As the Framework Programme monitoring exercise was conducted during the final year of FP4, the Panel, composed of eight senior experts, focused not only on major trends during 1998 but also on the potential impact of the Programme. It concluded that the main objectives of the specific programmes have been achieved and that they were implemented in a satisfactory manner. In the Panel's view, this is in itself a major achievement, considering that the Framework Programme is the world's largest and most complex multinational research programme.
The Panel noted that during 1998 efforts were undertaken to promote innovation across Europe with emphasis on the commercialisation of the funded research. The Panel commended the improved capacity to respond rapidly to emerging issues and the development of better coordination across specific programmes in support of EU policies. However, it warned against institutional "memory loss" concerning FP4 best practice and stressed the need to follow up and measure the impact of FP4 activities. The Commission acknowledged the importance of this and has taken the necessary measures to ensure that every ongoing project under FP4 will be adequately followed by the relevant units in the new structure.
It was recognised by the Panel that there has been a good implementation of monitoring recommendations over the lifetime of FP4, although this has been rather unevenly reflected in the different specific programmes. With FP4 coming to a close, the most important concern in 1998 was to ensure that the main 1997 monitoring recommendations are reflected in the management of FP5.
The bodies set up to advise the Commission continued their work, contributing to implementing the 4th Framework Programme and preparing the 5th:
- European Science and Technology Assembly (ESTA)
During 1998 the Assembly met on two occasions and its Bureau on four occasions. It commented on the integration of socioeconomic research in the specific programmes of FP5; support for research infrastructure under FP5; links between FP5 and the first EU Action Plan for Innovation; research links between the Central and Eastern European countries and the EU; and aspects of EU research policy and cohesion.
In addition, numerous contacts were made between ESTA members and senior programme managers, a very effective, although less externally visible, means by which ESTA provided timely advice to assist in the development and implementation of the Framework Programme.
While not agreeing with the totality of the Commission's plans for the new advisory structures under FP5, ESTA recognised the need for change and for the increased involvement of external experts in the implementation of the key actions.
- Industrial Research and Development Advisory Committee (IRDAC)
In preparation for the new Framework Programme, IRDAC published a report on revision of the rules for participation and of the model contract. It also continued its deliberations on venture capital and analysed the action taken by the Commission for the association of venture capital to Community projects. In addition, the Committee examined management of the European RTD programmes and organised a round table on State aid for research. Finally, at its latest plenary IRDAC exchanged views with Commissioner Papoutsis on SMEs' contribution to competitiveness and employment. On the same note, the theme for its annual seminar was the impact of RTD and innovation on competitiveness and employment.
IRDAC considered it imperative that industry should be able to continue to express its points of view freely and clearly. IRDAC's members therefore welcomed the setting-up of the European Research Forum (ERF) consisting of two independent but closely linked chambers.