Our daily food – the crop plants we depend on – our state
of health – improved medical treatments – our impact upon
the environment: all these issues are linked together in
many ways. The classical breakdown in scientific disciplines
no longer reflects social and economic realities. Therefore,
it has become necessary to consider all these fields of
research that are linked to our life as a whole, a concept
we have to refer to as “life sciences”.
The steadily increasing importance of life sciences for
the economy and for our daily lives, was already reflected
convincingly in the multiple R&D projects funded under the
Fourth Framework Programme(1). Under
the current Framework Programme (FP5), the European Commission
has once again increased both funding and the number of
projects selected, thus demonstrating the outstanding importance
being attributed to the life sciences.
Now, as the end of FP5 approaches, we have presented a
selection of projects to illustrate the broad range of research
on “life” topics. In addition to the actual resources resulting
from a higher than ever commitment by the European Union,
the R&D achievements which have gradually come to the surface
also reflect that there is another way of conducting responsible
research. The projects described here have been managed
through well-coordinated consortia, with great care being
given to sets of measures designed to create value from
knowledge through a joint technology implementation plan.
Most of them have developed active interfaces with stakeholders
and end-users. All have been performed within an ethical
framework setting agreed boundaries and subjecting research
practice to monitoring and assessment. Each project has
its special importance for society; each is likely to contribute
in a decisive manner to progress in its respective field
and, subsequently, to improving our lives.
But, above all, the results presented here demonstrate
superbly what Europe can achieve when it coordinates its
resources, i.e. human skills, know-how, and financial means,
across national and institutional boundaries including,
indeed, those of the European Union, for many partners came
from countries outside the EU.
We are now crossing the threshold to the next Framework
Programme, FP6, which is due to start sponsoring new research
in 2003. It has been designed to focus European research
on the major topics of public interest, among them: improving
and preserving the quality and safety of our health and
our food. We are convinced that the life sciences will continue
to make an essential contribution to the success of the
research in these fields, by concentrating the R&D potential
from all continents on problems of outstanding future importance.
(1) See “Biotechnology - Selected
Achievements”, 1997; Success stories from the agro-industrial
research programmes, 1998; Examples of demonstration projects
in the life sciences programmes, vol.1-3, 1997-2000; Renewable
biomaterials: non-food research, 1997.