Europe's excellence in science and innovation.
    • Structuring the European Research Area (3 050 million euros). This programme is designed to remedy the structural weaknesses of European research through better integration of research and innovation, improved mobility of researchers, coordinated planning and access to research infrastructure and actions such as promoting ethics in science, combating the 'brain drain' and promoting public awareness of science.
    • Independent research in the nuclear field (900 million euros): fission and fusion research centred on aspects of the treatment and storage of nuclear waste as well as reactor safety.
    There are also two programmes covering the work of European Commission's Joint Research Centre:
    • A programme (715 million euros) focusing on food safety and health, environment and sustainable development, technology foresight, metrology, combating fraud, monitoring/prediction of natural disasters and data security.
    • A programme (330 million euros) covering the Joint Research Centre's activities in the nuclear field: treatment and storage of nuclear waste, training of inspectors, reactor safety, nuclear medicine and radiation monitoring.

    Fostering a new approach to European research

    The Sixth Framework Programme will help create a European Research Area by means of three key instruments.

    Networks of excellence

    To strengthen European scientific and technological excellence, better integration of research capacities across Europe is needed. The new research framework programme will create networks of researchers, each of which will aim to advance knowledge in a particular area by assembling a critical mass of skills. Networks will be organised around a core group of participants, to which others may be added. Research activities will be oriented towards long-term objectives rather than precise, pre-defined results.

    Integrated projects

    To strengthen European competitiveness and to help solve major societal problems, it is necessary to mobilise a critical mass of research and development resources and skills existing in Europe. The size of an integrated project may vary depending on the critical mass needed to obtain the expected results. The budget of an integrated project may range from several million euros to several tens of millions of euros. Each integrated project will have clearly defined objectives directed towards obtaining identifiable scientific and technological results.

    Joint participation in national programmes

    The Sixth Framework Programme aims to make the most of Member States' research programmes in areas where their common interests coincide with the overall priorities of the EU. The aim is also to increase the impact of national efforts in matters of interest to many Member States. By drawing up harmonised work programmes, coordinating the assignment of budgets, ensuring complementarity of efforts, and launching joint calls for proposals, overall effectiveness can be improved.

    It is proposed that joint schemes should involve at least three Member States, or two Member States and one Associated State (Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, and Norway); the candidate countries could cooperate as well. The EU would then be involved in defining priorities and monitoring the work, but not in day-to-day management. The EU's financial contribution would cover support for research activities, including the operation of joint structures, and support for the participation of researchers or institutions from other Member and Associated States.

    This approach is covered by Article 169 of the Treaty which states: 'The Community may make provision, in agreement with the Member States concerned, for participation in research and development programmes undertaken by several Member States, including participation in the structures created for the execution of those programmes.' Since this article has never been used in research before, the Commission decided to launch a debate on its use through a communication addressed to the Council and the European Parliament (COM (2001)282), which it also approved today.

    Scientific priorities

    The bulk of the €17.5 billion expenditure under the 2002-2006 framework programme is proposed to be in the following research areas:

    • Genomics and biotechnology for health
    • Information Society technologies
    • Nanotechnologies, intelligent materials and new production processes
    • Aeronautics and space
    • Food Safety and health risks
    • Sustainable development and global change
    • Citizens and Governance in the European Knowledge-based society

    Next steps

    The Research Council meeting on 26 June will include a preliminary discussion of the framework programme and specific programmes, as well as the Communication on the use of article 169. The package will also be sent to the European Parliament, which will hold its first reading later this year. The framework programme will be adopted under the 'co-decision' procedure, i.e. jointly by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

    The next steps in implementing the European Research Area will be strategy papers on the mobility of researchers, the opening up of the European Research Area to the world (i.e. its international dimension), benchmarking the European research effort and the regional dimension of research.


    The European Research Area was proposed by the Commission on 18 January 2000 and guidelines on how to make a reality of the European Research Area were adopted by the Commission on 4 October 2000. The new Research Framework Programme implementing the European Research Area was adopted on 21 February. Today, the five 'Specific Programmes' giving more detail on where and how the proposed budget of this framework programme will be spent have been adopted.

    For further information, please contact:

    Stephen Gosden, Press and Information Officer, Research DG
    Tel: +; Fax: +

    Breakdown of funding for the five specific programmes

    Indicative Breakdown Of The First Specific Programme

    Types of activities Budget (million euros)
    Priority thematic areas of research 10 425
    Genomics and biotechnology for health 2 000
    Information Society technologies 3 600
    Nanotechnologies, intelligent materials, new production processes 1 300
    Aeronautics and space 1 000
    Food safety and health risks 600
    Sustainable development and global change 1 700
    Citizens and governance in the European knowledge-based society 225
    Anticipating the EU's scientific and technological needs 1 630
    Policy orientated research and leading edge topics 880
    Specific research activities for SMEs 450
    Specific international cooperation activities 300
    Support for the co-ordination of activities 400
    Support for the coherent development of policies 50
    Total 12 505

    Indicative Breakdown Of The Second Specific Programme

    Activity Budget (million euros)
    Research and Innovation 300
    Human resources (grants) 1 800
    Infrastructures 900
    Science and society 50

    Indicative Breakdown Of The Fourth Specific Programme

    Activity Budget (million euros)
    Thermonuclear fusion 700
    Treatment and stockage of waste 150
    Radioprotection, safety training 50

    (Third And Fifth Specific Programmes)

    Activity Budget (million euros)
    EC Treaty (non nuclear) 715
    Food, Chemical products and Health 207
    Environment and Sustainability 286
    Horizontal Activities (Technology Foresight; Reference Materials and Measurements; Public Security and Antifraud) 222
    Euratom Treaty (nuclear) 330
    Radio-active waste management and safeguarding nuclear materials 213
    Safety of present and innovative reactors, radiation monitoring and medical applications from nuclear research 102
    Staff necessary for the monitoring of the decommissioning of JRC obsolete installations 15
    Total 1 045


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